Welcome to the Hi-Fi Accessories section of the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for Summer 2023.
The Guide is more than “We heartily endorse this [fill in the blank].” This collection represents our enthusiasm. Every product listed in this guide is beloved by at least one team member. These products have elicited responses such as “I was gobsmacked every minute I spent with this” or “The shipping box was wet with the tears of my lost innocence” or, too often, just “Take my money!” In other words, this isn’t about high-end audio products that we merely like. These are the products we love — and we think you will, too.
No list like this can ever be complete since we’re bound to forget something that has duly impressed the heck out of us. We’ve attempted to capture a moment in time — one year — and collect together, in one place, all of those products that we want to have and hold and use in our own systems right now.
If you’re looking for our list of “the best stuff to check out right now” — this is it.
The best hi-fi accessories portion of our buyers guide is broken down into subcategories, such as Vinyl Accessories, Equipment Racks and Stands, Isolation Devices and Cable Lifters.
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. Now in a Mk. 2 edition for even truer results.
AnalogMagik Torque Wrench Kit ($200 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.
This enzymatic stylus cleaning formula “will effectively remove protein-based and other debris from the stylus without causing any harm to the stylus or cantilever, and without leaving any sort of film behind.” Comes with application brush.
This AIVS record cleaning concentrate is specifically made for ultrasonic machines due to its low-foam formula. We found just as effective, and far more affordable, than many of the existing cleaners available.
Audio Intelligent Record Cleaning Fluids (prices vary)
The various cleaners in this line-up address specific record cleaning needs, from deep enzyme cleaners to one-step fluids to ultra-pure water. AIVS fluids are 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.
AudioQuest Super Conductive Anti-Static Record Brush ($29.95 USD)
A great dry record brush that boasts 1,248,000 super-conductive carbon fibers and does an excellent job with clearing off the fluff and fuzz while you’re listening to LPs. One of the best hi-fi accessories available for under $30.
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.
Fern and Roby Brass Record Weight ($135 USD)
Simple, effective, beautifully machined, not offered at a crazy audiophile price. Fantastic with the Technics SL-1200G.
We know what you’re thinking. We’ve actually started putting our own merch in the Buyers Guide. But the truth is, we’re exceptionally proud of the way the Bronze Record Weight turned out–thanks to Christopher Christopher Hildebrand of Fern and Roby. The 800g beast also serves as a 45rpm adapter on one side. But this record weight is so awesome that the editorial staff had to buy one for ourselves (no employee discount, either).
Kirmuss Audio Ultra Sonic Cleaner ($970 USD)
When ultrasound record cleaning machines first hit the market a few years ago, audiophiles had to pay around $3,500 for an AudioDesk or KL machine. Thankfully, Kirmuss Audio has come up with a much more affordable solution for a mere $875. From Dr. Kirmuss himself: “When a record is restored by the Kirmuss system the record comes out virtually dry. No vacuum, air or rack drying. This as when processed both the record and water have the same electrical charge per the Tribelectric table of charges. The few remaining droplets left are wiped off using an opticians cloth.”
Les Davis Audio 33 1/3 D Turntable Mat ($160 USD)
Made from Les Davis’ constrained layer damping material, this turntable mat is very effective at letting more of the music through thanks to its noise reduction properties. Two members of the PTA staff own and use this mat on their reference rigs. A Reviewers Choice award winner.
Levin Record Brushes (prices vary)
At first glance, the Levin record brushes seem like fancy-schmancy dry brushes for well-heeled audiophiles–they are fairly pricey, but they are beautiful and handmade. We also realized that this opulent yet very practical product is an ergonomic dream, and it sweeps the dust of your LPs with its soft soft bristles with the utmost of confidence. Your LPs deserve to be pampered.
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. One of the best hi-fi accessories that still actually fit into a stocking.
Nasotec Tweezers ($28 USD)
Not only do they extract and install phono clips from phono cartridge pins with the greatest of ease, these tweezers are also designed to crimp those fragile and recalcitrant clips before we all switch to SPUs. Indispensable for anyone who mounts a lot of cartridges.
Not all RCM cleaning brushes are made equally–the Listener Select has bristles that can prevent microbial growth passing from record to record. Comes in 7″, 10″ and 12″ sizes.
