Are There Improvements that Can Be Easily and Quickly Made Without Buying More Stuff?

I appreciate that there are many people on this forum who have put a great deal of thought and effort into how to improve their audio systems.  Most of the discussion relates to upgrading equipment.  This is natural as most people here want to improve their music experience, and better equipment is a way to do that.  I’ve taken advantage of this and made 5 or 6 upgrades over the last year!  The result has been great!  But are there some simple steps that can be taken that can be overlooked by someone who is newer to audio?

As examples I’ve read that facing a sub towards something like the back of a couch will improve its sound.  And for rooms with bad effects that can’t be fixed, move the listening position closer to the speakers.

‘What is your best tip for improving sound quality without buying anything?


I'd say that this is a huge open-ended question. Perhaps if you tell us what you don't like about the sound of your system that will facilitate better answers.

I'll suggest that you try positioning your speakers in many different positions, angles, distances from the rear wall, sidewalls, corners, etc. Perhaps you have already done this?

Speaker placement absolutely..the Room - moving things around, room treatments using stuff you have like bookcases, window treatments...lots of isolation devices are also often just stuff you already have around...

Your listening room is large, but populated with many reflecting surfaces.  Perhaps moving to a near field listening setup would be useful.

Yeah…I like these kinds of ideas!  I’ve already made 5 - 6 upgrade purchases this year, so it’s time to step back to try some tweaks.  It’s easy to try things and if they don’t work I can go back.

I don’t have the opportunity to listen to better audio systems.  So I don’t know exactly what I’m “missing.”  I do hear live music occasionally, so I have that in mind as the highest level of achievement.  When I listen, I think “does it sound like it could be live…or is it flat like a recording?”  
Another area to explore is the adjustments available on my subs.  I’ve worked on those and have difficulty judging optimal “phase”, but bass is among the best sound of my system.  I turn it down so I don’t notice it per se, but when there’s strong bass it sounds great. I don’t hear any difference in different DAC settings.

I think my sound is excellent right now.  Of course listening to Radio Paradise different recordings sound better than others.  I get very close to “live” with percussion instruments like a wooden block.  Generally base and sub sounds are excellent.  I can’t say that many vocals sound like the singer is in the room.

I won’t repeat what my current system is, but I have updated my profile.

i spent 9 months treating every surface of my listening room through trial and error.

the cost was about $350 worth of cloth and thumbtacks, and about $600 worth of Aural T-fusor diffusers.

these changes were the biggest performance boost i ever experienced. this was after living in my purpose built room for 10 years somewhat frustrated i could not get things to sound better. since i did this in 2016 i have been completely satisfied with my room and system.

you can see pictures of my room in my details.

in the context of my room and system it was couch change.


Wow!  I did look at pictures of your room.  I appreciate your advice!  And I will follow up on it.

You have a really beautiful house. Looks like a wonderful view.


I don’t think you need to know what is wrong… or what your objective is. By trial and error you can find out what it’s capable of. As soon I have optimized all wires (which of course is an expense)… then I go after the venue.

The answer to your question: all the things you say you cannot change (in your system description). Placement, floor and wall treatments. These can make large differences.

Is moving your system to a dedicated / or at least acoustically better room a possibility? That much glass and open flooring are the first thing I would go after. You can see my system and see what I did was incrementally work on these things.

start w the Jim Smith book mentioned above…it has many…. free…ideas 

I would say go through the virtual systems of other members and get ideas about room setup and placement. The other thing is to look at the recommended dolby placement guidelines for your setup re: the angles and dial those in exactly as you can. The other thing is all of the glass, can you get curtains?

Thx for the comments!  I do have a carpeted space upstairs with only 1 regular window that I could move to.  But then I would have to “do music” as a separate, stand alone activity.  If I did that, I would listen to music much less.

