Tuning for better sound
As it pertains to audio, resonance control remains an emerging science/art. As such, most audiophiles are oblivious to it. Even those who've seen the writing on the wall often fail to fully read it. They still lack a fundamental appreciation for the performance delta that separates first-rate components from middle-of-the-field components when properly tuned. Yes, competent components, properly accounted for in a complete systems address, will nearly always outperform expensive components that are carelessly plunked down on the floor or into a cheap ringy rack.

Of course now we've walked wide-eyed and open-walleted into a veritable bazaar of myriad devices and their vendors. Think pucks, cones, boards, balls, decouplers, couplers, floaters, shims, mass-loading weights, strings, springs and similar gizmos and doodads. From Shun Mook to Combak, Yamamoto Sound Craft to Finite Elemente, Walker Audio to Mapleshade, ER Audio to Ginkgo Audio, EquaRack to Symposium, the number of add-on devices using wood, ceramic, brass, lead, steel, aluminum, polycrystal, Carbon fiber, Kevlar, marble, granite, glass, steel shot, sand, cork, rubber and Sorbothane in various combinations, geometries and sizes is legion and truly confounding.

Where to start, how to make sense of it all? It's important to differentiate between two fundamentally different addresses. There's broad-band vibration attenuation that is measurable with accelerometers. It's subtractive, repeatable and predictive. It always creates greater transparency and resolution by lowering system noise floors. Then there's narrow-band resonance tuning or vibration redistribution. It is additive, completely unpredictable and manipulates the tonal balance. Equipment stands by Grand Prix Audio, HRS, EquaRack and Silent Running comprehensively address floor-, air- and component-borne vibrations. Meanwhile, Ebony, Spruce or Hard Maple pucks, cones and boards, brass points and similar devices work like a blind date with an equalizer. There'll be cuts and boosts at various frequencies but the specific ranges and values will be completely up to chance.

It's clear which approach is senior. First lower the noise floor of your system to hear what needs tuning. Then tailor the resultant frequency response to your personal sense of pleasure and rightness. First subtract the crap that overlays the signal to evaluate this very signal properly. Then deliberately redistribute resonance augmentation by trial and error with the endless add-on devices of the tuning craft. Put differently, one approach discovers the true voice of your system. The other changes it. One reveals or lays bare. The other shifts and voices. Don't waste time and money on premature voicing while you're still acting blind, while you are still ignorant of the true system voice that's operative underneath the veil of parasitic noise.

Take advantage of the same principles of multiple degrees of freedom mated to viscous damping that are used in automotive, submarine, space, military, medical and research applications. After all, vibrations don't care which industrial context they arise in. They need to be dealt with in exactly the same ways, be it high-rise construction, machine-shop installations, Mars-bound rockets or earth-bound audio components. Lo and behold, the makers of the best equipment stands all use viscous damping (weight-matched to their components) in conjunction with multiple degrees of freedom and/or mass.

It's the completely unpredictable nature of additive tuning devices that surrounds them with much mysticism and ridicule. Advocates of additive tuning, dialing or tweaking will thus always arrive with a veritable bag of tricks. That's because they themselves don't know exactly what will work and what won't. They'll spend long hours replacing things and moving things around. Contrast that to the makers of subtractive stands. They will show up, set up their rack, perhaps weigh your components to match the spring-rate of their damping interfaces and then hit 'play'. In simplistic terms, that's the difference between both approaches. Both work and should be applied. But to anyone thinking about the implications, the proper sequence of what should come first and what second will be obvious. Everyone else will initially spend -- in some cases significant -- monies for secondary effects to play an endlessly entertaining guessing game of "moving stuff around". The choice is yours. And so is the stupefying array of what to play with in the first place...