[Editor’s note: Welcome to the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for 2021! This year we decided to mix it up a little by breaking up the Buyers Guide into sections, which makes it a far more manageable read. And oh, we know what you’re thinking–the best audio accessories, tweaks and, well, what do you mean by voodoo? Now you people have lost all credibility, talking about voodoo. Let’s clear this up: these are the best audio accessories, tweaks and “voodoo” that we, the PTA team, have used.]
The Best Audio Accessories, Tweaks, and Voodoo
Qobuz Music Streaming ( individual Studio Premier plans start at $14.99 USD per month)
High-resolution streaming, unlimited access to music and digital liner notes. Everything needed for deep dives into your favourite genre or artist is at your finger tips. Discovery is also part of the plan, as Qobuz curated playlists can become the perfect discovery tool.
This software package from our own Richard H. Mak is all you need for accurate analog set-up for every parameter—speed, azimuth, VTA, stylus raking angle, anti-skating, phono stage loading, phono stage gain setting, vertical tracking force, determining resonance frequencies, AES wow and flutter and measuring vibrations. Two test LPs are included—one for 33rpm and one for 45rpm. Simply the most accurate way to achieve proper alignment in this modern age of analog.
AnalogMagik Torque Wrench Kit ($150 USD)
Have you ever wondered how much torque you should apply on the headshell screws? AnalogMagik’s Torque Wrench has been tested to provide for the proper level which is tight enough to secure the cartridge, but not to the point where the tightness will start affecting the resonance frequency of the body material. Included in the kit is 4 PTFE Teflon washers and two hard-to-find drive bits for headshell screws.
Audio Intelligent Premium One-Step Formula No. 6 ($34 per Qt. bottle)
This single step record cleaning fluid occupies the middle ground between oily solutions that could leave a residue and cleaners with surfactants that never seem to get deep down into the grooves. We found the No. 6 effective in removing gunk while being easy to remove via vacuum-based cleaning machines.
DS Audio ST-50 Stylus Cleaner ($80 USD)
Finally, a safe way to clean your stylus. The DS Audio ST-50’s cleaning pad sits at about the height of a 200-gram LP allowing you to place it on your platter and lower your tonearm–no risk of excessive force or accidentally bending your cantilever. When not in use, the ST-50 adds some bling to your turntable shelf. Our go-to stylus cleaner.
Feickert Universal Protractor ($249 USD)
Our favorite alignment tool for setting up cartridges, one of the best audio accessories for the person who actually likes to mount and align cartridges, this protractor has been recently redesigned for Baerwald, Lofgren and now Stevenson equations. It also manages to be easy-to-use and precise—so much so that once you use one, you’ll throw your other lesser protractors away.
Funk Firm Achromat ($99 USD)
A true classic, the original acrylic mat designed by Khoubesserian back in 1979, imitated by many over the years. A rather cheap upgrade to your run of the mill felt mat for a more detailed sound. Available in 3 and 5mm thickness, make sure to pick the right one depending on your tonearm. One of the best audio accessories out there for less than $100.
Fern and Roby Brass Record Weights ($65 USD)
Simple, effective, beautifully machined, not offered at a crazy audiophile price. Fantastic with the Technics SL-1200G.
Oyaide BR-12 Turntable Mat ($99 USD)
An improvement over the classic aluminum “sheet,” the butyl rubber BR-12 is tapered in thickness from the center of the spindle to platter’s edge to reduce record warps, and to provide a stickier interface for improved damping. It even comes with a Strobo disc and an overhang gauge!
Chisto Audio Cosmetics ($79 USD)
The most complete set of record cleaning solutions, ranging from “swipe and play” all the way to extreme pre-wash solutions for the dirtiest of your thrift store findings. Also one of the best audio accessories you can get for under $100.
Furutech NCF Boosters ($215-$350 USD each)
They look like mere cable elevators, but Furutech’s NCF (Nano Crystal² Formula) contain a proprietary material, carefully tested, that offers two sonic benefits: “First, it generates negative ions that eliminate static,” the literature explains. “Second, it converts thermal energy into far infrared. Furutech combines this remarkable material with nano-sized ceramic particles and carbon powder for their addition ‘piezoelectric effect’ damping properties.” One of the best audio accessories for simply lowering the noise floor of your system.
Okki Nokki Record Cleaning Machine ($449 USD)
This affordable RCM has many of the same features as more expensive cleaners such as a cool-running motor, a forward and reverse motor for scrubbing and a clever design for ensuring fluid does not get sucked back into the vacuum motor. Comes with fluid and brushes.
Kirmuss Audio Ultra Sonic Cleaner ($875 USD)
When ultrasound record cleaning machines first hit the market a few years ago, audiophiles had to pay around $3500 for an AudioDesk or KL machine. Thankfully, Kirmuss Audio has come up with a much more affordable solution for a mere $875. The Kirmuss does pretty much the same job as those other two machines, except that it does not have the self-drying feature. You’ll have to dry each LP with a cloth or hang them on a rack, but you’ll save a lot of money!
Les Davis Audio 3D-2 Viscoelastic Damping Discs ($125 USD for box of 16)
An affordable yet effective alternative to high-end footers and other damping devices, these small pads from Australia are made from layers of constrained-layer damping material and are cheap enough so that you can buy a box or two and experiment with them under all types of components. We found them to work best doubled up under source components, and an adhesive version is available for placement between speakers and stands. New products include a turntable mat.
Musical Surroundings Stasis Brush ($29.95 USD)
We all own half a dozen record brushes, but they all do the same thing, moving dirt from one side of the record to another. The Stasis brush is soft, yet firm enough to quickly help you remove junk from the surface your LPs in just a few rotations. No carbon brush is a match to this beauty. One of the best audio accessories that still actually fit into a stocking.
Wilson Audio Pedestals ($775 USD each, set of 3 for $2,225 USD)
Using proprietary materials from their impressive line of speakers, Wilson Audio has developed an isolation device for the ages. The Pedestals come in two versions, one that supports three to eight pounds per footer and the standard version that supports up to 25 pounds per foot. “The results were clear,” our reviewer concluded. “I am never removing the Wilson Pedestals.” An Editor’s Choice award winner.
The Buyers Guides of 2021
- The Best Bookshelf Speakers
- The Best Floorstanding Speakers
- The Best Turntables
- The Best Phono Preamplifiers
- The Best Tonearms and Phono Cartridges
- The Best Reel-to-Reel and Cassette
- The Best DACs, Servers, Streamers, and Disc Spinners
- The Best Preamplifiers
- The Best Amplifiers
- The Best Integrated Amplifiers
- The Best Headphones, IEMs, and Headphone Amplifiers
- The Best Cable, Power, and Racks
- The Best Audio Accessories, Tweaks, and Voodoo
Looking for even more? Check out our “Best Of” awards in our year-end roundup on The Occasional Podcast. Now streaming on iTunes and all podcast platforms. We also offer educational and informative breakdowns for digital audio, getting into turntables and mastering in this year’s episodes.