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Stradivari, Hype or Real?

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    Stradivari, Hype or Real?

    I have been for a couple of years a person who has disregarded the Stradivarius hype about the violins as mere "Salesmen" and the only thing that makes them "Great" is the fact that they have that extra "Touch" that everyone raves.

    I do not know where people get the "Ear" for these things. If you can get something to sound better then fine. Where I stop is being told is that this instrument sounds better because of this material, then I ask, why?

    All the answers that I have been researching is split, scientific consensus under a blind test says their is no difference between modern and Stradivari, however, on the other hand pro players seem to say otherwise.

    the main question that i want to get to, what position should be taken on material construction on instruments and in regards to pipe organs. their is all ways the choice between fine wood and price, is plywood not sufficient?

    What do you think?
    Instruments:
    22/8 Button accordion.

    #2
    I'm not an organ builder or carpenter, but I don't think plywood isn't sufficient if you want the wood to help the sound be absorbed and reflected (and whatever else it is the wood does).
    However, the ear and brain can easily deceive unless you're a pro, so I wouldn't necessarily buy a $1000 recorder made of a rare species of tree instead of a $400 one made from wood that's more available but I'm sure there's a difference in sound. I own several recorders and they all have their distinctive sound.

    Comment


    • Ben Madison
      Ben Madison commented
      Editing a comment
      Ok, so how then prove it scientificly, that was bit of my point on the post, you may able to pick out the diffrences but is their a clear way to measure that and prove it so.

    #3
    As an engineer, when working on a project I believe in precise measurements to make a definitive judgement about the differences between two things, be it the appearance, the sound or the material. That said, we often are ill-equipped to know what to measure and how to measure it. Blind comparisons eliminate the subjective bias we humans are prone to having when evaluating and comparing two things. That may lead to the development of better ways to measure these differences.

    Some people have "golden ears" and can distinguish subtle differences that the rest of us mere mortals cannot hear. Usually that is the result of years of training. But everyone's hearing is different and the brain plays a very large role in what we "hear" and the perceived differences in a comparison test.

    The online audio world is filled with prose worthy of a wine tasting. "Oh, my $1,000 power cord sounds much better than your $2.99 one! The highs are transparent." As engineers and scientists worked to find measurements that might prove or disprove wild claims, things like transient intermodulation distortion and other new tests came into play. OK, now I have a new measurement but what does it mean to my perception of what sounds god and what doesn't. Again, rather subjective and 100 people in a room will usually disagree, although they all were presented with the same sound.

    I am reminded of a wonderful day I spent with the legendary Frank McIntosh, founder of McIntosh Laboratories - the high end audio company. He was developing his first loudspeakers at the time and wanted our group to hear something. I was technical director of a speech research laboratory and the other five in the group worked at the Cornell Ornithology Laboratory where they worked with the recording and spectrograhphic analysis of bird songs. So this was a group with some trained ears.

    We were led into a room that had a black acoustically transparent curtain at the front. He said he was going to play three cymbal crashes and wanted us to listen carefully and tell him which ones were live (using an actual cymbal struck by a solenoid-operated device) and which ones were recorded.

    After listening carefully, we all voted. Number one was judged to be recorded by all six of us. Number two was judged to be live by all six of us. Number three was judged to be live by 5 out of six. What did we hear? Number one was a recording played back with the new McIntosh speakers and a 200-Watt per channel power amplifier. Number two was the live cymbal crash. And number three was the same recording played back with the same speakers but with a 1000-Watt per channel power amplifier.

    Obviously our ears were picking up some cue in the initial transient of the cymbal crash that was almost perfectly duplicated by the high power amplifier driving those speakers. And yet the average power of that recording was, as I recall, about 1.5 Watts - hardly anything you would think would require such a huge power rating in an amplifier.

    Every material absorbs and resonates sound differently over the audio spectrum. The glue, screws, varnish, pegs and other hardware attached to something all affect its sound. Part of our reaction to the sound of an instrument is cultural, part is training and being told what "sounds good" and part is some mysterious factor that humans use to determine what is pleasant and what is harsh.

    I know what I like but I can't always explain why. And the engineer in me is OK with that. I don't always need to know the why if the sound of an instrument provides sonic pleasure to my brain.
    Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand name.

    Main: Allen RMWTHEA.3 with Rocky Mount Electra-Piano, Allen 423-C + Gyro cabinet, Britson Opus OEM38, Saville Series IV Opus 209, Steinway AR Duo-Art, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI
    Lower Level: Hammond 9812H with roll player, Gulbransen Rialto, Roland E-200, Vintage Moog
    Shop: Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with 18 speakers and MIDI, 4 Allen theater organ tone cabinets (including 3 Gyros, but don't call me Gyro Gearloose!).

