Stands, Racks, Furniture, Room Treatment

The Synergistic Research ACOUSTIC ART Real-Time Analogue Room Treatment


History of ART

During the BAAS demos, Ted offered two complete and complementary explanations of the ART system. The following material, quoted verbatim from his talks, combines information shared in those demos.

"In 2003, when I had no inspiration for audio or anything else anymore, and got completely burned out, I sold my house, an appreciating asset, to buy a sailboat, a depreciating asset. I then spent three years sailing single-handedly around the Pacific. I sailed from Alameda to Hawaii, then worked my way to Tahiti and beyond. I was going to go around the world, but ran out of time.

One of the things I did as I went along was visit Buddhist temples. Some of them had Tibetan prayer bowls in them. Whenever they would activate the bowls while I was sitting in the temples, I noticed a distinct shift in room acoustics. That led me to think, ‘If this is the case, I’ll bet you could engineer some bowls in a system, setting them up around the room at key pressure points to effectively treat room acoustics.’

Then I didn’t think too much more about it. When I returned from sailing and developed my current line of Tesla series cables, I learned that there was a gentleman named Frank Cheng in France who was making a series of resonator. Frank was using precious metals to forge small little bowls. Thinking, ‘Okay, somebody’ already doing that,’ I bought into the system, and invested $20,000 retail in his products.

There were things I liked about his system, and things I didn’t like. I felt that using precious metals created a significant increase in the cost, and an added layer of complexity. I thought I could come up something better that was a lot more powerful, and that cost a lot less money because it wasn’t made out of precious metals.

Technical Explanation

I developed a resonator system based on specially tuned and treated carbon steel. The bowls are forged, not cast, from carbon steel plates. This process, which bends the crystal structure into the shape of the resonator bowl, creates a lot of heat. We experimented with three different ways to shape them, including casting and shaping them with a Swish screw machine. Forging was the best, because it lends the steel sonic qualities we can’t get through the other two processes. But it also has an extremely high waste.

After that, we put the bowl on a little stand, and tap it with a steel hammer so that they ring. We mike it, record the sound, and use a spectrum analyzer to take a look at its decay and spectral properties. The amount of labor it takes to produce one bowl is far more than you realize because of this process. 90% of all bowls are destroyed because they don’t have the right acoustic properties.

After a bowl passes the test, I heat treat each one with a flame to polish them. That’s what creates their unique color – they’re actually silver to start with. While they’re being heat-treated, someone again taps them with a hammer so we can look at its decay properties as the sound and resonant properties change with case hardening. When the bowl has the right sonic characteristics, it heads into an oil bath to stop the case hardening process. One of out of three at that point doesn’t reach proper characteristics, and are then recycled.

Next, the good bowls are sent to a climate-controlled, dust-free clean room where they’re sprayed with a German violin lacquer. This keeps them from rusting and also affects their acoustic properties and their ability to control the sound in your listening room. I experimented extensively to find a lacquer that has no detrimental effect on resonance.

Finally, the bowls are quantum-tunneled with 2,000,000 volts from a Tesla coil. Quantum tunneling is a large, purpose-built solid-state Tesla coil that throws a 5-foot arc into a tray of resonators, hits one, bounces between them in an arc, and passes through all of them. For some reason, this has an affect on their acoustic properties. We came across this empirically.

We also quantum tunnel instruments for musicians in Hollywood. They bring us their French horns and trumpets, and we quantum tunnel them to open them up significantly and get rid of congested sound. I’m even going to treat some concert pianos by bringing the coil on location and taking a day or two to treat the metal strings and internal metal with 2,000,000 volts.

There was a lot of subtle detail involved in creating the ART system. We listened to dozens of different types of wood to determine which sounds best. The supports that separate the two resonating bowls in the Vibratron (gong) are a type of marine brass. The gold and silver magnets atop it – everything plays a part in the final product. The bowls are like a fine musical instrument that has been tuned to perfection. Everything is based on the principals of harmonics.

The Bass Station

The satellite at the back of the room near the top of the wall is held in place by gravity, so I call it a Gravitron.

The Bass Station resonator is on a special stand that is spiked. I found that when you spike the stand, it had the exact same effect as when you spike a pair of speakers, namely, a tighter bottom end, and a more layered and delineated sound field behind the speakers. When you don’t spike the bass station, the sound is a bit woollier, and the soundfield is pushed forward.

The Bass Station

The stand also has a phase baffle – it blocks your view of the resonator – which prevents the Bass resonator from affecting the room as a whole, and maintains its control of the low frequency standing wave, which is primarily behind your speakers for the low frequencies.

Even in a small room with monitors that don’t produce deep bass, you need the Bass Station because you’re generating standing waves at your low frequencies that are having a negative effect on your midrange and highs. I’ve treated rooms that were 10 x 10. When I set up the complete ART system, I created an expansive soundfield as if it was a bigger room, with layering way outside the boundaries of the listening room, wrapping around, creating a sense of hall that was significantly larger than the little 10 x 10 cubicle.

If you have a difficult room such as Jason’s, with this huge bass cavity of a fireplace that is a bozo no-no for low frequencies, you can add a second base station at the back wall. The only time other than this that I’ve needed two bass stations was in that 10 x 10 room. It sounded like the guy had a subwoofer going into sub-harmonics. The second bass station elongated the room acoustically, tightened things up, and enabled you to hear what was actually going on.

How do you position the units?

The Vibratron [the blue orb that looks a bit like Saturn and its moons] is placed equidistant from your speakers on the wall behind your speakers, four to five feet above the ground. Changing the height affects the timbre. In this room, we decided to place it a little bit higher than usual. We’ve just started to sell the stand that it’s on.

Below the Vibratron goes the primary Bass station. Because we also have this huge bass cavity in Jason’s fireplace behind the listening position, we’ve placed a second Bass Station.

On the back wall, opposite the Vibratron, we’ve got a Gravitron satellite. It is not magnetically coupled because that works best. (It and the Bass Station are held in place by gravity; the Magnetron side satellites are held in place by magnets).

At your primary seating position, you have someone move a mirror across the sidewall and look for the reflection of the tweeter in the mirror. You can also use a laser pointer. When the laser reflects in the mirror and hits your tweeter, that’s your first reflection point.

You put a Magnetron satellite at the left and right points. If you want to make the sound smoother and more diffuse, you move them a few inches toward the listening position. You also experiment with the height; normally you want them higher than ear level. They don’t normally come with stands, but Jason’s is a very challenging room to treat, and I’m happy it’s working as well as it is.

In this room, we’ve placed the side satellites at first reflection points to create a false wall, and stop sound from resonating in the front door alcove and dining room. If you want to make the sound smoother and more diffuse, move them a few inches toward the listening position.

Magnets and Magnetism

I use magnets to contour and control the activation and decay properties on the side resonators at first reflection points. I also use stackable magnets on the Vibratron to tune its characteristics and get the type of midrange you want in the room. Magnetism is not desirable on the aft resonator up high or the bass resonator. If you use a magnet on the bass station, it will destroy its effects.

The more removable magnets you put on the Vibratron, the sweeter the midrange and richer and sweeter top end. Removing magnets shifts the timbre more into the treble. The gold magnets are stronger, and affect the midrange; the smaller silver ones increase the sweetness of the highs. Essentially they increase the dampening of the Vibratron. The activation of the Vibratron in turn affects the function of the other satellites in the room.

Vibration Spire