Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Holy Sh*t Moments: Part 2 - The $75 DIY Tweak That Will Blow Your Mind.

I don't understand why the following DIY tweak/project does what it does. But it is effective and if you take the time to make and place the items I am discussing, you will find your music to be more enveloping, engaging, dynamic and satisfying.

My motivation for telling you this? Nothing other than I want you to experience the amazing benefit of this DIY project. I make nothing off of this.

A Serindipitous Discovery

This all came about when a customer of mine called and relayed a story to me. He was telling me about a day when he was listening to his audio system. His wife had acquired an antique copper kettle, and proceeded to put it on a shelf behind him in his listening room. It changed the sound in a very noticeable manner, for the better. The following weekend they were travelling, where he was in a gift shop and spotted some solid copper cups and shot glasses. He remembered the tea kettle, and picked up a few of the cups with the intent of seeing what effect they might have on his listening room. They worked, creating a more relaxed, spacious sound, with improved dynamics. He liked the effect so much he kept going, adding more cups, and then experimenting with copper wire. Bending the wire into shapes and placing it about the room.

I took this information and bought some of the hammered, solid copper cups myself. 4 shot glass sized cups and 2 of the 12 oz. tumblers. Figuring if it didn't pan out, I had some nice shot glasses and could make Moscow Mules for 2...

When the cups arrived, I placed the two larger cups at ear level, directly in front and behind my listening position within my room. There was a definite increase in image focus and more texture in the vocal ranges. I then placed 2 shot glasses on top of the stacked Stillpoints Apertures in the corners  behind my speakers. The remaining 2 shot glasses were placed at my sides, again at ear level. This brought a sense of air and spaciousness that also seemed to move the image into a space that now surrounded me. Dynamics and energy seemed to increase as well. Not a bad improvement for around $120.
Sertodo Copper cups. Available at Amazon. The shot glass is on the far left, followed by 2 12 oz. cups.

Further Experiments

Still it wasn't cheap, and I really didn't feel like filling my listening room with copper cups. I started thinking about alternatives, and experimenting. The easiest and cheapest solution was to use solid core copper wire. I bought several different gauges, 18,16, 14, 12, 10, 8 and 6 awg wire was ordered up, shaped into various sculpturesque shapes, and tested in my room. I learned that It doesn't take a whole lot to make a difference, and second you want to allow it to resonate freely in order for it to be it's most effective. Nearly all of the wire I tried with the exception of the 6 awg, added shrillness or brightness to the room. The 6 awg while tough to bend into shapes seemed to offer the best sound without becoming bright or shrill.

I experimented with shaping the 6awg wire into self supporting triangles, then setting them atop my corner placed Apertures, and positions off to the side of my chair, as well as behind. Even hanging off of the ceiling. It was interesting, and quite nice. With the right amount there was more depth, detail dynamics and the sound went from sitting at the front row of a concert to being on the stage, depending on where I placed the copper bits that were at my side walls. The image expansion seemed to depend on where the triangles at my side walls were placed.

Still curious, I ordered up some OFC copper rod from OnlineMetals.com. I started with the .1875" rods in 4 foot lengths. I cut up a cedar 4x4 fence post, sanded and finished it, then drilled holes in it to accomodate up to 4 rods. After much experimenting, I settled on this configuration as the best solution. I could shape the rods a bit to make them look a little more like sculptures, and less like some crazy project. I chose 2 rods for each base. Placing them in front, back and to the sides of my listening position.
Four .1875" x 4 foot long copper rods in an 18" long piece of cedar
4" x 4". I sculpted the rods by bending them around a steel pipe. It
gave them their wavy shape. 

Important things to note


  1. Copper seems to work the best. Brass, Bronze and steel were awful sounding in my room. Immediately shrill and unlistenable. Gold and Silver at those lengths and diameters was impractical.
  2. Larger diameter rod/wire seems to work best. 6 awg wire works and .1875" rod works well. I tried .3125" wire and it did seem to work on midrange frequencies well, but it was easy to get too much too fast. One rod max is enough in my opinion.
  3. The rods or cups need to be near the wall to work their best. They lose about 50% of their effectiveness if you move them a foot or more out from the wall. 
  4. Whether you use rods or cups, having them at ear level increases their effectiveness as well. With the 4 foot rods, it was no problem for the stands to be placed on the ground, with  the height of the rods extending to ear level and above.
  5. It's easy to overdo it. Too much and the sound becomes too hollow, bright or shrill. I would start with 4 to 8 copper rods and 4 wooden stands. 

Listening

As I said before, the copper offered up a pleasant, relaxed ease. It seemed to diffuse the electronic tension that was present. It also seemed to depressurize the sound in the room, making the walls less of an obstacle to the sound. My guess as to why is that the rods vibrate sympathetically to energy bouncing off of the walls, sort of mechanically dissipating that energy before it gets to your ears. That would explain the sense of ease, the room sounding larger than it physically is, and the need for the copper to be placed near walls. I also heard more clarity and detail, less smearing of the higher frequencies, and especially with the large cups, I heard more body and texture to the vocals. It was all very natural sounding.

This was in a system that was already using acoustic treatments and many tweaks, including Stein Harmonizers and Bybee Quantum Plugs. The copper still had a positive impact that was different from that of the Stein and Bybee. Not to mention that 8 copper rods and an 8' long 4" x 4" cost about $75.

Sure I could have made up a story about the exotic nature of the particular copper I was using, or how it was treated, or how the wood was an integral part of the process. I could have charged a small fortune for these room tuning devices, but for me it would be wrong to call it or make it anything more than what it was.

Try It Yourself. It's not expensive, and takes almost no time to put together.


2 comments:

  1. Interesting! I will order some copper rods and give them a try. I do have a question---what is the wall-mounted panel with the circular cutouts? I assume it is some sort of diffuser panel. Is it DIY?

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    Replies
    1. The wall mounted panel is a DIY project I made from 1" thick felt remnants I acquired here:

      http://www.thefeltcompany.com/clearance-and-closeouts/

      I dyed some of the felt circles, the rest were natural. I mounted everything to a piece of 3/4" baltic birch ply.

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