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 Elliott Sound Products Editorial Archives - I Am Still As Mad As Hell 

Introduction

Welcome to the editorial archives.  There is a good reason to keep these around for a while yet, since the problems have not gone away.  In case you were wondering, I still have had not a single useful response from anyone mentioned (nor anyone else for that matter) that gives any conclusive evidence that the products mentioned actually work.

In contrast to my other articles, my editorial names names.  Do not buy any product from these companies until they publicly apologise to the hi-fi world (or hell freezes over, whichever comes first), and refund all money spent on the products described herein.  These are examples of exploitation of the worst kind, using big words and small mindedness to defraud the public.

Contents


Magic Lacquer

Updated with message from Stein Music, and some general comments.

A reader sent me a link to have a look at, as he thought I might be able to do something with it (he he :-).  Well, he was quite right, and when I saw this drivel, I was incredulous that anyone could possible believe such ... well .. CRAP!

I will insert some of the text (verbatim) with my comments following, and (as always) will ask the supplier for a response.  Just wait 'till you see this - you won't believe it either.

The Austrian acoustic researcher, Dieter Ennemoser, claims ...

The human ear as a mechanical system is not free from resonance caused by the material it consists of. As this material is basically the same for everybody (carbon 37), resonant peaks occur at the same frequencies, although their amplitude may vary slightly, due to the damping effect of the surrounding bone.

The ear is only one means through which stimuli are transferred to the central nervous system. But mechanical resonance distort information picked up by the ear.

To compensate, the brain uses something like a bridge circuit to filter the information it receives. At the same time the acoustical impedance of the ear is high at the ear's resonance peaks.

This means that to successfully transfer information to the ear, impedance must match. Otherwise distortion caused by mismatches would be more significant than the small signals containing coloration and spatial information.

In mechanical systems like a turntables, loudspeakers, or violins, performance will improve considerably when the spectrum of mechanical resonance is shifted toward that of the human ear.

C37 lacquer was developed for this purpose.

Let's have a look at some of these claims.  The human ear is indeed not free from resonances, and these are used by our brain to analyse the signals we receive.  If we were to change this, then everything would sound equally awful (or just different) until we re-adjusted to the "new" environment.  Bone conduction is as important as any other sensory perception technique, and is vital to the way we hear some sounds.  As for carbon - yes, we are a carbon based life form, but the majority of our bodyweight is water.  Perhaps we can have a water lacquer next.

Lumping humans, turntables, loudspeakers and violins together is a subtle and completely erroneous piece of word salad.  Humans hear (see and feel) differently, one from another.  A turntable and loudspeaker are supposed to reproduce exactly what is recorded - not more, and not less, so the human hears the sound as s/he normally would.  A violin is a musical instrument, and is specifically designed to have resonances, as does a piano, bassoon or guitar - this is how we can tell them apart without looking.  Would you like all your music to sound as if the loudspeaker driver were attached to the messy end of a bassoon.  Me neither!

So this stuff will shift the resonances towards that of the human ear, great.  I wonder how exactly it manages to compensate for the fact that a turntable has a mass many thousands of times that of the ear drum - perhaps it has anti-mass properties!

In a high fidelity system resonance causing distortion may be dampened, but never eliminated. However, the spectrum of those resonance can be tuned to match those of the ear, thus enhancing small signal information. Distortion equal to that of the ear will be eliminated by the brain.

For this reason, our intent was to create a special lacquer that shifts the mechanical resonance of the system towards those of the ear. C37 lacquer works much like the lacquer on a violin.

There is that stupid violin again.  Of course the lacquer on a violin makes a difference - to the violin.  If I paint my walls with the same lacquer, my room will still not sound like a violin, any more than if I paint my car with the same colours and compositions used by Formula 1 racing teams, it will not go any faster, nor handle any better.  A thin coat of anything is going to change the resonance, but unless it is either a) immensely dense, or b) has the aforementioned anti-mass property, the difference will be very slight to something as heavy as a turntable.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that it must have anti-mass properties!  This is truly a scientific breakthrough.  We can paint jockeys and aeroplanes with it - can you even begin to imagine the possibilities?

But wait.  There's more !

COMPOSITION AND APPLICATION

General

C37 Lacquer exclusively consists of natural compounds, all optimized to adjust the sound of a mechanical system to that of the human ear. This lacquer is almost clear with an amber cast. Although it dries to the touch in one day, it requires about 10 weeks to harden completely and attain its maximum effect. During the drying period, performance of the treated components will vary considerably, with the system sounding good one day and horrible the next. But this only shows how important it is to tune all the mechanical resonance.

