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Sake Used to Make Wooden Speakers 271

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-just-bizarre dept.
geeber writes "And you thought Sake was only good with Sushi? Well, think again! IEEE Spectrum has an article on how JVC has used sake to enable making speaker cones out of wood. Wood has a wide frequency response which makes it desirable as a material for speaker cones. However Toshikatsu Kuwahata worked for 20 years trying to make the cones out of wood without cracking. Finally he discovered that soaking the wood in sake (but not whiskey) made the wood pliable enough to form into a speaker cone. So let's raise our glasses and toast those clever engineers as we crank up the volume!"
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Sake Used to Make Wooden Speakers

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  • by aardvarko (185108) <`moc.okravdraa' `ta' `retsambew'> on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:10PM (#8776252) Homepage
    Hell, sake enables me to make all kinds of things, most of them accessory fluids for my American Standard, but I sure as hell don't get any stinkin' Slashdot articles about them, now, do I. Harrumph.
  • Obvious! (Score:5, Funny)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:10PM (#8776253)
    Drink enough sake and you will not see any cracks.
  • by Magickcat (768797) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:13PM (#8776280)
    So I guess the sound really does give you wood.
  • by kilocomp (234607) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:13PM (#8776285)
    In other news researchers are using wasabi to implement "Super Bass".
  • by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:16PM (#8776302)
    However Toshikatsu Kuwahata worked for 20 years trying to make the cones out of wood without cracking.

    Wow, 20 years is a long time to work on a problem without cracking. Congratulations, Toshikatsu.

    • by iNetRunner (613289) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @01:45AM (#8777117)
      Wow, 20 years is a long time to work on a problem without cracking. Congratulations, Toshikatsu.
      Well.. He did turn to booze.
  • Temperature (Score:3, Interesting)

    by halo8 (445515) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:16PM (#8776306)
    now.. was that Hot or Cold sake?
  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom.thomasleecopeland@com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:17PM (#8776312) Homepage
    ...about sake [ozekisake.com]. From the site:
    Chouki Jukuseishu - Aged for 3 years or more in storage tanks after brewing, this sake is darker and has a heavier flavor.
    The Guinness of sake, maybe?
    • by Deraj DeZine (726641) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:28PM (#8776382)
      Aged for 3 years or more

      Good. I can't stand underaged drinking.

    • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:58PM (#8776531)
      Oh, for Guinness sake.
    • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:36AM (#8776752)
      Then that's probably a good sake to avoid, because it's expensive, and what everyone 20 years ago would have called "ruined" sake.

      Sake is beer, not wine. That "rice wine" thing is a cultural misnomer that is now confusing even the Japanese. Beer does not age for more than a few months at best. Light beers, as rice beer by its very nature is, do not age at all really. They are best consumed as close to being poured from the keg as possible. One tries to keep beer if one needs to. From going bad. It is difficult in most cases.

      The very link you provide notes that you can keep most sake for about 2 months. I'm not sure why you'd want to. It's like refusing to drink a Bud until it's past its sell by date. You buy it when you want it, and drink it. Like beer.

      These aged sakes are being marketed because the customer has started demanding that their "wine" be properly aged, and frankly, it's driving the brewers nuts. Centuries of tradition and a lifetime of practice to produce the very best, fresh sake, and now they're being forced to put it in barrels and let it go to ruin before people will buy it. For a while they responded with a "customer education" campaign, and some of them report being verbally abused by customers who thought the brewers were trying to rip them off by insisting the fresh stuff was the good stuff.

      But, they are businessmen. If that's what the customer insists upon, and is even willing to pay a premium price for, well, then I guess that's what the customer will be sold.

      Maybe it will drive the price of fresh down so I can afford more of it. I like sake.

      Now if I can only find a way to drive down the price of 25 year old cognac. I like that stuff too, but it's usually E&J for me.

      KFG
      • This is true, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kahei (466208) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @05:20AM (#8777817) Homepage

        The cultural tragedy you describe is real, but in fact there _is_ a tradition of 'real' aged sake, sake that is designed to be drunk old.

        The practise of aging sake goes back to the middle ages. Generally, aged sake was more expensive (but probably revolting to modern taste). This only changed during the Meiji era as financial factors made it more cost effective to offload the stuff asap.

        Old sake, whether aged or spoiled, can be called 'koshu' (often a negative term, but you see it on bottles these days), while sake intentionally aged can be called 'jukuseishu' or jukushu. I agree that this term is often stuck on sake which is actually just black and icky, but nevertheless there is a tradition of intentionally making sake like that.

