More Hifi and audiophile tools and tweaks that many of us will have at our disposal to make our audio lives ‘easier’.

In last week’s Stu’s Views, or Views of Stu depending on your outlook, I took a look at some of the products and doodads that find their way into the average audiophile’s home by way of being, at first glance, useful in the pursuit of audio-nirvana. It was really well received by lots of people who seemed to share a similar fascination for these gadgets and gizmos and so I thought I’d continue and expand upon the list of gubbins I’d already jotted down and discussed.

Spare Room

So when you have several boxes overflowing with cables, bits of old turntables, RCA/XLR plugs, adaptors, and all manner of things it is obvious that things have gotten somewhat out of hand with regards to your hoarding, The sensible thing to do once you realise you have issues of a hoardy nature is to have a bit of a clear-out – you know, get some things sold ore even given away to someone else who can’t do without seventeen figure of eight cables with English plugs even though you’ve lived out of that particular country for the best part of fifteen years. To be fair with regards to the figure of eight cables “you never know when they might become in handy, do you?” Ah, that old chestnut! We all use it, you know. We keep things forever with the misguided notion that, sometime in the future, perhaps when the robots have taken over the world and we have become their wetware slaves, they will come in useful, if not for some audio-related purpose, perhaps in the building of some kind of laser/robot discombobulator that will free us of the tyranny of our mechanical tormenters – I digress. We keep things in boxes and the boxes can no longer contain their contents and they are spilling out into the wilds of our homes and the only thing to do is take said box/es into a spare room – perhaps in the corner and out of the way. You WILL start out with good intentions, of course, but over time, I’m thinking perhaps a long weekend, the tidy corner of audiophile boxiness will somehow have come to have filled the room and Channel 4 are on the phone gauging your interest in appearing on the Hoarders Next Door Audiophile Special due to be aired around the time when the Spring edition of Munich High End should have taken place. Over time this room will experience various states of disarray and will develop a sort of lifecycle made up of being filled to overflowing and then, following a “bit of a sort-out”, will resort back to a couple of boxes…and then back to being filled with crap again. It’s a never-ending lifecycle and the “room” will never be in a fit state for general use again, much to the chagrin of your significant other who had high hopes for the room being a suitable spot for hosting overnight stayers of the relative persuasion – every cloud has its own silver lining!

Wire Stripper

I’ve got one and so have you…probably. Mine is years old and resides in the toolbox. For those not in the know, the “toolbox” is very much like the boxes you keep old bits of cable, etc in (and I waffled on about in the last installment of this column) only it contains tools, and screws, and drill bits, and small bits of wire that have straggly ends and stick into the ends of your fingers when you rootle around the “toolbox” in the dark looking for just the right tool for the job, and nails that also want to bite you, and miniature screwdriver kits and – well, you get the idea. Now, I’m sure that there is a breed of person that is very similar to the audiophile but whose love is tools and DIY, let’s call them ‘toolophiles’, or, perhaps, ‘DIYophiles’, whose hoarding lives follow a similar trajectory to the audiophile and who have countless boxes filled with tools, etc and perhaps even a spare room full of the tools of their particular tirade – though having done a good deal of research, I have found that this particular breed of person call this room a shed – how exotic!

Anyway, back to the wire stripper. It’s a thing of wonder, is VERY useful and I use it pretty regularly – perhaps one or two times every couple of years.

First Aid Kit

For when you have been digging around in the ‘toolbox of biteiness” and have blood gently arcing across the room and glinting in the sunlight whilst you wave your injured extremity around in the air just to make sure that every corner of the room gets at the very least a touch of the red stuff by way of decoration.

Whatsit Nosed Pliers

You know the ones – the ones that look a bit like pterodactyls if you squint and imagine really hard. No one other than electricians and electronic engineers has any clue what these are for but they are a ‘must have’ item in any self-respecting audiophile’s list of paraphernalia. When bored you may witness the audiophile of the house making shadows out of the Whatsit Nosed Pliers and pretending they are part of Jurassic Park.

Tools Of the Tirade - More Shouty Shouty

Whatsitnosepliers

Swear Box

Let’s face it, we are all hopeless and helpless addicts and unless we get our daily/weekly/monthly fix of music/HiFi we will find ourselves gibbering in the corner of a darkened room surrounded by cables and other audiophile detritus struggling to escape the clutches of the cable monster – Edgar Allan Poe wrote about the Cable Monster I believe, though I may have dreamed that, quoth the audiophile. Anyway, the swear box will come in useful for supplying funds for new kit/music when engaging in any kind of use of any of the items listed in this and part one of this article. You may have been bitten by a nail in the toolbox of sharp things, stabbed yourself in the eye with the Whatsit Nosed Pliers, or accidentally entered the spare room and turned the lights off only to trip over a pool noodle you picked up in Decathlon years ago with a view to cutting into discs and experimenting with it by way of DIY isolation. Whatever the cause, the result will be a series of expletives previously only ever heard on the set of a Gordon Ramsay pilot program tentatively titled “Swearing And Cooking With The Lovable Ramsay Fella, You F^%*ers!”  – snappy! Pop ten pence in every time an expletive bursts forth and you’ll be ordering yourself the gold plated, diamond-encrusted speakers you always dreamed of in no time