At the end of the drying period, performance of the treated component is incomparable with its untreated counterpart.

When dry, C37 Lacquer will be extraordinarily stable, with a hard and brilliant surface, but still flexible enough to resist breakage; waterproof and heat-resistant. In a way, it creates a finish similar to that found by trial and error by Guanieri or Stradivari.

All components should be lacquered at least twice. The second coat should be applied about a day after the first coat dries to the touch.

I can't quite get my head around the statement that because it takes 10 weeks to dry, and that during this time the system will sound good one day and horrible the next, that this shows the importance of tuning mechanical resonances.  Is this stuff so ... I don't know ... magical(?) that even during the final curing stages it can shift the sonic balance so far?

And ... "In a way it creates a finish similar to that found by trial and error by Guanieri or Stradivari".  What way would that be, I wonder.  In a way, clear nail polish will do exactly the same similar thing, and also dries to a hard but flexible finish.  Are these the same similar ways, or is there a subtle difference?

Speakers
ALL speakers in a system must be treated so the sound character remains the same throughout the entire bandwidth. A paper cone will soak up the first coat of C37. A smooth surface is obtained by the second or third coat. Full-range speakers such as Lowthers profit the most by this treatment.  Speakers with kevlar, aluminum, polypropylene, or bextrene cones require less lacquer because it does not penetrate the surface.

Treat midrange and high-frequency drivers twice with slightly thinned C37 Lacquer. It doesn't matter if they are made out of supronyl, titanium, chitin, fabric, or film. Diaphragms of horn drivers or film diaphragms as in Magnepans must be treated in the same way.  10 ml are enough for a pair of Lowthers or a small two or three-way system. Larger paper cones require more lacquer.

Some customers were so satisfied with the results of lacquering their speakers that they lacquered their enclosures as well and were satisfied with the improvement.

What a great idea!  The manufacturers of quality loudspeaker drivers must be kicking themselves that the compounds they use to treat their cones and diaphragms are soooo inferior.  Personally, if I were to spend (say) $20,000 on a pair of speakers (with individually plotted response and decay plots, etc) I would be aghast if someone did me a "favour" and painted everything in sight with the tiny little brush that seems to be the applicator for C37 Lacquer.  Actually, I would probably just kill the person, and air-mail the body to the manufacturer of C37 (painted with the anti-mass lacquer to reduce the air-mail costs, of course).

Turntables
Carefully lacquer the pickup at least twice. The same applies to the arm, mat and all cables.
Great.  With a little slip of the brush, you can glue the stylus cantilever to the pickup body.  I'm sure that will improve the sound.  Anything that stiffens the cables even ever so slightly will cause additional lateral forces that may cause mis-tracking, and a tiny bit of lacquer in the bearing assembly of the arm will work wonders.
Microphones
A recording engineer at Telarc thinned the lacquer and treated the housings of his Neumann tube microphones with excellent results.

What excellent results?  Did one of the world's best sounding microphones sound better, look better, taste better perhaps ... what??  I once painted a door with excellent results too.

Electrical Components and Circuit Boards
When current flows through a resistor, electrons are pushed through the resistive material, crash together within its molecular structure and loose their velocity, thus generating heat. Heat is nothing more than a result of movement. This internal movement causes the resistor to vibrate, in turn causing displacement of the molecular structure within the resistor. The resulting distortion in the current flowing through the resistor mirrors its spectrum of mechanical resonance.  The same is true for all electrical components such as capacitors, inductors, semiconductors, or cable. Ask Allen Wright about cables.

Tubes may not be lacquered, due to excessive heat.

This is the most mindless paragraph I have ever read.  Are they implying that the lacquer removes the resistance, stops the electrons "crashing" about, or stops the heat?  If it removes the resistance, then your equipment simply will not work, if it stops electrons from behaving as they physically must then it is truly magical, since the only way science has been able to do this is to approach absolute zero (zero K, or -273 Celsius).  Maybe it stops the heat - in which case we have the most amazing scientific advance so far.  Heatsinks with 0°C per watt thermal resistance!

So "The resulting distortion in the current flowing through the resistor mirrors its spectrum of mechanical resonance" does it?  I think that this implies that resistors (and all other components) are in some way microphonic, and that this is in some way audible.  Or perhaps it simply means that the man has strung a few useful looking words together, and hopes no-one will notice that it is complete rubbish.

Although this might come as a surprise, I have no intention to talk to Allen Wright about cables (Ohhh.)