Windows and light are a blessing of our house.  When inside, I’m still connected to nature.  Even living in a city, we daily have deer sometimes coming a nose away from the glass.  And fox and bobcat in the winter.  With a 180deg view of the largest lake in the world 50ft away, curtains would shut out more that I would gain in sound quality.  If I had them, I’d probably rarely use them.  Maybe after sunset in the winter…no, not even then as the moonlight views out over the lake at night can be stunning.

So for me, I’m trying to do the best I can in this context.  Of course, it would be tempting to set up a separate audiophile space with an entirely new system upstairs, and keep what I’ve got here for regular use.  That’s a future prospect.  I’d still want to optimize what I have now.

Speaker placement. Check out the room mode simulator at AM Acoustics. Avoid placing your speakers, subs or listening location from being in any of the lowest room modes. Same for your listening position.

Of course, I am always advocating for good room treatment, and EQ where necessary or desired, but those cost money!



Really gorgeous space and tremendous view you have tcotruvo but that room is very live that means lots of hard reflective surfaces and little absorption. Things that could help in the room, a thick rug and heavy curtains. Or a carpeted alternate room might be a good idea.

I focus too much on bass. :) The other issues besides avoiding room modes are avoiding early reflections, so having enough space to the side and rear walls is important, but so is getting the _right_ toe in and tweeter angle for your speakers.

Audiphiles tend to use laser pointers to point the tweeter right at their ear canals. That’s actually not usually right. Lots of speakers like less toe-in, like Focal or Magico, and many sound better at the mid-range axis or below. B&W for instance.  Often 2-way speakers sound much better below the tweeter axis too.  Only way to know is to listen.

You are correct not to spend any more money with that room. The only free thing I can recommend is bring the chair closer and use a nearfield setup to minimize speakers/room interaction. 

As others have already mentioned, speaker placement and listening position placement.  For my room it was moving my speakers close to positions that were recommended by Vandersteen (intersection of points in the room that are 1/7th or 1/5th or 1/3rd of the width and length of the room) and then moving my listening position from center top of equilateral triangle and back from there.  Soundstage opened up and everything just sounds that much better.  I've also started to learn how to use REW and am able to measure some of the changes to understand the different areas of my room.  Lastly, adding absorption to side wall first reflections was another game changer for me (not free but DIY wasn't that expensive) and also added DIY bass traps to front corners.

If only @mahgister was around...he could give you quite a few "tips" on what to do while spending little money.  Your room may look like a mad scientist's den when you're done but you'd tick the not cost much box.

I would try using the Sumiko Setup on your speakers. They often end up at different distances from the front wall and non-matching toe-in but it works when you don't have a perfect room. Here's the instructions I use:

I’m out looking for “Get Better Sound” by Jim Smith.  It sounds like a source of information to keep working on.


My listening chair is quite low, so it will be a good starting point.  I can try raising it in increments as one variable.  Good idea!

And thanks to all the forum responders which resulted in my past upgrades: Node, power supply, cables, DAC and router.

in the "old" days, Pierre at Mapleshade, had you start on the floor, and add a big city phone book, one at a time until "perfect" listening position achieved...was interesting and fun

Are you running your stuff on more than one dedicated circuit?

I was, but I recently read a thread that prompted me to try  ’all-on-one’ and to my surprise I truly think I like it better on one.

There are some things that cost very little that might be worth doing.

Try experimenting with speaker and component isolation - this can be tested for very little cash. I know the debate spikes vs isolators is ongoing, but it is cheap to test.

Get some big cork furniture glides at the hardware store and put them under your speakers. If they help, then better ones will help more and you can plan for the expense. In my case, isolating my speakers was a huge improvement (suspended floor and very heavy speakers). A better alternative is a cork pad meant for it

These are knockoffs of the original version



Vibrapods are inexpensive and surprisingly effective. Get a some and try them, they did nice things for my old DAC, but nothing for my new DAC.


Other than that, I agree with all the others about speaker and seating.


Without spending ANY money?

I'm stumped. Moving yourself or the speakers/subs positions is all I can think about. But I would think you already should have tried that. If money is available then move on to improving your room acoustics. Once you get that right, and only then, move on to equipment and accessories upgrades.