        The problem is that there is no (commonly known) term to describe how the sake is aged -- there are many ways of doing it which basically produce totally different drinks. So nobody knows what it 'should' taste like, or how dark it should get, which leaves a lot of room for idiots to pay a lot for rubbish.

  • by product byproduct (628318) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:18PM (#8776316)
    20 years of effort and it's still not working. Time to get drunk. [after a few bottles] heeey woooody, you wanty some sake tooooo?
  • by riqnevala (624343) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:21PM (#8776339) Journal
    After licking too many speakers, they'll start singing karaoke..?
  • Quality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ryan Stortz (598060) <ryan0rz AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:21PM (#8776340)
    The article mentions that "But wood, Kuwahata knew, has qualities that could make it a superior choice for sound reproduction. For one thing, sound propagates very quickly through wood, which means that the speaker can produce a wide range of frequencies. Wood also has an internal damping effect, which leads to a smoother frequency response."

    However, it doesn't tell us how they actually sound as compared to other speakers. Is there any comparison data out there?
    • But it would not be really meaningful. At this point they have only small speakers. In that category, it's highly subjective as you don't have a unit capable of producing a full range of sound and thus the better youcan fake it, the better you are. If and when they produce larger speakers we'll see listening test (largely BS unfortunately) and some useful emperical tests. I am somewhat doubtful of the actual utility of wood, as we already have quite excellent speaker materials, and I don't see it as offerin
  • by vudufixit (581911)
    Hmmm... I remember seeing something on TV showing the Inuits building canoes out of wooden planks that were made pliable with boiling hot seal oil. That was at least 20 years ago. If only the subject of the story had watched the same program I did back then...
  • Violins too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattjb0010 (724744) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:23PM (#8776352) Homepage
    A similar trick was apparently "used" by Stradivarius in making violins, in that inadvertent soaking in brine in combination with the usual varnishes applied creates a good sound. More info further down on this [chemsoc.org] page. I've listened to a talk by Nagyvary in which one of his violins was played, and it's truly stunning to hear (I used to play the violin before I found out I was better at coding :)
    • by tentimestwenty (693290) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:12AM (#8776602)
      The resonance of wood soaked in brine or sake may help a Stradivarius, but in a speaker cone the only two factors that make a good one are lightness and stiffness. Any kind of resonance introduces a sound of its own that isn't present in the recording. Hi-fi types refer to this as coloration. If the JVC guys have been working on wood cones for 20 years it's because it is relatively inert, strong and light, not because it adds a particular sonic character of its own. It's very hard to build something that has no negative effect due to its form, yet creates a large positive secondary effect - a basic law of nature and the fundamentals of engineering.
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by odano (735445) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:23PM (#8776353)
    I hear their next move is to replace titanium tweeters with spicy rolls.
  • Why not ammonia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Billy the Mountain (225541) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:23PM (#8776354) Journal
    Every good balsa wood butcher knows that adding ammonium hydroxide to water and boiling it and then soaking the wood in it makes the wood very pliable. This has the added benefit of 1. It's cheaper. 2. More fun because you get to drink the sake while you play with your wood.

    BTM
  • ...it's been confirmed that alcohol can loosen up the most wooden [teenwork.com] of individuals.
  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:29PM (#8776386)
    Yes, if religious music is what spins your wheels, now you can have wooden speakers made with... what else but Christ's Sake :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:33PM (#8776404)
    He had to show some kind of results.
  • Wouldn't the wood have to be rather thick/dense/heavy to not want to crack under the pressure (thereby making the speaker ineffecient)? Wouldn't thin wood respond the same as our 20 year old paper cones?
    • Maybe not. Not meaning to sound condescending, but paper is made out of itty bitty chunks of wood glued together. What's stronger, a house made out of stone or one made out of sand? Sand is just little chunks of rock, after all. Even if you were to compare cement to rock (which is a pretty good analogy), I'd still put my money on a nice slab of granite.

      The "saki process" evidently allows the wood to be reformed without the cracking, and then the sealer keeps it from cracking due to moisture. It probably al
  • by RelliK (4466)
    I prefer to have my wood and my sake separately...
  • but what does Gilbert Godfrey [ieee.org] have to do with wooden speakers?
  • But wait! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Captain Irreverence (761516) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:52PM (#8776504)
    If they're made of wood, then scientifically speaking they must weigh the same as a duck. And therefore:

    They're a witch! Burn them, burn them!
  • Speaker materials (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Munger (695154) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:57PM (#8776522) Homepage
    You would be suprised at the different materials conventional speaker cones are made from. You've probably seen plastic and paper cones. Probably even a few different types of plastics.

