10 cheap and easy ways to get better sound from your old hi-fi

Ditch the cables that came in the box and plump for the Chord Crimson.
Ditch the cables that came in the box and plump for the £30 Chord Crimson.

For all the hoopla that surrounds the iPod and iPhone, Creative Zen and Zune, it's easy to forget that your two-channel hi-fi still has a lot of mileage in it for delivering great sounds.

So dust off that old CD player, plug in your speakers and fire up that amp - we're going to show you 10 ways to really make the most of your system, and discover your music collection afresh.

1. Banish the bellwire

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to boost the sound output from your hi-fi is to ditch the bellwire speaker cables that came in the box.

We recommend QED's Qudos Silver Anniversary (£5.50/m) cable. Recipient of a Hi-Fi Choice award, it really makes a tremendous difference to the sound quality you'll get from your system. Your speakers - and your ears - will thank you.

2. Beef up your interconnects

It's the same story with the cables that connect your CD player and other source equipment to your amp. Ditch the cables that came in the box and plump for the Chord Crimson. Available for £29.99 online.

3. Get some balls

Tennis balls, that is. Cut each one in half so they form a shallow cone and then plop them under the feet of your CD player, tape deck, vinyl turntable and other kit. The rubber construction will help eliminate unwanted vibrations caused by kids or adults stomping on the floorboards and will also reduce vibrations caused by the mechanical components inside your gear.

Result? A much cleaner, clearer sound with tighter bass and a less splashy treble. We're sure you can find a hi-fi head out there who'll prefer one tennis balls brand over another, but we reckon old balls are best. Andy Murray's bound to have loads.

4. Offer your support

If you're balancing your hi-fi on a bookcase, coffee table or even the floor, then some kind of equipment rack seems sensible. Choose a good one and not only will your hi-fi look immeasurably tidier, but it'll also sound a shed-load better as well.

That's because other items of furniture can 'colour' the sound of your equipment, whereas specialist racks are designed not to. You pick up racks from companies like Alphason or Stands Unique for around £100 or so.

Some models even have hollow legs so you can fill them up with sharp sand (not builder's) or lead shot to further reduce vibrations. If you're using an equipment rack on carpet, mounting the rack on spiked feet is great idea. Otherwise use castors.

5. Go paving crazy

Your local builder's merchant is an unlikely source of hi-fi tweaks, but trust us on this one. Stick a pair of paving slabs under your speakers and you'll tighten up the bass and help vocals ring out cleaner and clearer. Again, the aim here is to reduce unwanted vibrations - the biggest blot on any audiophile's soundscape.

We've heard that granite chopping boards are pretty good too - you even use them as a mount for your other hi-fi equipment - CD player, amp, etc.

6. Clean up your connectors

If you're still using cheapo cables, oxidation can make the plugs at each end dirty, resulting in decreased sound quality. For interconnects pushing and pulling the plug into the socket a couple of times should be enough to spruce them up - although you won't need to do this with gold-plated connectors. Instead treat them with DeoxIT Gold (£13.95, Russ Andrews) - a specially formulated fluid that helps protect them.

You can also reduce hum from your mains cables by scrubbing the pins on the plug with wire-wool. Although if you unplug your equipment regularly that shouldn't be too much of a problem.