CD's
For an example of what C37 Lacquer can do, apply one coat to the label side of a CD. Do not use it on the other side! Otherwise, the laser will not be able to read the disk.

No comment!

CD Players/Transports
All circuit boards must receive two coats on the component side. This "glues" all components to the board and creates a coherent sound system.

That means all resistors, capacitors, etc. must be coated with C37. It is also useful to lacquer the under side of the board.

Mechanical parts in the transport also profit from a coat of C37. But do not lacquer open pots, switches or connectors. Always cover the lens to prevent it from being sprayed.

The above implies that the circuit board must be microphonic, and will create sound as components vibrate.  If you have a system that is so afflicted, it is faulty, and should be repaired.  How about the poor repair person who has to fix something where everything has been glued to the board.  I know what I would do - tell the customer that because of the "treatment" it is no longer economical to repair, and throw it away!  As for any warranty that might have existed - forget it.

Lacquer all the mechanical parts too - yes!  Glue all those annoying moving parts so they stay nice and rigid.  It may no longer work, but if it did it would surely sound better

Amplifiers
Treat them in the same way as CD players.

Matthias Böde from the German hi-fi magazine STEREO wrote in a test of two CD players from the same manufacturer, one treated with C37, the other stock:
"While the unlacquered (CD player) sounded more like hi-fi, the lacquered one just made more music. Voices got more atmosphere, the flow of music was better."

Words fail me.  I wonder what double-blind and objective testing was performed.  Did the frequency response improve, less jitter, lower intermodulation distortion, better linearity of the low-order bits perhaps?  This important information seem to have been omitted (obviously a simple oversight that will be corrected shortly).

No-one seems to have appreciated the possibility of applying the lacquer to the listening chair (which has a surprising effect on the perceived sound), nor the curtains, carpets or pictures on the walls of the listening room, all of which can cause their own (not so small) effect on the overall sound.  Indeed, the walls themselves would obviously benefit - I want my listening room to sound like a violin, that would be awesome.

Best of all is the price.  A 10ml bottle (with a 10 ml bottle of thinners and a brush) is only 139 DM (or around US$73 at the time of writing).  To adequately cover all the items in the listening room to match the acoustical impedance to the ear would need around 2 litres, which only works out to US$14,600, based on the coverage of most paints and varnishes.  Bargain.  This would increase a little if the entire listening room were to be treated (only about US$73,000 assuming that 10 litres would do the job), since it is well known that the room has a very profound effect on the perception of sound.

All we need now is a gaseous form of C37, that can be released into air (preferably all air should be replaced, since it is not properly matched to the loudspeakers or the ear drum, so acoustic coupling is severely impaired.  This would improve the situation markedly, by asphyxiating those idiots who give hi-fi a bad name

Another possibility they did not mention is to actually coat the inside of the ear with C37 (including the ear drum, but the inner ear might be a tad difficult).  Another opportunity is that maybe, just maybe, the true believers could go to the ear specialist and have the substance between the ears removed, since it is obviously of little or no use to anyone who believes this gibberish.

As a finale, here is the "theory" behind the C37 lacquer (verbatim):

The C37 ® Theorie
All attempts by science to explain the secrets of the character of sound have so far been unsuccessful. On other hand, there is the immensely rich store of experience accumulated by instrument makers, who, in earlier centuries before science had any impact, had their greatest successes.

There must be therefore, some property of acustics that has been overlooked by science. The object of my research was to seek the missing link.

My technical training, my earlier Passion for High Fidelity sound and my profession as sound technician were the corner stones of my work. The more important part of training came later: a violin maker´s apprenticeship with a master violin maker in Mittenwald, Germany and further studies in violin playing and singing. Then followed a long hard search for sound quality in violins. Many years of innumerable experiments finally resulted in a hot clue:

The all important selection of materials (wood and varnish quality) raised the question of some reference propertiy. I eventuelly found this in human bones and tissue. A more detailled analysis showed that carbon is the decisive element in sound quality, and since the sound is also coloured by body temperature, I chose to call this property the C37 structure. (Where C = Carbon and 37 = body temperature in degrees Celsius).

Further analysis showed that C37 frequencies lay very close together (at least 10 frequencies per oktave) and this structure reoccurs in each oktave.

Another important feature of the C37 structure is that the decay-pattern is the dominant feature rather than merely the amplitudes on a frequency response curve. It is precisely the C37 Structure that enables our ear to discern the quality of sound. The ear consists of several interacting elements, eardrum, hammer, anvil, stirrup auditory hairs), each of which has its own C37 property, so that at the end of the chain, the C37 properties are transmitted in preference to others.  Consequently the C37 structure is extremely sharp and clear at the end of this chain and gives humans a marvelously sensitive measuring instrument.