If using Roon and have a fast computer with at least 500 gigs of dedicated space 

HQ player is built into the back end for powerful DSP that can make your digital much much better sounding.

IMO the best way to improve your sound is to upgrade the parts in your existing components.  Most parts are average at best.  Simple replacement of power supply caps from the old blue caps to Nichicon will improve your sound beyond most cables or power cords, room treatment or AC products.  Upgrade output capacitors to V-Caps another level.  Upgrade resistors to Takman, Amtrans, Audio Note, etc.

Happy Listening. 

Ensure routing of wires is neat and tidy. If power cables must intersect with signal cables, make it at a 90 deg angle for as little interference as possible. 

Make sure speaker wires are tight. Check that all woofers, midranges and tweeters are tight in their respective locations and that none of the mounting fasteners have rattled loose. 

If a high current amplifier is being routed through a surge protector, bypass the protector and plug the amplifier directly into the wall outlet. 

I really appreciate all the suggestions. It gives me a lot to work with.  This forum has been a great resource for advice.


On isolation, my 2 subs are sitting on thick recycled rubber pads made to be used for outdoor patio blocks.  Each of my speakers are sitting on four rubber feet that were made for a big commercial espresso grinder.  All are on a concrete slab with no basement below.


The speakers are powered and plugged into wall outlets.  Same for the 2 subwoofers.  I did a bit more cable management as you suggested.  But I could drill out another hole in the back of my cabinet for power cords to separate them from interconnects.  Good idea and free!  I’ll also open the speakers and make sure that all fasteners are tight.  All my cables are tight.


Everything is on 1 circuit, using 4 different wall and floor outlets - since all the speakers and subs are powered and in separate locations they each have their own outlet.

#1 Independent electric only for Audio?

I believe it's not hard.

#2 And  outlets usage order: analog first, then digital. 

Try #2. 😁😁😁


It also makes a difference on you sitting position from the rear wall.  Sitting close will boost bass. Another idea that i have done lately is replacing the plugs on my power cables to furutech silver coated. Which help with mids and highs. Rhodium coated helps to give more bass.

As a lot have said positioning speakers  will help. Also, take the system apart clean all the contacts, components etc and reassemble. A general housecleaning can sometimes do wonders. Good luck. 

A few things that I can add to the equation:

When the sub-bass is good on a recording, it sounds really, really good.  I think if every recording was as good as the best ones I’d always have tremendous sub-bass.

I’m listening to MQA on Radio Paradise. My SMSL M400 DAC shows that it’s playing at 44.1 kHz.

My speakers are powered so my amplifiers are plugged directly into the wall.

My listening position is 10ft from my speakers - is that considered near field?

@mikelavigne Stunning room and system!!

By comparison, it makes me want to turn my room into my insurance company for vandalism.

Well played (literally), sir.  Thanks for sharing.

Depending upon how long all of the speaker & interconnect cables have been in place, I’ve found that removing them & cleaning both the cable terminations & the jacks on the speaker or electronics & replacing them can make a positive difference.I just use rubbing alcohol & cotton swabs on wooden sticks designed for this. Let any residual alcohol evaporate ( which it will pretty quickly) before re- connecting. I know there are specialty products for this but this seems to work just fine. 

Much good advice already. I suggest playing something with a strong bass line. Walk around the room and mark EXACTLY where the bass sounds strongest. Move your sub to that spot. Check for improvement. Repeat with other subs, if any.

Move a bookshelf onto the wall opposite your speakers. This will suppress high frequency reflections, and may make the sound more focused. Keep it that way if you like the effect.

Good luck and enjoy !

Something just ain't sounding right? Pour yourself a nice Single Barrel over rocks, wait 10 mins. 

I agree with all above, but one low hanging fruit is also component placement and wire management. Keep interconnects away from AC cables, keep amps away from sources, try to remove any switching power supplies from sharing the ac circuit. 

It may seem silly, be sure your ear canals are free of wax. I have senior citizen friends who never thought abut this and were astonished when they used an ear cleaning kit from the drugstore. Neither he or his wife had ever thought about it. Happy Listening (once you can actually hear)!

