As audiophiles, many of us will have amassed certain tools and the like to help them get the most out of their HiFi system and music. Only it’s not always plain sailing as Stu has found out over the years!

Come on, you know you have a box like this somewhere

A quick search via the wonder that is the internet tells us that a tirade is a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation. I’m sure that many of us who claim audiophilia as an affliction will have experienced ourselves engaging in a tirade of abuse towards inanimate objects situated on our racks, or wherever we keep our boxes that magically make music.

Now, there will be some out there reading this that understand the whole electronic beast that is a HiFi system from nose to tail, and by that I mean they will understand it at the electron level and will know their diodes from their capacitors. Others will see the whole process of the thing we call a HiFi as being some kind of witchcraft that they participate in as mere amateurs in the magic arts. The latter group is likely to be wilfully and absolutely ignorant of the electronics and physics and alchemy that is going on in those little black/silver/champagne coloured boxes, but I will bet you a handful of magic beans that they can’t help themselves from having a bit of a tinker. They will have gained this confidence in fiddling either by way of having read a short article on electronic sorcery on the internet, and, now being fully proficient in this particular field of wizardry feel wholly qualified to “have a go”, or they will have a somewhat cavalier attitude towards all this wizardry and witchcraft and have developed the ailment most commonly known as ‘Howhardcanitbeitis’. This latter group are the bread and butter customers for electronic repair-people the world over.

The world of technology marches ever forward, and as such the nature of the ‘tirade’ has likewise morphed and mutated into different forms that I’d like to introduce to you now:

The Analogue Tirade

This is an outpouring of woe and grief targeted towards audio equipment that has a degree of mechanical function or, loosely, stuff that we can physically touch and play with ‘instinctively’. Think turntables and associated gubbins, CD mechanisms (to an extent), cables and stands. I may have missed out a few things but you get the drift.

The Digital Tirade

This kind of torrent (see what I did there?) of abuse towards our beloved audio equipment is a recently modern phenomenon. This particular outburst is usually aimed towards digital bits of kit that seem to have a mind of their own (or are possessed by pixies/fairies/elves/malevolent spirits/Beelzebub Himself…etc.) and stop working, or display unusual behaviour without any obvious explanation and at the drop of a witch’s hat.

The Network Tirade

An even more recent form of outburst reserved for the wonderful world that is streaming and its associated equipment. If you have dabbled in this voodoo will be well aware of what I’m banging on about.

Now, that was a bit of a lengthy introduction to this instalment of Stu’s Views but I think it was necessary for readers to understand the reason I chose to title this article as I did. As an aside, regular readers of Stu’s Views will perhaps have noticed that my bedside reading material has wandered away from the more serious fiction such as Solzhenitsyn, Salinger, and Vonnegut and, by way of a bit of light relief, into the wonderfully magical mind that was Terry Pratchett.

So, we now broadly know the types of audiophile tirades, and I’m sure we can guess the causes of these explosions of ‘emotion’, but I thought it would be interesting for us to look at some of the tools out there that are essential for audiophiles to have to hand by way of helping calm their nerves and lessen the occurrence of a ‘tirade’. However, let us not lose sight of the inalienable fact that these ‘tools’ can in themselves be the cause of the odd bit of the old ‘shouty-shouty’.

Torch

A torch is an invaluable piece of audiophile paraphernalia that no self-respecting tinkerer should be without. Useful for diminishing the occurrence of all the major tirade types, the torch should be kept readily to hand and not put in some ‘safe’ place where you know exactly where to find it to enable you to locate a dropped screw that has secreted itself under the sofa, or poke about the back of your rack to ensure you plug the red interconnect into the righthand side of your amplifier rather than the left…or even the SPDIF input. Experienced users of the torch may be seen holding it in their mouths like some kind of audiophile fetish gag whilst pointing it at a cartridge to illuminate the whole kit and caboodle. Now, the torch IS your friend in the main and is a force for good against the tirade, but, as suggested above, it can be the actual source of a tirade by way of the ‘great losing of the torch I put it right here and someone must have moved it’ scenario.

Swiss Army-Style Hex Key Set

Looks like a penknife but with hex keys of every imaginable size for when you lose the loose ones that come with countless bits of kit. Being a penknife style thing it is almost impossible to lose and will be a tool you use countless times throughout your audiophile career. Choose a bright colour to lessen the chances of loss. I chose orange. I can’t find it anywhere! Update – since writing this article I had need of the Swiss Army-Style Hex Key Set not for any HiFi related purpose, rather to put some IKEA furniture together, and here’s where it pays to have a bright coloured tool! Long story short I couldn’t find it anywhere and the IKEA Tirade was triggered…again.

More tools of the tirade

Dodgy Drug Dealer Weighing Scales

Nothing says “I’m an Audiophile” like a set of electronic scales placed casually on the sideboard/HiFi. These are used predominantly for the correct setting up of cartridges and are vital in the audiophile’s arsenal of tools – unless you don’t have a turntable and in which case may well be used for weighing out drugs to help sedate yourself after a particularly ferocious tirade of the zeros and ones variety.

