Quarter Notes #3 (Volume 1, Issue 3)

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Dear Get Better Sound readers,

Welcome to the third issue of Quarter Notes!

Quarter Notes is a quarterly newsletter for Get Better Sound readers, expanding on the GBS manual, as well as introducing new and timely subjects.  From time-to-time, we may have a guest writer (or more) to contribute on special topics.  

For this issue’s guest writers, we have Jeff Dorgay, Editor and Publisher of TONEAudio, introducing some Vinyl tips that I call Vinyl 101 (“A few tips on the return to vinyl”), one GBS reader’s unique vision on implementing the tips in the manual (“How to eat an elephant”), and Charles Hansen of Ayre Acoustics, who has written an informative piece on digital audio, featuring the use of a computer as the hard drive (“Computers and Audio”).  

Quarter Notes also features expanded replies to the many comments and questions that I receive.  In fact, send me an e-mail, and I may include your question or comments in an upcoming newsletter.

Best e-mail address

Since you’re reading this, the e-mail address that I used to notify you must have worked. However, the only e-mail address I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound order.

If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to js@getbettersound.com. Be sure to list the month of purchase (if possible), and definitely include the address I used originally along with the one that you want to use to replace it.

The top 3 tips I keep hearing about from readers:

  1. Location, location, location – seat location, that is… We’ve all heard the “location, location, location” quote.  It’s all about putting your business in the best physical place to be able to maximize profitability. Judging from the comments that I’ve received, many audiophiles have spent countless hours tweaking their systems, moving their speakers around, etc.  Yet, very few had realized that where you sit is the first order of priority.  I cover this in Tips #75 & 76. Whenever possible, arranging to sit in the best sounding location (where the bass is smoothest), is the audiophile equivalent to the old restaurant/retail store location maxim. In case I still haven’t said it strongly enough, all else is secondary to this foundational requirement for extracting the best sound from your system in your room!  Getting the foundation of the music – the bass - as good as it can be is probably the greatest issue that affects your musical enjoyment.. Even if aesthetic considerations preclude permanently locating your listening seat where it should go, surely you can place an occasional chair there for those special times when you want to listen and to hear your system the way it was meant to be heard!

  2. Closer together for a bigger, richer image.   I guess I wasn’t clear enough about the value of separation to affect harmonic density and soundstage.  Because I’ve now visited a number of GBS readers, and with just one exception, ALL had the speakers too far apart. What happens when your speakers are too far apart? The sound is thinner in tonal balance.   You get a center image and a hard left and hard right image.  But the image between the center and the outside positions is entirely too weak and too vague. The sound is much less involving musically.  In fact, all too often it’s simply BORING! Sometimes the adjustment required is only a matter of an inch or two.  Sometimes, much more.  Of course, you don’t want near-monaural, either.  But the rewards from getting this right are simply too great to ignore. Here’s a link to a forum where this issue was explored and adjusted:  In order to save you some time, you can just read post #190, especially the section, “CLX Positions:”  http://www.martinloganowners.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7730&page=13

  3. Move that rack from between your speakers. This simple “tweak” has elicited more ”WOW” comments than anything else in the entire GBS manual.  If you are able to try it and you haven’t, this might be the overall easiest way to take your system to another performance level. There is no way that keeping your cables short will have the effect on your sound that addressing the sound’s acoustic wave-launch into your room will provide. Not even close. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the sound quality from longer, lesser quality cables with the equipment rack on the side wall will be significantly better than the sound from shorter, more exotic cables that you can use with the equipment rack between your speakers. Hope that’s clear enough. :)

Vinyl 101 - A few tips on the return to vinyl

By Jeff Dorgay, Editor and Publisher of TONEAudio

All things being equal, I still enjoy the sound of LP’s, but all records are not created equal and a poorly setup turntable will not give you the “analog magic” everyone is raving about.  So whether you are a new vinyl enthusiast or digging out your LP collection after a hiatus, here’s a few tips that should help you on the vinyl journey.

Nowhere in the reproduction chain is there more chance for error than with your turntable.  You are dealing with extremely small signals and a tiny diamond chip that glides over your records microscopic grooves.  Even though some people will tell you that a turntable is “plug and play”, even the most simple ones will benefit from careful setup.

Determine if you are a “wrench turner” or a “check writer.”  If you have basic mechanical abilities, the right tools and some patience, you should be able to setup and optimize a turntable.  If assembling anything sounds like a pain, get your wallet out and try to find a good analog setup person nearby.  Before you hand over the credit card to your dealer, make sure they can set your new turntable up properly and support you after the sale.

If you’ve owned your table for a while and your cartridge is more than five years old, throw it out and start over, especially if you live in a dry climate.  The suspension inside a phono cartridge is made up of little rubber donuts, much like the bushings that are in your car’s suspension.  They get stiff and crack with age in a similar way and even if your stylus doesn’t appear worn, chances are good that an old cartridge isn’t capable of reproducing music like it did when it was new.

Invest in at least an entry-level record cleaner.  You can get the base model Nitty Gritty for under $200 and this will greatly improve the sound of all your records, from the bargain treasures to even brand new audiophile pressings.  Check in with your favorite audio message board to find a heated/spirited discussion about what cleaning fluids to use, but keep that vinyl clean!  While you are at it, make sure that stylus stays clean too...

Buy a good level and use it!  The most common thing I’ve seen when asked to troubleshoot someone else’s turntable is that it is usually not level.  This can throw off channel balance at the minimum and severely upset tracking at its worst.  Before you even start fiddling with any of the other adjustments, make sure your table is level!

We’ve only barely scratched the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully these tips will help you down the path of your vinyl journey.  Enjoy.

How to Eat an Elephant

GBS reader Gordy writes:

A few years ago I was trained and certified in Lean, Six-Sigma, and other business improvement techniques.  Based on some of the tools described, my mind wandered to using them to improve and optimize areas of my own life, including my listening experience and room:

Improving your existing system during the current tough economy makes the Get Better Sound manual an even better investment.  This goes for those with refined equipment or those with less than refined equipment who aren’t ready to make the investment.  

In many cases, we struggle with a long list of changes that could improve the performance of our