Tools Of the Tirade - More Shouty Shouty

The Hifi Pig Swear Box after a morning’s Hifi tweaking

White Cotton Gloves

Keep by your front door! Halfway through your greasy-spoon style breakfast sandwich, the doorbell will ring and by the time you get to it, a scrawny delivery driver will be legging it away from your house having dumped your most recent late-night acquisition of vinyl/shiny loudspeakers/other tat you thought would be really useful whilst you were in the throes of an alcoholic buying frenzy on the internet. Now any sensible person would take the box into the house, finish up their breakfast, tidy the kitchen, do the dishes and thereafter have clean, grease-free hands. Not this sensible approach for the excitable audiophile! No, our hero (that’s you!) will lug the box into the house like some kind of wild beast hauling its recently dispatched prey into its lair and tear into it with a strange kind of bloodlust to get at the contents, pausing only to put several silver coins in the swear box when the packing tape proves too much and wondering why they hadn’t invested in one of those nifty little craft-knives that would have got into the package with no bother or fluster. Having finally got into the guts of the box, our champion will be on their knees and holding up the contents to the Audio Gods before tearing off the final protective plastic layer with their teeth – I’m exaggerating, of course…there will be no pause to put money in the swear box. Upon releasing their latest acquisition they will hold it in their paws and marvel at its wonder and glory only to realise that they have got fat and grease all over their new precious that will take ages to polish off (see micro-fibre cloths), and also realising that had they had a pair of white gloves kept by the door, all this could have been avoided without any oleaginous unpleasantness.

White gloves are also useful for weekend manoeuvres when the sofa gets pushed out of the way, booze is consumed, the techno goes on, and our hero is ‘big fish, little fishing” it like it’s 1992 and he/she’s full of disco-biscuits and poppers…I’m reliably informed.

Jeweler’s Loup

Not really that much use other than for looking at the precious stone on the end of your stylus to check that you haven’t ripped it off in a fit of over-exuberant dusting. See “Microfibre Cloths” below. The Jewellers Loup is a double-edged sword. Yes, it is useful for examining your precious gems, but the only time you are likely to use it is if you have had a mishap, and so have a few pieces of silver ready for your swear box safe in the knowledge that you are forty pence closer to buying a new cartridge that you always lusted after, and anyway, you’ll be fine listening to CDs for a bit.

Microfibre Cloths

See ‘white gloves’ above but one. Also useful for cleaning dust off kit like amps, record players, and racks. (see Jeweller’s Loup above)

Record Cleaning Machine

An invaluable tool to ensure you go deaf before the age of 55.

Several Hard Drives

Hard drives are always on the verge of failing and so you can never be in possession of enough. However, don’t forget that having a few spare hard drives is not enough and you really do need to back up your music files because they are also on hard drives that are on the verge of failing. Did I mention that hard drives are always on the verge of failing and leaving you without any music to stream. If this happens then do not lose faith, you can always listen to vinyl – unless, of course, you have ripped the stylus/cantilever off your cartridge whilst clearing your record player of dust (see “Microfibre Cloths” above). There’s always CDs!

Ruler and Tape Measure

Invaluable and actually useful items that have very few downsides other than the razor-sharp edges of the metal tape measure that will have your fingers off before you can utter the words “I was only checking the overhang/distance between speakers/distance of speakers from side/back walls – please refer to First Aid Kit and Swear Box. Plastic rulers are incredibly useful for similar, if smaller jobs, and can be used by the would-be musician to play the riff from Smoke On The Water – 25cm, 26cm, 27cm/ 25cm, 26cm, 27cm, 27cm/25cm, 26cm, 27cm/26cm, 24cm, 24cm (please note this was on a 40cm ruler and so adjustments may need to be made for shorter rulers). Congratulations, you have a new skill with which to enthrall your friends at the next cocktail party you are invited to. Of course, this is the European version in metric and imperial-minded budding musicians will need to adapt accordingly!

Tools Of the Tirade - More Shouty Shouty

A tape measure is invaluable for all kinds of tweakery

Spirit Levels – Many

Essential for getting everything, and I mean absolutely everything on your Hifi rack absolutely level in every dimension imaginable, even those that only exist by way of explaining mathematical equations that wouldn’t otherwise resolve. Audiophiles are meticulous about getting things level and can hear if an amplifier or DAC is a quarter of a degree out of absolute level.

Tools Of the Tirade - More Shouty Shouty

Spirit levels out of their natural habitat of the box of biteiness

Laser Pointer and Protractor

For working out speaker placement with regards to your sitting position and messing with cats heads – please now refer to “First Aid Box” by way of cleaning your feline inflicted wounds once they clicked it was you making them look stupid by getting them to chase that irresistible red dot around the room. Please also refer to Google for replacement cone manufacturers for when you accidentally point the laser, only in passing mind, at your speakers and your moggy launches itself at the delicate diaphragm with both front legs and its claws protracted.

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

READ MORE STU’S VIEWS HERE

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