Stones, Cones, Blu-Tac, Toilet Paper(!)

By Jason

Aaaargh! The things we audiophiles (a.k.a. audionuts - what some non-audiophiles might term us) do in order to reap more out of our audio systems. I remember when I was first told that speaker cables made a big difference to sound, I was skeptical (and I still retain some of that skepticism to some degree regarding certain aspects of that). Therefore, for the "un-initiated", I can see the skeptic (or "bo chap") looks on your faces as you read this article (i.e. electronic version of the nonsense I usually spout *grinz*). With a lot of things hifi, "listen and you will see" (note: with the exception of some people like my father)...

It is a fact(?) that what we put on top, below, beside, around our speakers interact with the sound (somehow...) and affects what we hear (psychologically or physically). The degree to which these things affect sound is what we are more concerned with. The tweaks that I am about to talk about will NOT bring about vast differences / improvement to your audio system (like many other tweaks). BUT, it will allow you some degree of customisation of (and interactivity with) your beloved audio system.

"Equipment Descriptions":

Stones - Granite / Marble slabs leftover from renovating your house, or bought from Phua Chu Kang (erm... I meant to say: some kind of building materials contractor).

Cones - Go ask your primary school maths teacher! Ok, conical thingies usually made out of steel (though some are made using exotic materials).

Blu-Tac - Blue blobs of plasticine-like adhesive material. A few brands are available here (Some swear by Faber-Castell and condemn Bostik Blu-Tac... well, up to you to try).

Toilet Paper - Need I describe what this is? Though I WILL tell you about its use later ... (another one other than the obvious!)
Note: I read this tweak in Stereophile and was actually crazy enough one day to try it out...

Bookshelf Speakers

I hope these are already perched (firmly and stably!) on a pair of speaker stands! Otherwise, for the cash-strapped, aesthetic perfectionist or hen-pecked (haha!), who place these on a cabinet / shelf, you can try this tweak first. Use cones, those with pointed tips to raise your speakers from the cabinet surface. Use coins underneath each cone to prevent damage to furniture. If you have granite / marble slabs, even better! Place these on your cabinet surface, then place your bookshelf speakers on cones on the stone slabs (IMHO, the next best thing to dedicated speaker stands. Though the hen-pecked should check with their wives first). This alleviates the effects of the cabinet surface's resonance on the actual sound that the speaker is producing. The more stable foundation also lessens energy lost by the speaker. All in all, better imaging and tighter, more defined bass at the very least.

For the more fortunate (usually single?) guys who have the liberty to buy huge, heavy, ugly, black speaker stands, you can still improve / change the sound that you hear to your liking. You can use either one of the following: cones, blu-tac, toilet paper.

Cones are the brightest sounding, more pin-point imaging and have tighter (sometimes also less) bass. Using 3 cones under each speaker is enough if you don't have kids / pets running around. 4 is more stable but you have to spend some time levelling the speaker.

Toilet paper has the warmest sound (using one ply or 2 plys is entirely up to you, 2 is warmer than 1). Please don't overdo it!

Blu-Tac is somewhere in between (and usually has more bass). You can also adjust the amount of blu-tac used. Once again, don't overdo. Some have told me that using too much blu-tac causes loss of dynamics.


Which of the above to use? It's YOUR choice! You know how your audio system already sounds. Experiment and tweak it with the above materials of bring the sound closer to what you want.

Floorstanding Speakers

Less avenues for tweaking (at least in this aspect that I'm discussing)...
It's generally a good idea to put cones / spikes under your floorstanding speakers if they do not already have spikes. After spiking, you can also put varying (1,2,3 or more?) numbers of granite slabs under each speaker. This has less effect where resonance control is concerned since the floor is already quite non-resonant. But instead, the slabs serve to raise each speaker slightly so that you can adjust the level of the tweeters to ear-level, and also the vertical distance between the woofer with respect to the floor and ceiling. Rule of thumb: Trial and error.