It’s tool time again!
By Roy Gregory
Anybody who works with high-end audio equipment on a daily basis can hardly have missed the fact that it is, in general, getting bigger, heavier and more awkward to manipulate. Retailers and reviewers find themselves presented with immovable objects on a regular basis and it happens to anybody who owns a high-end system sooner or later. The normal response is to enlist the aid of a willing helper, but that isn’t always possible or convenient – after all, who wants to wait for Charlie to come back from his fishing trip before installing your new toy(s)? The answer is, of course, to employ tools to get the job done.
Whilst the audio industry does develop or repurpose specialist tools to tackle specific tasks – the Wilson jack and Göbel’s Delrin sliders are good examples – more often than not we are left grubbing around other industries to find the mechanical aids we need. The Air Wedge (other brands are available) is a case in point and one I’ve already mentioned several times in these pages. ‘Stolen’ from the carpentry trade, it is used to allow one man to position and hang doors or windows, holding them steady in a precise position. A small, flat, inflatable envelope, you slip it under the object to be lifted and pump it up using the rubber bulb attached to the connecting hose. A knurled knob controls the release valve and hey presto, raise a seriously heavy object and you can lower it at a controlled rate to a chosen position with ease: perfect for adjusting speaker spikes, placing footers or couplers or doing anything else that needs access to the underside of something that’s uncomfortably heavy to lift. Several years ago at the Munich Show, I offered an Air Wedge to a bemused Lincoln Cheng, Editor of Audio Technique magazine in Hong Kong. Too polite to refuse the ‘gift’, he muttered something emollient and dropped it in his bag. Two weeks later I got a call: “The Air Wedge – I need ten. I need them for all my guys!” He insisted he wanted exactly the same model and that I should send them to him – ironic given that they are invariably manufactured in China! Such is the power of experience. Once you’ve benefitted from something like the Air Wedge it’s hard to do without.
Well, here are two more examples that have become indispensible. I was introduced to these by Stirling Trayle of Audio Systems Optimized, a man who spends more time than most, lifting or manoeuvring stupidly heavy audio components. More often than not, he’s doing it on his own, correcting or improving on an existing set up. Part of that involves ripping a system down to its most basic state and starting over, including dismantling racks and reinstalling spikes, cones etc. beneath anything that uses them. Occasionally that means dealing with tightly mounted spikes or elements like the Wilson Audio diodes. More frequently, it means re-installing cones or reassembling racks with screw together tubular elements. These often offer no mechanical aid or purchase in order to get them really tight – a prerequisite for long-term stability. Time to deploy your Oil Filter Wrench…