    Comment


    • Ben Madison
      Ben Madison commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow insightful!

    • voet
      voet commented
      Editing a comment
      I really appreciate this, AllenAnalog. You have a gift for explaining things. Thanks for taking the time to post.

    #4
    Well, I've heard a couple of Stradivari in my time, and each time, the soloist (and instrument) was able to be heard over the entire orchestra. My observations, based on those instruments, is that they are able to serve both as an ensemble as well as a solo instrument. The same cannot be said of many violin makes. Why? Well, the research is wide and varied, but I doubt we'll ever receive conclusive proof.

    Plywood in a pipe organ? I would imagine the sonic properties and reflectivity of solid wood vs. layered wood would vary a bit (also depends on thickness), but I'm sure the pipes could be made to produce similar sound (but not exactly the same).

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

    Comment


      #5
      The only person I know of that experimented with plywood pipes was the Australian organ builder Roland Sharp In the 1960's with a rank of Gedackt pipes.
      I myself have never bothered with it for it wouldn't be compatible with the company ethos.
      Apart from plywood, other materials for organ pipes have also been experimented with: cardboard, hardboard, sheet plastic and even glass, but since the
      introduction of these materials seemed to be now confined to the annals of history, I can only assume that they weren't at all successful.

      Comment


      • j reimer
        j reimer commented
        Editing a comment
        Rather, Ron Sharp, the builder of the huge tracker pipe organ in the Sydney Opera House.

        John Reimer

      #6
      Someplace I read or heard that one of the reasons for the Stradivarius (or other truly old string instruments) was that the spruce logs were transported by floating them in a river, and thus the logs were in water for a very long period of time. This dissolved or loosened some of the cell membranes, permitting them to resonate over a broad range of frequencies more readily. That, plus the fact that Stradivarius was an excellent craftsman, made for an excellent string instrument.

      In pipes, the resulting shape of the pipe is more important than the material--if we are to believe the physics of how pipes sound. That said, solid woods are easier to carve than plywood or particle board--they are easy to work. This alone is likely a reason to make the pipes out of hardwood. Pipes are not usually made from exotic woods--walnut, cherry, and maple are commonly used. These are renewable woods. And, plywood is not at all inexpensive if you buy high grade hardwood plywood.

      As to the cymbal crash test, it goes to show the extreme importance of transient power requirements for amplifier to assure accurate reproduction. Transient power may be more important than steady state power, at least for high frequency reproduction.

      Comment


        #7
        Originally posted by toodles View Post
        As to the cymbal crash test, it goes to show the extreme importance of transient power requirements for amplifier to assure accurate reproduction. Transient power may be more important than steady state power, at least for high frequency reproduction.
        Does this mean that if the power of the amps on a digital organ was increased, the sound would improve?
        Bill

        My home organ: Content M5800

        Comment


        • voet
          voet commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks again, AA, for your explanation. So this suggests that a theater organ might benefit from higher powered amps for the cymbals and probably some other percussion stops, but not so much for a classic organ.

        • Ben Madison
          Ben Madison commented
          Editing a comment
          Voet,
          They tried that on the Boardwalk Hall Pipe Organ. Installing the percussion in a separate room and pump the music via the address system. But they took the percussion out of a room and installed them into the pipe organ as material indicated.

        • AllenAnalog
          AllenAnalog commented
          Editing a comment
          Ben, Bill was referring to electronic theater organs with digital sampled percussions, not pipe organs with physical instruments. Having seen and heard vintage PA systems from the 1930s (NO, I'm not that old!) I can attest to their limited frequency range and transient response. The Atlantic City experiment was a failure for multiple reasons.

          My current personal thinking about amplifier power in digital electronic organs is not to use anything less than 100 Watts per channel and more so for the 16' and 32' pedal stops. The efficiency and type of speakers you use will, of course, have an impact on the resulting sound levels and transient response.

          My Allen analog theater organ (the source of my profile name on here) has the optional analog electronic crash cymbal generator, in addition to the standard traps generator chassis, in the traps speaker cabinet. The traps have their own 50-Watt power amplifier and a special set of speakers separate from the organ tone generator speakers.

          So even back in 1971 Allen made a special effort to maximize the authenticity of the sound of the theater organ traps department. I am actually amazed at how good this analog electronics cymbal sounds. Unfortunately I broke off the spring-loaded cymbal stop tab during a particularly satisfying climax to a march I was playing and the repair awaits the next time I open the hood to do some work on the organ.
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