Mar 152012

Tweaks and mods can run the gamut from a simple vacuum tube or AC power cord swap, to changing equipment footers, to soldering in different capacitors or resistors in amplification components or loudspeakers, rewiring a component with your favorite wire, to altering a circuit design.

I’ve enjoyed vintage projects, like the Garrard Project (1) (2) (3) that I wrote about for 6Moons, and DIY projects like my White Lightening Moonshine cables (1) (2) projects.

Some of my friends like Pete Riggle and Stephaen Harrell like building up tonearms, amplifiers, loudspeakers, and other components from scratch, which I think is amazing and cool.

All of these Hi-Fi activities can be a lot of fun, as well as a lot of work!

The world of tweaks and mods can be a lot of fun and can sometimes bring out untapped potential in your most beloved audio components. When performing tweaks & mods in the past I have experienced various degrees of success: some tweaks & mods have produced results that I found to be better than stock across the board, others have produced results that are merely different, and some have resulted in a step backward.

I briefly shared some tweaks and mods recently related to my Sophia Electric 91-01 300B mono amplifiers – a swap of a coupling capacitor and grid resistor – which produced some really nice results.

Another reader e-mailed me about some stellar results that occurred from changing the stock RCA connectors on his NVO SPA-II phono preamplifier to silver WBT RCA connectors (as well as the enthusiastic tube swapping recommendations mentioned to me by Panikos).

It is also fair to note that different listeners (or even groups of listeners) will have varying opinions about whether a performance change due to a tweak or mod is an improvement or not. Some of the variables that come into play when reviewing performance changes due to tweaks or mods (or even a new piece of equipment) are:

  • A change in the way a piece of equipment handles Western-style music listening attributes (musical content attributes like pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm, tempo, beat, etc.).
  • A change in the way a piece of equipment handles Eastern-style timbral listening attributes (timbral textures and colors, etc., and you can learn more here)
  • A change in the way a piece of equipment handles audiophile-style sonic listening attributes (non-musical recording artifacts like detail recovery, transparency, soundspace, soundstage, imaging, layering, etc.)
  • A change in the way the 3 categories of attributes mentioned above interact with each other to affect the overall musicality of a component or system (emotional impact, musical involvement).
Whether you think changes in any of these areas are an improvement or not will depend on your cultural listening context (Eastern, Western, audiophile, musician, etc.), your personal heirarchy of values related to music listening, whether said changes align with the leanings of your personal taste, and move the overall voicing of your system in a direction you like.
For example, my own personal preferences are to favor improvements timbral & musical attributes, and less so attributes related to audiophile style listening (which I find often degrade overall musicality). Other people, including some close friends, have different priorities, and that’s ok.
It is ok to be enthusiastic about mods & tweaks you have done and to want to share it with others – I encourage that. What is not ok is to use posts & comments at Jeff’s Place as a bully pulpit, to attack other enthusiasts for their choices or differences in opinion, to denigrate manufacturers for their components parts choices as if it was some evil conspiracy, or to respond to readers comments with mean spirited attacks or unbridled hubris.
Manufacturers like Sophia Electric, Sablon Audio, New Valve Order, and Tannoy all make great products stock out of the box, and that is how I’ve reviewed them. Could any of them be made better with careful modifications or tweaks, or tailored to be more in line with your tastes? Of course! But keep in mind none of these products require modifications to be good, they already are good, in fact they are extremely good. Often careful system setup will make more difference than a component modification or a new component, so be sure not to forget about that, and be sure to go through a complete system setup after you get done with your mods. For a discussion about this read this.
I bring this up because I have had a spate of problems related to these kinds of issues at times in the past, and since posting David King’s article about his Westminster Royal modifications. So as a reminder, I expect everyone participating in our hobby here at Jeff’s Place to do so with respect for others, tact, and a collegial atmosphere. While I encourage sharing and open dialogue at Jeff’s Place, it is not a democracy of free speech, and I decide what gets said and what does not. I expect people to behave collegially and with respect for others even when expressing differing opinions, and if they don’t I will delete their comments as a warning, and if they persist I ban them from participating. A number of you have contacted me after I deleted what I considered to be some overly vitriolic posts, and some of you have apologized for those posts, which I appreciate. It’s easy to get carried away when we’re feeling passionate about our hobby, so consider this a reminder that we’re all in this together, and to keep the dialogue about this hobby we love, edifying, fun, and rewarding.
Keep those revelations about your favorite tweaks and mods coming!
 Posted by at 8:14 am

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