    Speaker cones have to low resonance or at least a very narrow frequency range they resonate in. With a narrow resonating range, you can just put a low-pass/high-pass filter on it so it never receives the resonating frequencies - they get sent to another speaker with a different resonant frequency.

    Metal tweeters have become very popular recently. Any really light, but tough metal is good. Alumin(i)um and titanium are the most commonly used, but there are some more exotic ones like Focal/JMLabs beryllium tweeters. The problem with metal cones is that they act like tuning forks - a really narrow resonant frequency range, but if they hit it they really resonate. My B&W 603s have aluminium woofers - which I just love the sound of. They cut them off pretty low though.

    Kevlar (yes, the bullet proof vest material) is also a popular material at the moment. B&W and Wharfdale are two companies that make Kevlar based drivers. B&W have some interesting documents on their web site [bwspeakers.com] on what makes it such a good material.

    Wooden cones would have a nice wide frequency range. Think about how wood sounds when you knock it with your knuckles - a nice dull thud. Yes, I'm ignoring all the musical instruments made of wood. I'm talking about your normal block of wood. They already make the vast majority of speaker cabinets out of wood precisely for the low-resonant properties that it exhibits.

    This is interesting news in the world of hi-fi.
    • Re:Speaker materials (Score:5, Informative)

      by Reverberant (303566) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:33AM (#8776731) Homepage
      You would be suprised at the different materials conventional speaker cones are made from. You've probably seen plastic and paper cones. Probably even a few different types of plastics.

      Everything from paper to polypropylene to Kevlar

      Speaker cones have to low resonance or at least a very narrow frequency range they resonate in.

      This depends on a lot of things. A speaker driver cone by itself has a particular resonance frequency. The sharpness (or 'Q') of the resonance is dependent on the mass of the cone, and the stiffness of the surround.

      However, once you put the speaker driver into an enclosure of finite volume (like a box), the resonance changes. The amount of the resonance change, and the new Q depends on the driver parameters, and the box parameters (size, port dimensions, stuffing, etc). For some low-frequency speaker designs (notably the band-pass designs popularized by Bose and boomcars) you want the resonance - that's how you get your output. Other designs (like my own, see my web page if you're interested), try to minimize the Q while still designing for an extended bass response. It's all about give and take.

      Generally you try to stay away from resonances for mid-range and high-frequency speakers, but much of the time the resonance occurs outside of the frequency range of interest, so it's not a problem. (I suppose it could be a problem if the cross-over design is borked.)

      What can be a problem is ugly breakup modes that occur when the speaker driver stops moving as a piston, and starts flexing. This flexing causes sound waves that add and cancel at certain frequencies, resulting in nasty sounds.

      Kevlar (yes, the bullet proof vest material) is also a popular material at the moment. B&W and Wharfdale are two companies that make Kevlar based drivers. B&W have some interesting documents on their web site [bwspeakers.com] on what makes it such a good material.

      Kevlar was a very popular material in the late 80's/early 90's. It has better moisture resistance than paper cones which helps durability. It's stronger than paper, but that doesn't make a large difference - most of the strength of a driver comes from the conical shape, not the material. Plus, you can corrugate the driver for additional strength. But the added strength does help to reduce the severity of break-up modes. It can't eliminate them however, because the modal behavior is a function of it's size and shape.

      Wooden cones would have a nice wide frequency range.

      The "frequency range" of wooden (or other cones) is meaningless. A speaker cone is essentially a piston. If it stays rigid, we get well understood pistonic behavior, and all is well. If it breaks up, it sounds like crap. If the material is delicate, it will break. If the material is heavy, the resonance frequency is reduced, and you lose sensitivity. You're changing the mass and strength parameters, which I suppose can have an audible effect. This might be a breakthrough in manufacturing techniques, but this isn't a breakthrough in sound.

    • by JBMcB (73720) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @01:33AM (#8777060)
      Wooden cones would have a nice wide frequency range.

      There is a whole school of thought in audio engineering, mostly driven by the Japaneese, that a single, crossover-less driver is the way to go in speaker design. The closest thing you can get to a single-driver full-range speaker right now is either an electrostatic, which dosen't go very low. There are many single-driver designs out there, but I haven't seen any that hit the trifecta of high sensitivity (for your 10W Single Ended Triode tube amp, of course :), low distortion, and wide frequency range.

      Think about how wood sounds when you knock it with your knuckles - a nice dull thud. Yes, I'm ignoring all the musical instruments made of wood. I'm talking about your normal block of wood. They already make the vast majority of speaker cabinets out of wood precisely for the low-resonant properties that it exhibits.