Pangea Record Doctor Clamp ($29.95 USD)
It’s not made from rare and exotic materials, but it does everything a record clamp should do–flatten the LP and couple it to the mat. It’s $30, which means it’s one of the best hi-fi accessories for vinyl newbies looking for the basics.
Soundsmith EZ Mount Screws ($39.95 USD)
This complete set of cartridge mounting screws features a large knurled top on each screw, allowing you to mount cartridges easily with two hands. Set includes nylon, stainless steel, aluminum and brass screws.
Equipment Racks and Stands
[Editor’s Note: Prices vary greatly according to size, features, options and finishes.]
Acora Acoustics SRS-G and SRG-M ($5,000 pr USD and $2,500 pr USD, respectively)
The Acora Acoustics SRS-G stands are made from solid granite (just like their granite speakers) and are quite possibly the King of the Mountain when it comes to speaker stands. We’ve even kept a pair aboard to evaluate other two-way loudspeakers. The SRS-M is a similar design, but made partially with metal. Picture above with gold footers, all models now feature black footers as standard.
Christopher Hildebrand and his crew are a mixture of precision machinists and master carpenters, so these custom audio furniture products offer an exceptional degree of fit and finish.
Our go to platform for our components. HRS M3X platforms come in various sizes and allow you to swap the feet based on load applied to the platform. In Mo’s review of the Wilson Audio Pedestals he goes into more detail about why the HRS platforms are the ones for him.
Ictra Designs PROTO (starting at $29,995)
This is what a high end audio rack should be–built to the nth degree by German engineers instead of furniture makers. “This will be a very serious audiophile who has the kind of disposable income to showcase his or her valuable components on what is no doubt one of the the most technologically advanced and beautiful pieces of audio furniture ever developed,” we decided, giving Ictra the Reviewers Choice award.
The Best Hi-Fi Accessories: Isolation Devices and Cable Lifters
Ansuz Darkz S2t Resonance Control ($800 USD each)
Undeniably expensive for a mere footer, but the Ansuz Darkz devices features rarer materials with lower inductance as you move up the line–which tops out at $4,000 each, and you need at least three of them. In addition, these devices have visited the University of Aalborg’s particle accelerator where they are bombarded with titanium, zirconium and more. A/B comparisons with and without Darkz should performed by every skeptic. Review forthcoming.
AudioQuest Fog Lifters ($149.95 USD for set of 8)
These simple and elegant cable elevators reduce RF noise coupling from floors, carpets and anything with substantial mass by minimizing contact to the ground.
AudioQuest Q-Feet ($129.95 for set of 4)
Sorbothane footers are still quite effective at isolating components from external vibrations and air-borne energy. Perfect for lighter yet complex components such as CD players and DACs.
AudioQuest RCA Noise-Stopper ($49.95 USD for set of 10)
Stick these caps over unused RCA jacks, and you can lower the wideband noise that can travel through the open jacks.
Fern & Roby Isolation Feet ($425 USD for set of 4)
Made from a high-quality visco-elastic polymer, in addition to aluminum and cork, these beautifully machined isolation feet are ideal for turntables, but they will provide damping and isolation for all types of components–some people even use them for their speakers!
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 hi-fi accessories for simply lowering the noise floor of your system.
Les Davis Audio 3D² ($121.60 USD for set of 8)
These simple constrained layer damping footers are affordable, easy to install, and quite effective at lowering the noise floor when placed under sources, turntables and other components. Review forthcoming. When it comes to the best hi-fi accessories for the money, check out LDA.
Les Davis Audio Entropic Isolators ($88 each)
These constrained layer composite pads from Down Under offer additional isolation between components and racks–including turntables. A box of four Entropic Isolators costs $350. Review forthcoming.
Levar Resonance (prices vary)
These magnetic levitation footers were quite effective at squeezing just a little more detail from the Qln Signature speakers–yes, your speakers will be floating on air. Several models, designed to support specific weight ranges, are available.
IsoAcoustics zaZen II isolation platform ($229)
Perfectly sized for components such as CD players, DACs and turntables with small footprints, the zaZen II does an effective job at controlling external vibrations. The fact that is does so at such an affordable price is a gift for audiophiles with limited budgets.
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.