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Thread: Virzi tone producer

  1. #1

    Default Virzi tone producer

    Do makers still put these in their mandolin's? I have a set of plans that details how to make and install one. But most of the makers I am familiar with via books and the web don't ever mention it. How common is it in modern mandolins?

  2. #2
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Mike Black puts them in. He built a piccolo mandolin with one for me and it is the most amazing tiny mandolin imaginable. You can't believe the richness of the sound. Can't say it's because of the Virzi, but if he ever makes another instrument for me, I'd have a Virzi in that one, too. I'd love to have him build an A4 with a Virzi for me at some point. Big sister to my piccolo. Time will tell.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Paul Duff lists the Virzi tone producer as an option on his builds. He built one into my H-5 mandola. Sounds lovely indeed!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Like Bob above, I had Mike Black build a Virzi into my A2-z. I was particularly impressed by this video:



    I also know Gail Hester to have tinkered with the Virzi, while Jamie Wiens offers his version as a “Wienzi.”

    I have never played an F5 with a Virzi, but there are those who believe that a Virzi adds something to an oval but takes something away from a mandolin with f-holes. YMMV.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    These things relate to the cones in steel resonator guitars somehow?

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    They lower the resonant frequency of the air chamber by adding mass to the top. If that makes a particular mando sound better with a lower resonant frequency, then the mando will sound better.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    These things relate to the cones in steel resonator guitars somehow?
    No, not at all. Not everyone thinks they are helpful, some do. There is a whole lot of discussions about these things on the Cafe.

    https://www.google.com/search?client...ndolincafe.com
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    They lower the resonant frequency of the air chamber by adding mass to the top. If that makes a particular mando sound better with a lower resonant frequency, then the mando will sound better.
    Thanks, but if that’s all they did, the same effect would result from just sticking some mass on the top at the same attachment points. Pretty clear that these things change possible cavity resonance modes as well as act as radiators. Very complex stuff, that’s hard to relate to a musician’s perceptions. I mentioned the steel guitars because they also have top-connected, suspended structures (one or three) and there seems to be more agreement that they actually do something, and they’re still built with them. As a sometime mentor for aspiring inventors, I’ve developed some affectiion for oddball concepts. N-rays anyone?

  10. #9
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Yes, adding mass to the top will do the same thing as a virzi. It's a bit difficult to do once a Mando is finished and strung up however. And even more difficult to compare by removing a virzi without destroying it. As for being clear what else they do, there's no evidence to indicate they do anything else. Lowering the resonant frequency of the mando can have a dramatic effect on the tone. I guess the virzi's mysterious shape gives the impression it doesn't something magical or too complex to understand, when in fact, it's just some wood adding mass to the top.

    You can use a piece of clay about 15 grams in weight and attach it the center of the outside of the top just in front or behind the bridge. This will lower the resonant frequency, although adding a bit of dampening due to the clay itself. Experiment with the mass of the clay as well to get an idea what mass does.

    Mass has more effect the closer to the center it is. Take that same 15 gram clay, attach it to the very edge near the recurve, and you likely not hear any change in tone or see a.change in resonant frequency.

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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Lowering the resonant frequency of the mando can have a dramatic effect on the tone.
    What resonant frequency (i.e. normal mode of vibration) are you referring to? I am not disagreeing with you, but there are many more than one.

    There is a lot of speculation in the previous posts. I have never used a virzi, so have not done any measurements unfortunately. How much does a Virzi actually weigh? I would guess just a few gms. Is it enough to make a significant difference bearing in mind there is a fair bit of variation in weight from top to top? An oval hole top weighs around 125-150gms so is a few extra gms really significant? What about variation in mass of different bridges? The mass of a virzi might get lost in the noise. Added mass will lower the main top mode and might lower the main air mode, but it is difficult to predict what it actually does without taking some measurements. Is speculation only at the moment. We need measurements.
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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    If we avoid the whole "virzi" shape and just see it as a mass of extra wood centered to the top plate, then it's a bit less complex and less magical.

