An acoustic sound visualizer for musicians who want to deepen their understanding of sound.
Cymatic Amplifier is a tool for musicians to visualize the sounds they create with their instruments. Inspired by the craftsmanship required to build acoustic guitars, the project's goal is to create beautiful and hand made instruments that will easily fit into a musician's private rehearsals or public performances. Its design references the historical romanticism of the guitar, a classic instrument that has roots in every corner of music and culture. The Cymatic Amplifier is a valuable tool for musicians who want to deepen their understanding of the sounds they create.
The main inspiration for the Cymatic Amplifier comes from the medium of cymatics. This medium provides a way to perceive sound in a visual form, connecting our optical and auditory senses to create a fully immersive sound experience. Focusing this experience to musicians, the Cymatic Amplifier exists to change the way they think about their music. Much like looking at EQ levels while editing audio, the Cymatic Amplifier is to be used during the creative process. But unlike digital sound visualizers, it will comfortably become part of the acoustic process, by being an acoustic instrument at heart.
Hans Jenny first coined the word 'Cymatic' in 1967, and it refers to the study of visible sound and vibration. Typically, a speaker excites the surface of a plate into vibration. The plate can hold a variety of materials, but a Cymatic Amplifier is built to hold water. The water then reveals patterns based on the regions of maximum and minimum pressure from the shape of the sound being amplified. These patterns become accurate representations of sound, therefore highlighting the physical qualities of sound.
Sound fills space. It has no borders, it exists everywhere, and it penetrates us constantly. Sound holds everything together; it's what gives meaning to what we see, what we do, and what we feel. It's our most powerful sense, and the most mysterious. With that said, music is understood as the art of sound. Musicians fill spaces with harmony and rhythm. Which is incredibly moving because of the physicality of it. The fact that you can feel the vibrations penetrating your body, creating form inside of you, and hear such pleasing harmonies is an amazing experience - and it's one we're deprived of in our everyday lives. Music offers salvation for the soul. A Cymatic Amp visualizes it.
Lutherie is the art and craft of building stringed instruments. With this profession comes the respect for woods that are worthy of being used in their instruments. These are called tonewoods. The selection of tonewoods for an instrument is mainly based on the vibrational qualities, as well as cosmetic properties such as color and grain. Tonewoods are also selected based off of its availability, stability, size, and tradition.
The first Cymatic Amplifier, which I refer to as Model-A, is made from Indian Rosewood. This rosewood is revered for its strength and weight. It takes an excellent polish, which really brings out the brown and red hues of the grain. In guitars, it is most commonly used on the back and sides. The protective corner pieces are made from cuts of Amazon Rosewood, also known for its strength - but it has a lighter brown hue, which compliments the darker Indian rosewood. The top of Model-A functions as a placeholder for the acrylic top, which holds the water above the speaker. In the tradition of making rosettes for guitars, the lid was constructed in a decorative fashion. Thin cuts of African ebony, curly koa, Amazon rosewood, and Indian rosewood were attached together to four piece of hardwood, which were used to create the placeholder.
The building techniques used in making a Cymatic Amplifier are the same techniques used to make an acoustic guitar. There are no nails or hardware. The structural integrity of the amp is held together with wood glue and strategically placed clamps. This allows the vibrations from the speaker to freely vibrate - creating beautiful natural resonance (similar to any acoustic instrument). Because the speaker is not attached to the acrylic top (which is how it's done in most cymatic devices) there is space for sounds to distribute evenly across the surface. This creates even and full textures in the water.
The speaker used in Model-A is a Tang Band W8-1772 8" Neodymium Full Range Driver. The benefit of using a full range driver that it covers all acoustic ranges without needing to be augmented with another speaker. Low and mid-range frequencies contain the most energy, and therefore create the most visible patterns when passed through water. The Cymatic Amplifier focuses on bass and midrange sound, to improve the auditory and visual experience. The full range driver features a sturdy cast frame, multiple-element neodymium magnet system, bamboo paper cone, and a cloth half-roll surround. A precisely machined integral plug prevents phase cancellations and improves high frequency extension and dispersion. The speaker is really well designed and is manufactured with the highest quality. Do-It-Yourself speaker enthusiast considers it a high performance treasure.
The Dayton Audio MCA3545 Bi-Amplifier powers the speaker with 45 watts of output. The plate amplifier takes RCA and XLR line level inputs. It is strongly advised to connect your instrument through a mixer, so you can shape the sound by adding bass to achieve the most visible vibrational patterns.
Model-A measures approximately 22" by 21 1/2" and stands 9" tall without the acrylic lid. The acrylic adds 2" to the overall height, making it a total of 11" high. Resting on rotating wheels, the Cymatic Amplifier fits perfectly in the living room, and can move around easily.
There are two handles on the bottom, which makes it easy to lift and move into another room or pack into a car. The low profile and wheels makes it a great subject for photos or videos. The Cymatic Amplifier was designed and built for musicians to plug in their instruments, but it remains a flexible device. You can plug in your music player or computer in order to study to geometry of other music or miscellaneous sounds. This would be useful for musicians who want to replicate samples of sound with their instruments. It could also be used to see the flow of patterns in other musical compositions.
Future of the project
More Cymatic Amplifier models will be made, using different dimensions, woods, and electronics. The goal is to obtain the best design and construction of these instruments by having a variety of musicians play through them, and offer feedback on what they see as valuable, and what can be improved upon. But the project does not stop with Cymatic Amplifiers. I hope to use it as a springboard to create more alternative and experimental instruments, as well as traditional instruments such as my own line of guitars and ukuleles. My passion for sound and my experience with design and technology has lead to my desire to build instruments that capture the imagination of the musical soul, and marries it with everything technology has to offer.