It is analogous to an electrical bridge circuit in that it compares its own stimulated C37 structure with the incoming sound at the eardrum. The different interface patterns produced by the comparison are recognised as differences in timbre, sound colour and shading. This occurs with such precision that, to paraphrase a HiFi test report for example,

"an amplifier plays more freely and effortlessly, produces more spatial depth than width and with a light timbre".

Technically, however, it is not possible to evaluate such sound qualities.

Naturally this ability of the ear was not refined by evolution for the purpose of judging HiFi-components, but to identify emotional differences in voice timbre. The development of speech was also enhanced by it.

Because the C37 sounds can stimulate a palette of pleasant, exciting, and fine emotions while non C37 sounds are hard to the ear, there was an (unconsicious) development towards C37 sound quality by instrument makers. The fruit of these developments are in the wide variety of instruments from church bells to orchestral instruments or valve- amplified electric guitars.

In my profession as violin maker, the C37 theory is put to daily use and constantly proves itself in the selection of woods, varnish mixtures an design. A further development is a new type of loudspeaker- membrane (Patent EP 0491139).

The attempts by science to explain the "secrets" of the character of sound have not been unsuccessful, it is called psycho-acoustics, and is well established.  Its use has allowed compression algorithms such as those used for CD, MP3 and even the telephone to be developed, and will continue despite people who don't believe in it.

Maybe we should start making hi-fi equipment from human bones and tissue, and cut out the middle man (and his C37 anti-mass / matter transformation lacquer).

I always thought that church bells were made from a brass alloy rather than carbon (in any form), and are operated at whatever the ambient temperature happens to be.  The last I saw, the valves in a guitar amplifier were made from glass and various metal alloys, run at much more than 37°C, and have little or no carbon in their structures.  As for orchestral instruments, what about the brass section?  Are the horns all made from carbon impregnated brass, silver, etc.?  A carbon triangle or cymbal might not give quite the effects desired, I suspect.

I have no idea what he is talking about, and the analogies are flawed in the extreme.

If any of this is even a tiny bit true, why do most of the audiophiles seem to think that metal film resistors sound better than carbon composition resistors?  According to the author, the reverse should be true.

As always with this sort of argument - "Technically, however, it is not possible to evaluate such sound qualities." Why is it that when people truly believe something like this works, it can never be proven?  Acoustical analysis is not an art form, it is a science.  Instruments exist that can detect the smallest differences in a sound, well before any human can - even those with "golden ears".

While I must agree that there are still some things that are not well understood in audio, the final subjective test must be use a properly conducted double-blind test methodology.  If this reveals a difference, then there is some basis for the claims, but there is no evidence that this has ever been done with C37, and without such testing, there is no foundation for any supposed benefits.

In my humble opinion, the author should stick to making violins, and stay well away from things he obviously does not understand.  Or perhaps he is just trying to cash in on the apparently profitable business of ripping off people who don't know any better - is this possible?

Paint your speaker cones indeed - sheesh!

BTW, just in case anyone thinks I might have tried this "stuff" - I haven't, I'm not going to, and until someone gives me convincing evidence gained from double-blind testing (properly conducted with independent witnesses) or some plausible scientific explanation, I'm not even slightly interested.

This may not be the ideal scientific approach, but it is sensible


Update - Added 20 Jan 2000

I contacted Stein Music, and Holger Stein explained that the theory of C37 was incomplete, and it is more of an experimental product.  In his own words ...

Dear Rod,
It is fine that you care for other peoples wasted money, and I can do nothing else but agree with you, that a lot of stuff is on the market just to make a good business with.

I must also say that the theory about C37 should not be regarded as complete, but as a hypothesis to work with.

The effect of this stuff, anyway, always proved to be excellent. So, before you make any judgements about it, try it by yourself, or at least ask a dozen of persons who have really tried it about their results. Then you will have a better basic experience, if you want to judge about it.

Best regards
Holger Stein

I also got some feedback and gathered some existing info on C37.  The results are a mixed bag, but no manufacturer seems to be using it.  In the interests of balance, some of the comments are below (slightly edited to remove names, irrelevant info and other identifiers, but otherwise verbatim - including spelling !)  As of 15 Apr 2000 I pruned these down to save space, and have attempted to maintain a balance.  Numbering remains unchanged.


1... in absolute terms the performance of the Unit in stock condition was quite abysimal. It has now been heavily modified (output directly from DAC Chip via passive Lowpass, C37 "tuning laquer" applied and a new Clock Oscilator [Audiocom S-Clock]) and Sounds pretty decent.