      Actually, the vast majority of speaker cabinets are made out of MDF, or Medium Desnsity Fiberboard, or what most subflooring is made out of these days. MDF is just wood dust compressed back together to make a denser, more uniform material. You can get hardwood that's just as dense, but it's much more expensive to start with, and getting a lot of it without knots or other irregularities is *really* expensive.

      The really high end speakers use exotic materials like Corian or granite. Expensive countertop materials seem to be all the rage. The ultra-high-end Wilson Audio speakers mount the tweeters and midranges on a Corian-like material, or so I've heard. The denser the material == the higher the resonant frequency == the less likely it is to resonate, enough for you to hear at lest.

      • Re:Speaker materials (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Almost-Retired (637760) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @03:49AM (#8777563)
        Actually, the vast majority of speaker cabinets are made out of MDF, or Medium Desnsity Fiberboard,

        Now I have to relate a story that I witnessed as an employee of a hi-fi business in so-cal back in about 1960. The above statement hasn't always been true.

        We had just received a pair of new Bozak B-305 speakers, and the store owner/manager was a bit of an audio engineer, with as golden a set of ears as mine were at the time.

        He took just one of the two speaker cabinets apart, added some additional bracing struts from top to bottom, front to back, and side to side, then filled it up with about 5x as much of that expanded kraft paper deadening material as the box originally had. Lots of epoxy glue, and even a screw or 20 carefully laid in under the veneer on what started out as a 1" thick plywood box.

        When the glue had cured and it was all back together, with the only external differences seen being a few screws in the back panel, that box sounded like a solid block of marble when tapped with a hammer. I mean it just clicked, no thump at all. The factory stock box still had a bonk to the sound when tapped with the hammer.

        A fellow by the name of Cook had some experimental 78 rpm lp recordings out at the time, from unusual sources, like seismographic sounds of earthquakes in both real time, and sped up so they could be heard, also some persussion solo's on various instruments. The most impressive of these was a tympani solo, where at the end of each phrase of the music, the player released the pedal that tightened the skin, and you could, on the unmodified speaker, hear the squeek of the pedal as it was released, but that was the end of the sound.

        Throwing the switch to the modified box, and replaying that section of the record (we were using a Withers variable capacitor cartridge in its own arm and turntable at the time, a great cartridge, unforch stereo the design couldn't do) the squeek of the pedal was heard just as clearly, but then the air pressure waves in the room told you that the now loose skin was still flapping for about 3 or 4 more bounces. Literally, the room was moving up and down according to your senses.

        Both drivers were the special 'AL' models, and could throw the cones nearly 3/4" both ways from resting without botttoming, or generating any detectable 3rd harmonics from doing it. And they were somewhat more efficient than the soon to come on the market Acoustic Research bookshelf speakers that gave the world halfway decent, compact sound for the first time. We were using a Harmon Kardon amp, the first decent transistorized amp ever, and their magazine advs at the time called it a straight piece of wire with gain. 100 watts, response to almost DC, and was to DC if the input capacitor was shorted via a switch on the rear apron.

        I've since experimented some on my own, but nothing that matched that for shear, stand the hair up on the back of your neck, realism.

        It showed me that you can't make a speaker cabinet too solid. A couple inch thick slab of marble ought to work just fine for box walls.

        Cheers, Gene
      • "The closest thing you can get to a single-driver full-range speaker right now is either an electrostatic, which dosen't go very low. There are many single-driver designs out there, but I haven't seen any that hit the trifecta of high sensitivity (for your 10W Single Ended Triode tube amp, of course :), low distortion, and wide frequency range."

        The "classic" single driver is the Lowther, which is extremely efficient, covers the range, and when used with the correct horn, produces beautiful music. I rarely
  • I've known for YEARS that alcohol makes music sound better! Where's MY article?
  • by shigelojoe (590080) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:02AM (#8776550)
    I can't wait to get some of these just to have a friend come over, look at them, and say "Cool! Amish speakers!"
  • by Perdition (208487) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:04AM (#8776563)
    I'm waiting for car audio applications so that the following conversation may be possible:

    "Sir, do you know how fast you were going?"

    "Well, I'm sure I wasn't speeding, officer."

    "Sniff, sniff... Would you kindly step out of the vehicle, sir?"

    "Oh, the smell! You see, my speakers are soaked with sake. You know, for the wood. Wooden speakers soaked in sake! I don't drink and drive. Seriously."

    "Tell you what, sir, just step back here to my car..."
  • Maybe he should cut back on the sake a bit i say.

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