My experience with internet ratio is not very positive. Degraded SQ (even with Flac) and the non-interactive mode of music playing are the two areas keep me away from them. I knew with the premium member you could upgrade to hirez music but I still doubt the comparability of the SQ from the streaming service like Qobuz, Tidal, etc. You might want to try the streaming music to sense the differences in SQ.

Secondly, upgrade to a DAC that allows upsampling. There is still a open-ended debate on whether upsampling actually renders better SQ but my limited experience is somewhat positive. You could do this using software (I know you do not want to upgrade the equipment)  I had purposely upsampled 128 kbps AACs to Flac files ten times in size and found the SQ is improved. Not night and day but if you have owned a high-revealing system, the upsampling may bring you surprise.

I've heard various accounts of very noticeable improvements to sound quality by moving furnishings around, or moving a piece of furnishing in or out of the room.

IF your sitting close to the back wall, move your seat forward.

IF you're using a high back chair, move you head forward.  Or, use another chair.

Been busy with all the ideas.

Made a new hole in the back of my equipment cabinet for power cords. All power cords are now separated from interconnects.

Checked and cleaned all connections. Found a loosened RCA connector in one speaker and tightened it.

Moved one speaker and am trying different toe in angles. This could be the key to better sound.

@waytoomuchstuff and @terry9 ​​​​​and @defendert My back wall is 29ft from my listening position, with furniture, counters, cabinets etc. between it and me. My bass and sub-bass is very very good when the recording is good. So that’s not a problem to fix except to change all recordings played to good ones.

@boomerbillone Yes, I regularly clean my ears. I have been missing the highest frequencies since I was in my 20’s. Sometimes with a very high note on a piano I hear the hammer hit the string, but not the note.

@lanx0003 My next step will be to subscribe to a streaming service.

@roadwhorerecords I’ve got the glass of bourbon right next to me.

So far, I think the sound is better. Vocals are more pronounced…the music is more airy…the sound waves from the 2 channels are meshing better…there’s more decay so there’s more of a sense of space. I’ll keep trying little changes in the location and direction of my speakers and my chair height to try to find the sweet spot. I understand that just a few inches or degrees can make a difference.

p.s. - had a grouse walk by the window today while I was changing things.

Thanks to you all!!!

Great advice from Chayro, I love Graceland by Paul Simon and So by Peter Gabriel, , unfortunately they both sound terrible on any decent stereo I have tried, much, much too bright.  Sorry, goodbye Peter, goodbye Paul.

+1 for earwax removal.  Sounds silly but once you try it, you’ll understand.
Avoid q-tips whenever possible.  Just use something like Debrox and then shower.
Almost free.   

I would do a complete cleaning with few affordable things: pipe cleaners, microfiber cloth, electrical contact cleaner & canned air. Step 1 disassemble the entire system and throughly dust and clean the shelves: Then use microfiber cloth to clean the outside of you components. Then clean the outer portion of the rca's with electrical contact cleaner & microfiber cloth: Then use a pipe cleaner and electrical contact cleaner to clean the inside of the rca's. If you have XLR's, the pipe cleaners work great to clean both male and female ends. The you can use microfiber cloth and electrical contact cleaner to wipe all the blades on your power cables. Lastly, you can turn your attention to the speaker connectors at the amp & speakers. The pipe cleaners work great with banana connectors & the microfiber works great with spades. Once all this done, you can reassemble the system. Then final thing to do is to use the canned air to blow out the volume control and all the buttons. This deep cleaning is good for 1 year with minor maintenance. 

No. You always need more stuff. And keep it clean by taking it all outside and blasting it with a powerful leaf blower.

Check the torque on your speaker raw driver bolts/screws.

This was suggested a while back by a member.  After a quick check I found myself tightening 96 machine screws holding the speakers in place, ranging from “not quite snug” to “suspended in space, not performing a useful purpose.”

Worth checking out.