2... I was referring to (someone's) recommendation of Poly. In the article the author also states that the violin lacquer is a poor electrical isolator... ie. not a good dielectric. Although I understand the theory behind C37, I am very skeptical about the sonic benefits when used to coat wire. I'd rather have the benefit of Teflon dielectric.

5 ... All the "dem bones" theory aside, the Ennemoser stuff seems a good complement density-wise with the metal drivers, for creating a damped system. And I find that the more care I use in damping the materials in a speaker system, the better it gets.

6 ... That stuff is expensive but the kind of speakers you are talking about treating cost about $2000 for just the drivers don't they? I hope someone can give you a better answer. Laquer is just a solution of cellulose and solvent. After reading an article in Discover magazine about how Stradivarius made his shelac I gave it a try too. Bass was always better. Mid-range and high-frequencies were very unpredictable.I only do woofers now.Good luck!

10 ... I have played with things as diverse as Elmer's glue to hairspray on speaker cones. They all change the sound. You can apply the same product the same way to two different brand midranges and hear different changes. In other words what constituted an improvement in one did not give the same result in the other (it often sounded worse).

11 ... C37 may make a change you like, but bear in mind that it will seriously reduce the resale value of the drivers. You will think me quite mad(aah, big deal, join the club), but try turning the cabinets so that they face in towards each other, then slide them back to the front wall. Then turn them in another 30-45 degrees, into the wall, so the HF is reflected off the wall and the lows are reinforced by the quasi horn mouth you have created with the front baffle and the wall. This cuts the highs about 5-10 dB and boosts the lows about 3 dB. Imaging will obviously suffer, but the tonal balance is really something. And you can change it back, unlike a C37 job.

12 ... I have to make some comment here. Applying C37 or any other doping to a Lowther driver cone voids any warranty issued by me here in the US and by anyone I supply. That includes Canada.

Lowther has already applied a thin coat of natural lacquer to these units during manufacture and any additional application of other materials will seriously screw things up. I have had one person, who several years just had to try this. Shock came when he had to pay for new frame/cone assemblies and the cost of installing them. Although I had warned him not to use this stuff on the cone.

13 ... C37 works quite well. But it will NOT turn down the HF on a Driver.

BTW, the "trick" with C37 is the same as with Dammer.... Make sure to use plenty of thinner (>1/2 thinner) on the first coats and make sure to use many VERY THIN coats, not one thick one.

Obviously (someone's) point about voiding warranty and (someone else's) point about resale value still hold.

15 ... The coating on the Reps is not (at last count) C37, however Bob Lamarre (LAMHORN) has tried C37 on the REPS and (I believe) uses it with his Speakers.

C37 Laquer is also not strictly "damping" laquer, just the revrese in a way.

I have used C37 laquer extensively (Tonearm, CD-Player, Cones of Goodmans Axiom 201 and Axiom 80 Driver [that's > $1,500 worth of Drivers) with good success. C37 works and can/should be pretty much painted onto anything you can do it (considering price of course)....

17 ... To my knowledge there are two types of the lacquer. One for drivers and the other for enclosures, circuit boards, ....ect...

If we are talking about the C37 for drivers not all who have tried it like it.

A word of warning.  These comments were obtained from the AudioAsylum (www.audioasylum.com) which in itself should tell you something - I hope no-one minds that I used their comments (If you see something you wrote and want me to remove it, let me know - hence the numbers :-).

It is worth noting that carbon exists in nature in several different forms, none of which is compatible with human hearing - diamond, graphite, and coal in particular, as well as many different hydrocarbons. The vast majority of all commonly used lacquers are based on hydrocarbon solvents, so what is so special about C37? The primary difference appears to be the price and the vast amount of hype involved in its promotion. The human body is about 18% carbon (just in case you were interested ).

As of March 2004, I have not heard any further comments, and with any luck, the product has gone away (I wish).


 

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Copyright Notice. This article, including but not limited to all text and diagrams, is the intellectual property of Rod Elliott, and is Copyright (c) 1999. Reproduction or re-publication by any means whatsoever, whether electronic, mechanical or electro- mechanical, is strictly prohibited under International Copyright laws. The author (Rod Elliott) grants the reader the right to use this information for personal use only, and further allows that one (1) copy may be made for reference. Commercial use is prohibited without express written authorisation from Rod Elliott.
Page created and Copyright (c) 06 Jan 2000 Rod Elliott.  Reproduced parts are Copyright Stein Music.