Plastic Bins/Boxes  

These too are an invaluable bit of kit for the audiophile for when they need to find just the right cable for the job in hand. Many audiophiles will find they will be in need of several boxes to contain their ever-growing collection of cables that they “just had to try as it was the flavour of the month and all my audiophile friends on Facebook were telling me I just had to give it a go.” Many of our congregation will possess several boxes and will know exactly where to find cables X, Y and Z without fuss and without bother. However, most will possess several boxes of cables that have been knitted together in a rat’s nest of gargantuan proportions that can only be pulled apart by spending hours hunched over the box only to realise that the cable you are looking for was either sold long ago or, more likely, to be found in another box containing equally huge tangles of cables.

So, the box would upon first inspection seem to be a friend in the battle against the tirade, but it can often lead to tirades of epic proportions and much stamping of feet.

Smaller boxes/drawers are useful for cartridges and other small objects associated with the craft.

A torch may be used in conjunction with the box to help facilitate the finding of just the right cable…unless you can’t find the torch and you find yourself in the land of the Double-Tirade. Nowt worse!

A Soldering Iron

A must-have for any self-respecting audiophile whether they know how to use one or not. Having a soldering iron will add a degree of kudos to proceedings when your audiophile friends come round to play. Some will know the workings of this burny wand of hotness, whilst others, myself included, will have it merely on show to give the owner a certain DIY cachet amongst friends more in the know. Actually, mine remains in its box in the spare room (think large plastic box that is actually part of the house and is full of cables and bits of audio equipment in various states of disrepair) and is likely to remain there until the next ‘big clear-out’ sometime in the next decade. Highly tirade inducing if you don’t know how to use one as it will inevitably turn its burny nature on you.

Sticky Felt Pads

Come on, you have a sheet of them somewhere. You know, the round felt pads with the adhesive backing that you saw in the supermarket on offer and just couldn’t resist because they were “bound to come in useful for something.” The ideas for using these felt pads may be many in the mind of the creative audiophile – stopping electronics scratching surfaces, isolating speakers/kit from stands/rack… oh, the list is… well the list ends there, but these packs of sticky feltiness hold some kind of captivating fascination to audiophiles and we just can’t seem to help ourselves from picking them up when we see them on the shelves of our local tat emporium. Most will find themselves in the plastic bins of wiriness or in the special safe place you’ll remember along with the torch and several other tools of the tirade. Not really anything to do with preventing or causing tirades but worthy of a mention none-the-less.

Tweezers

Tweezers are a highly useful and vital part of our toolkit. Particularly useful when changing cartridges to hold the little metal bits on the end of tonearms that have a special audiophile name that I forget when fitting a new cartridge. It would seem that a set of tweezers would be a force for good in the battle against the tirade, but, dear reader, they are invariably actually the cause of the old shouty-shouty in that they are always either too big or too small for the job or have been put in the same ‘safe place’ as many other bits and bobs that you must know exactly where they are at any given moment, only you don’t! Highly tirade inducing!

A Magnet

For finding dropped screws and the like that have found themselves under the sofa, only for you to realise that said screws have been specially designed for the audio world and are not attracted to said magnet. A pointless bit of kit most often to be found loitering right at the bottom of a plastic bin filled with wires.

Sorbothane

This is audiophile crack and we will all have had a dabble at one time or other. It starts off innocently enough! All your friends are talking about it and telling you how great it is, and how wonderful it is, and how it’s not addictive in any way shape or form. They are just looking to recruit you as a Sorbothane junkie and so beware.  But you have a hit anyway. First you’ll pop it under a bit of kit and you’ll no doubt hear an effect… and then you’ll buy more and more of it… and then more of it…and then just a bit more because you were doing so well in not buying any and need to treat yourself. Look, you’re not addicted, you will tell yourself, but you’ll keep on buying it until you progress onto harder isolation/vibration control habits and discard Sorbothane to the depths of THE BOX! Others may well become lifelong Sorbothane devotees and never look to get a bigger and better hit of vibration/isolation goodness. Actually not that tirade-inducing.

Spikes of Varying Sizes

Like Sorbothane in many ways, only they are the very opposite of isolation. Keen audiophiles will spot a spike or cone in a DIY catalogue and will be drawn to it like a wasp is drawn to flat beer and cheese and onion crisps in a beer garden in the Summer. Most will have a hit or two and either move on to harder stuff or become as addicted as the Sorbothane fanatic. Tirade inducement is minimal.

Various Bits From The ‘Crap Aisle’ in Lidl That You Thought Would Have Some Kind Of Audiophile (Re)purpose

You’ve been there, admit it! You are wandering the aisles of Lidl in search of goodies for the week ahead – you know, food and the like – when suddenly you are drawn to something on the ‘special’ shelves that will only be available for a very short period of time. You’ll look at an item an think “oooh, I could use this for X,Y, or Z”. You may try to fashion something out of it and share pictures with your friends online, but chances are that after a week or two the item will find itself in THE BOX like so many things seem to. Personal purchases include a soldering iron, but you know all about that already. Only tirade inducing if you think about the amount of money you have wasted on crap you never knew you needed.

There are loads more to go at but that’s enough for this episode of Stu’s views but we hope you join us next time when I’ll be looking at more Tools Of The Tirade!

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

READ MORE STU’S VIEWS HERE!

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