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June 4, 2007

Sound Wizard makes any violin into a Stradivarius


Where can I get one (a Sound Wizard, not a Strad, booboo)?

Scientists at the University of Manchester (UK) have invented an electronic device that can make a cheap violin sound like a Stradivarius.

James Randerson, science correspondent for The Guardian, described the work in an April 26, 2007 story, which follows.

    How to get the Stradivarius sound from any violin (and better hi-fi)

    Their tone and dynamic range make them a favourite of string players and classical music fans. But according to researchers in Manchester University, anyone can now produce the sound of a Stradivarius.

    They have developed an electronic device that takes the violin sound picked up by a microphone and alters it electronically to give the "Strad" tone. They say the digital processing software can be adapted for other uses, such as filtering hiss on records and improving hi-fi output.

    Patrick Gaydecki [above], professor of digital signal processing, who heads the team, said the distinctive violin sound came from the body of the instrument and not the strings, whose sound was essentially the same for any violin.

    "The violin is like a bell or any resonant system. It vibrates with a characteristic signature," he said. To extract this signature, the researchers ping the instrument with a laser pulse and then record the vibrations. The Sound Wizard system [pictured above] his team has developed can extract the sound of the string from the full violin sound and then give it the amplification provided by the body of a Stradivarius.

    "In effect, the processing system becomes the violin body," he said. The team's work could also yield clues as to what it was about the craftsmanship of the Italian master that lends a Stradivarius its unique tone.

    Turning pub fiddle into classic gold is just one of Sound Wizard's tricks. It can also tidy up the sound of recordings with background hiss or LPs with scratches and improve the output from loudspeakers. If a hi-fi system routinely underplays some frequencies and overplays others, the Sound Wizard can rebalance the sound or adjust it for the particular acoustics of its location.

    "It corrects for the imperfections of the loudspeaker," said Dr Gaydecki, "but even though you might have a fantastic set of speakers the sound will also be influenced by the acoustic limitations of the room. The room will have dead spots."


Now that your brain is all warmed up and the circuits are humming, it's time for a complementary description of the work reported by Yakub Qureshi, from the April 25, 2007 Manchester Evening News.

    Scientists wired for sound

    Forget the awful screeching — Manchester scientists believe one day they will be able to make even cheap violins sound like a Stradivarius.

    Acoustic experts at Manchester University have found a way to make computers mimic the legendary violins' unique sound.

    Instruments made by Italian Antonio Stradivari 300 years ago are highly prized for their tone and sell for millions.

    But city scientists, working with colleagues at Cambridge University, say they have found a way of reproducing the Stradivarius tone by measuring not just the movement of a violin's strings but the way the instrument's body vibrates.

    Prof Patrick Gaydecki said: "People wax lyrical about the Stradivarius and how it sounds so rich. But you can actually record its properties and programme them into a computer to get the same sound. We could also build new instruments with the same properties as the original. It would mean we could create cheap violins that sounded exactly like expensive ones."

    Prof Gaydecki said scientists have been running tests on a violin using precision microphones to measure how it responds when played and then turning the sound into a mathematical equation which can be recreated again as sound.

    Prof Gaydecki added that the innovation had far reaching implications, as it can make cheap amplifiers sound like equipment worth thousands of pounds.

    As well as reproducing tone accurately, the mathematical formulae also minimise impurities in sound.

    The versatile computer invention can dramatically boost the quality of loudspeakers, remove pops and scratches from old records and even be used by spies to filter out background noise while tapping telephones.

    Prof Gaydecki said: "What the system can do is correct a lot of imperfections.

    "If you buy a cheap loudspeaker and an expensive one, the expensive one will resonate the whole range of frequencies but the cheap one won't represent them all equally. What the system can do is create a corrective filter that fills in the missing areas of sound and create a fuller richer sound."

    The system can also distinguish between noise and music and could be invaluable to spies and the security services.

    They would use it to remove sound imperfections from telephone taps. It can also be used for restoring old and scratched vinyl records or other archive audio sources by silencing imperfections.

    The team have used their research to build a portable computer, dubbed Signal Wizard, which will allow electronic speakers to replicate acoustic sounds and they hope to sell this to sound engineers and music experts.


Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: while I was working on this post my crack research team went deep and brought back product information on the Signal Wizard/Sound Wizard.

Hey, it's a lot cheaper than the alternative.


June 4, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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I really enjoy the cheap violin I got from musicalmart.net - Although, it's no where near a Stradivarius but I would definately be interested in this.

Posted by: Stacey | Jan 4, 2008 8:18:12 PM

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