Tom Danus Tom Danus
5 minute read

Do you need a component upgrade...or do you just need to get your system performing at it's best? We reckon this list of tips and advice from our Hi-Fi Subjectivist forum members is well worth a read:

Setting Up

Use an equipment stand that has plenty of access space from above and behind. There's nothing worse than trying to squeeze your hand behind a rack, with great difficulty, and having to 'guess' whether you've got the correct input! Many modern racks are designed with tightly spaced shelves. These types of rack are the work of the devil and make it far more likely that you will make a mistake or damage a component or cable when trying to connect everything. A combination of different furniture surfaces will be better, if you can't afford (or, don't want) a larger, specialist stand.

Be sure to space components apart from each other to avoid hum / interference (especially important with kit that contains large transformers).

Don't run signal cables alongside power cables, as this can cause interference (crossing at right angles is OK). It can be helpful to draw yourself a diagram, before you start connecting your system, to plan where all the cables will go. Try to ensure that cables are an appropriate length - long enough that they don't need to be stretched / stressed, not unnecessarily long so that they become susceptible to picking up interference (especially if using unshielded cables).

Experiment with speaker stand height, toe-in and distance from rear and side walls. Start with speakers around 7 feet apart, move closer to rear wall to increase bass, move further from rear wall to reduce bass. Adjust toe-in to provide the most realistic soundstage.

Make sure speaker stands / floorstanding speakers are level and stable. Levelling so that everything is rock solid can be a bit of an arduous job, but it's worth spending time on. If using spiked stands, make sure that all the spikes penetrate the carpet / underlay fully, so that the spike points are in direct contact with the concrete / wooden floor (this is what we call coupling).

If you are placing your speakers on a shelf or furniture, or directly onto a bare wooden floor, do experiment with de-coupling, using materials such as Blu-Tack or Sorbothane between the speakers and the stand / floor.

Get turntables as far away from the speakers as you conveniently can. Avoid placing turntables on floor mounted stands on the same floorboard or joist as a speaker.

Make sure the turntable is on a horizontal surface. Most turntables sound best on light rigid stands. Although, it can be turntable dependent. Rega turntables give their best with light rigid stand such as Quadraspire... but a Garrrard 401 in a 30kg plinth might need something more substantial!

You can build your own equipment isolation tables from MDF, granite, chopping boards etc, adding Sorbothane feet or oak cones, or even an inflatable inner tube (which is how the Townshend Seismic Sink started). Experiment!


If your room is very live (there is an obvious echo when you clap your hands), use room furnishings and fittings to reduce reflections. You don't need to buy specialist room treatments; carpets, rugs, curtains, cushions will all help to absorb and break up reflections. Book and LP storage can also help to achieve the same.

Experiment with room layout, sofa / chair position, type of sofa / chair. The height of the back of your seat can sometimes significantly alter what you hear. If your seat is against the wall, trying pulling it away from the wall by a couple of feet. Move around the room and think about what you hear, try sitting on the floor; how does the sound change? Better or worse?

If your TV is between the speakers, try using a fitted fabric TV cover (around £15 - see image, below) or drape a woollen blanket over it.

If you have ported speakers, try stuffing the ports. You can use foam bungs (sometimes supplied with the speakers) or cloths, or even socks!! This may tighten the bass and improve perceived transient response but it may reduce dynamic headroom, depending on the design of driver. See which you prefer.

Blu Tack driver baskets to the speaker cabinet or (gently) tighten the driver screws.

Remove excessive stuffing from around the back of the speaker bass driver (see image, below). Lots of speakers are stuffed with cheap fibreglass wadding or thick foam. Remove it and listen to your speakers. If you prefer the livelier, more open sound without the wadding, but you are hearing more of the cabinet colouration (common with thin-wall speakers) glue steel sheets to the inside of the speaker walls. Alternatively, try a better quality wadding, such as a natural acoustic wool.

Disable unused services on streamers - some listeners say that doing so can improve sound quality. Software user forums are excellent for advice / instructions on how to do this.

Experiment with different downforce and bias settings on your turntable's tonearm. These are a compromise.


Clean contacts - mains plugs, phono plugs and sockets, speaker plugs etc - with isopropyl alcohol or a proprietary contact cleaner such as De-Oxit.

Keep records and CDs clean - CD cleaning cloths are inexpensive, record cleaning machines are a significant investment, but they will banish static clicks and pops and extend stylus life. Care in handling will reduce how often you need to clean!

Keep your stylus clean - there are a plenty of proprietary cleaners that do a good job of removing dirt, but melamine foam cut into strips or cubes will do the same job for pennies. Remove loose dust with a simple carbon fibre stylus brush.


Keep your ears open, listen to your music not your hi-fi system and...relax; cleaning contacts is not the only thing that alcohol is good for!


Optimize your NVA hi-fi system

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