How to boost the sound quality of your hi-fi with gadgets and accessories
BBC Music Magazine's audio expert Chris Haslam recommends isolator feet for your turntable, speaker stands and cables to enhance your listening experience at home and on the go
How to improve the sound quality of your speakers
Your speakers are designed to sound best when they’re level with your ears, so position them accordingly, leaving space between wall and speaker to improve mid and bass performance. If you don’t have room for stands, put your speakers on a layer of foam to isolate your music from floor vibrations.
How to improve the sound quality of your turntables
It’s worth putting your player away from your speakers, too, and a dedicated wall shelf can help reduce vibrations that spread through wooden floors. Make sure your cartridge is properly aligned and your tone arm is using the recommended tracking force.
What are the best cables to use to improve sound quality?
Thick wire (1.6 – 2.6mm) is recommended if you have to run a long cable as it helps minimise resistance. For shorter lengths you can save money by using thinner cables (1.3mm or less) but remember that the cable you use is as important as speaker positioning, so try not to compromise.
The best accessories on the market to improve your hi-fi equipment
Transform your turntable
IsoAcoustics Orea Graphite £45 each
Many years ago, I remember my dad placing half a squash ball under each of his turntable’s feet to help improve its sound quality. Fast forward three decades and I’ve just added four Orea Graphite isolator feet – the audiophile’s modern squash ball – to my Rega turntable. The results have been a good deal better than I expected.
The Oreas are designed to fit under any audio component, and with a choice of four weight classes from 1.8 to 14.5kg depending on your set-up, they’re designed to eliminate ‘parasitic vibrations’. In other words, the rubber feet help unwanted noise escape and so help your music sound better.
But is £180 to upgrade a £300 turntable worth the money? Some people spend astronomical sums on minuscule sound improvements, but here the impact was very noticeable, with my music’s performance, brightness and bass response completely re-energised.
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I spent an age removing and replacing the feet to check I wasn’t going mad, but no, the improvements are real and the Oreas are significantly better value than buying a whole new hi-fi. IsoAcoustics.com
Great value speaker stands
Soundstyle Z2 £80
Ironically, if you’re serious about sound quality, the last place you should ever put bookshelf speakers is on a bookshelf. To get the best from them a solid stand is a must, and despite being around for over 10 years, the Soundstyle Z2 (H568mm, top plate W125 x D166mm) remains one of the best options, boasting top and base spikes that highlight detail, and a rigid, dampened open design that will instantly improve your hi-fi. richersounds.com
Easy portable upgrade
Zorloo Ztella MQA £95
Portable DACs (Digital Audio Converter) like the Chord Mojo do wonderful things to digital music quality, but they’re not pocket friendly. For hi-res excellence on the go this tiny USB DAC will breathe new life into your old wired headphones, adding an impressive amount of precision, placement and space to your hi-res recordings. It plays the majority of files including MQA from apps such as Tidal and comes with a Lightning connector or USB-C, and a USB adapter for plugging into older laptops. zorloo.com
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.