    So adding mass has a lowering effect to all frequencies. That can be evidenced using a free plate or a soundbox, like an assembled Mando.

    The most notable frequency affected in an assembled Mando is the same mode you get when tapping the top, the same one affected by the size of the f holes.

    In a free plate, it's much easier to record the effects of all frequencies being lowered when adding a clay mass to the center.

    I went through long phases of intrigue with mass distribution and how it affected the tap tones of plates and assembled mandos. It's interesting to see how Mando sounds different tapping at 305 hz versus 294 hz. The change in tone is pronounced and obvious. Like I said using a small amount of clay can help understand this effect without damage to your top.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    All have to remember that each Virzi was infused with Unicorn tears while Lloyd's pick was made out of its horn! No serious I don't know the exact weight but I picked one up at the Loarfest last weekend that was on display and it was fairly light. I also sampled a bit on many Loars that had a Virzi, some that had a Virzi but now gone and some that never had a Virzi so this is my take, the ones with a Virzi seemed not as loud but they had a great tone-different, a varying tone, the ones with them ripped out sounded like the ones that never had one installed and pretty much had the same tones, loose if that makes sense and all without a Virzi were pretty powerful! Some more so than others. "The real played in F-5 Loars were all spectacular in sound!" It was hard hearing in that big room however with all the people and darn banjos!

    Myself and others agree that no matter what each Loar is special and each is unique with different qualities. I sampled many Ferns and some were very Loar like in tone and overall voice. It was fun doing and hearing others do mando test with these ultra fine instruments. "us pre-war mando nuts need a different room however"

    Randy Wood, Lynn Dudenbostel, Gary Vessel, Jaime Wiens, will put a Virzi in any of their builds if one chooses.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    I seem to remember Roger Siminoff doing some comparisons way back in the late 70’s when he’d build an F-5 with a removable back and the results were presented in “Pickin’” magazine. Or were those memories attributable to it being the ‘70’s and the “exuberance of youth”?
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Tonal qualities notwithstanding, they make fine bolo ties for well dressed spruce wood suppliers, and offer an opportunity to recycle tuner buttons.....
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by oldwave maker View Post
    Tonal qualities notwithstanding, they make fine bolo ties for well dressed spruce wood suppliers, and offer an opportunity to recycle tuner buttons.....
    Excellent! I may have to get one of those. I love jokes that only a small number of people will ever understand.
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Thanks, but if that’s all they did, the same effect would result from just sticking some mass on the top at the same attachment points. Pretty clear that these things change possible cavity resonance modes as well as act as radiators. Very complex stuff, that’s hard to relate to a musician’s perceptions. I mentioned the steel guitars because they also have top-connected, suspended structures (one or three) and there seems to be more agreement that they actually do something, and they’re still built with them. As a sometime mentor for aspiring inventors, I’ve developed some affectiion for oddball concepts. N-rays anyone?

    Sort of like scrolls?
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    RE lowering frequencies:

    For those who don't know, Dave Cohen added a "Virzi thingy" to his test mule mandolin (removable back for testing things) and found little difference between the measured modal frequencies in the same mandolin with and without. The main top resonance was lowered slightly, and the "side to side rocking" top mode was as well. That is different from adding a clay lump of similar mass, and most likely is because the "Virzi thingy" has to effectively 'swing' side to side as a result of that rocking mode thus lowering the frequency.
    This is just from memory so I'm staying vague, but the bottom line of Dave's research led him to believe that the "Virzi thingy" didn't do very much to change the sound of a mandolin.
    I'm sure Dave's comments can be found in some of the linked past discussions here but I'm not looking for them, so if you are interested it might take some time to find them.

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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Some might think scrolls on mandolins, violins, cellos and basses are just visual punctuation, but recently found documents show that a fellow named N. Tesla suggested scrolls for that odd location on mandolins as tuning elements for the 5G signals he was proposing for power transmission at the time. Of course, he wasn’t as ignorant of science as he’s portrayed, specifying that the scrolls be made of conductive material; something that was forgotten in the implementation. Resonator cones, of course, were designed for em frequencies considerably lower, and without the polarization features. So, today, the scroll is just ornament, and should move up to the peghead where such things belong.

  23. #19

    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    My theory is that the clever shape, looking something like an artist's palette, has contributed to its mystery and importance over the years. First and foremost, people like mandolins to be loud and early players found, if the Virzi was removed the mandolin was louder. That's why many have been removed. (if you can use the term "many" when describing a sub-category of existing signed Loar instruments...) Secondly, basically it is a baffle and yes, baffles do have a place in musical instrument design. A baffle routes sound waves, and can cause delaying of certain frequencies and emphasis of other frequencies. Several makers have used double bodies to some effect. Bass reflex speaker cabinets have been used for years in sound reproduction, allowing a smaller cabinet to sound deeper, for example.

    So, it is no surprise it has some effect, but its magical properties probably have been over-analyzed over the years, probably due to respect (and worship) of all things Loar.....IMHO.

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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    For those who don't know, Dave Cohen added a "Virzi thingy" to his test mule mandolin (removable back for testing things) and found little difference between the measured modal frequencies in the same mandolin with and without. The main top resonance was lowered slightly, and the "side to side rocking" top mode was as well. That is different from adding a clay lump of similar mass, and most likely is because the "Virzi thingy" has to effectively 'swing' side to side as a result of that rocking mode thus lowering the frequency.
    This is just from memory so I'm staying vague, but the bottom line of Dave's research led him to believe that the "Virzi thingy" didn't do very much to change the sound of a mandolin.
    Thank you John. Pretty much as I suspected.
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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Dr. Cohen found a "noticeable" lowering of one particular frequency due to the Virzi. Other modes affected as well. Cohen admits that his listening conclusion were based in his own hearing, so someone else may have heard a difference with a virzi. From the horses mouth:

    "Next mode up in frequency is the sideways rocking motion. The Virzy thingy did lower the frequency of that one noticeably; could have been predicted with hindsight. Not sure what that means, as that mode does not result in strong sound radiation. But the mandolin generally likes that mode, so it does have some impact on the character of sound.

    The presence of the Virzi thingy didn't alter either the shapes or frequencies of the first two air modes (Helmholtz resonance and longitudinal sloshing), but it did raise the frequency of the third air mode (sideways sloshing) from around 1.1 kHz to about 1.3 kHz. That mode is not a strong radiator, but it might account for the "hum" or whistle that some players associate with the Virzi thingy. At any rate, it certainly doesn't do what Loar thought it did. But then, I addressed that in one of the threads linked above.

    The Virzi thingy as built from the GAl drawings and specs has a mass of about 15 g, making it about 10% to 15% of the mass of a top plate. Hanging a mass like that from a plate will not raise its' modal frequencies, but rather will lower them by about the square root of 1.10 to 1.15."

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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    If Bill Monroe had a Virzi in his instrument, every tone deaf horrible sounding player over the last 75 years would blame it on "no Virzi" instead of "no practicing".......
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    If Bill Monroe had a Virzi in his instrument, every tone deaf horrible sounding player over the last 75 years would blame it on "no Virzi" instead of "no practicing".......
    If I'da had a virzi I coulda been somebody -- I coulda been a contenda...
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    If I'da had a virzi I coulda been somebody -- I coulda been a contenda...
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    Default Re: Virzi tone producer

    Personally, I suspect the Virzi mounting system has as much to do with any tone/volume differences as the Virzi itself does.

    Not to derail the thread, but there is a modern, similar but externally mounted product from a vibrating mass standpoint: ToneGard
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