“Challenging the Conventional” 1986 Paper – May Belt


When I read Mr. Self’s letter in Wireless World, February 1986 issue, I became angry. This anger turned to despair when I read the mention in the column ‘Medical R.F.’ Wireless World, March 1986 issue, of the C.E.G.B. commissioning an investigation as to whether “Induced 50 Hz body currents affect mental functions”.

Despair, because I know that progress will not be rapid whilst so called ‘serious engineers’ are continuing with the conventional approach using classical theories.

Despair, because I know that before progress can be made, a quantum conceptual leap must be made.

Despair, because I do not know how many so called ‘serious engineers’ can make this conceptual leap, when so many seem to be chasing virility points for who understands circuitry the most.

The new concept to be seriously considered is “that the components do change sound, but do not necessarily change the signal energy passing through them. That they can manipulate the environment in which we live (and listen) and this environment in turn affects the “electro-ionic” nature of how we hear.

Perhaps if I describe an interesting and frustrating path of discovery my husband and I have been along over this past two years, readers should be able to understand my despair.

When I refer through my description to sound changing. I mean the ‘perceived’ sound. Our findings are wholly subjective although our findings have been independently subjectively confirmed by others.

Firstly, an outline of how we register improvements in sound will probably be of help.

When you first begin to learn to play a musical instrument, nearly every other note you play is a wrong note. As you progress and become more proficient, your brain’s working memory is continually upgrading automatically to the new, better standard. Later, when you can play well, whenever you play a wrong note, you cringe! The cringe is the brain shouting, kicking and screaming because you have taken the standard below the one it has become accustomed to.

In a similar vein, I will now give a hypothetical story: –

You play a violin, you enjoy playing the violin and you play it well.

Today I bring you a new violin, a better violin than the one you are used to playing.

I leave it with you. You play it all day and thoroughly enjoy playing it. You prefer it to your own and you write in your diary under today’s date. “I have just played the best violin I have ever played”.

Tomorrow I bring you an even better violin and I lock today’s violin away in a cupboard. I leave you the new violin to play. You like it, it is beautiful and you write in your diary under tomorrow’s date “I have just played the best violin I have ever played”

The following day, I return to collect the latest violin and I unlock the cupboard and hand you back today’s violin. You play it – you cringe ! You are no longer pleased with the sound. Your first reaction is to say “What have you done with this violin, I no longer like it ?”

Obviously, I have done nothing with the violin. The violin has not changed – You have changed. Your brain has automatically upgraded its working memory to the new, better standard and does not like being taken below it.

It is exactly this process we use when we are assessing different components and equipment in Hi-Fi. If we cringe, then we know we have gone below the standard our brain has become accustomed to. If we like what we hear and then go back to the standard we had previously liked and then cringe, then we know that whatever component or piece of equipment we had changed was an improvement. Even though for some time previously we had considered we had good sound.

I will begin my description of two particular paths of discovery we have been along by starting at the end of a particularly significant year when we had been through the experiences of hearing different wires change sound, the same wire reversed – change sound, the same wire with and without insulation changing sound and eventually, unbelievably, hearing small crudely made Lead (Pb) tubes, when inserted at the end of existing 10 to 20 metre lengths of speaker wire, give detailed information from a record that had never been heard before. These are the very Lead tubes that Peter Baxendall so easily dismissed.

In his letter to ‘Wireless World’, Mr Self seems to infer that the people in Hi Fi who claim that things ‘sound better’ are behaving superficially or flippantly. I think it is time he realised the anguish experienced by such people as my husband, who has been trained in conventional electronics, who has worked in the conventional approach all his life, to suddenly find that crude Lead tubes improved sound. Using classical theory, the Lead tubes should have either had no effect at all or to have caused the sound to deteriorate – certainly they would not be expected to improve it!

My husband was quite psychologically devastated for some time. I am not trained in electronic theory, so the results to me were only surprising not devastating, and I was able to observe without trauma.

My husband Peter began to realise that there seemed no point in spending every working hour developing further transducer low mass diaphragms, further exotic speaker cabinet designs, better tolerance electronic components until a thorough investigation had been conducted into exactly what had an adverse or beneficial effect on sound. How and why.

Some ‘serious engineers’ appear to find it quite easy to bury their heads in the sand, ostrich fashion, saying to themselves “My training and text books say it cannot happen so therefore it did not happen, and anyway, my instruments also show that nothing changed so that is further proof that nothing happened”.

Surely it is obvious to Mr Self that sane, sensible, down to earth, intelligent people such as my husband, Martin Colloms and John Atkinson would surely have preferred that easier path if it were possible for them.

The audio world seems split into four distinct camps.

  1. Those who do not listen and do not want to listen, who just want to screw bits and pieces together and call it Hi Fi.
  2. Those who listen, hear phenomena inexplicably change sound, find a convenient theory to fit the particular phenomena they can hear, are easily satisfied and search no further for any other explanation.
  3. Those who listen, hear phenomena inexplicably change sound and struggle repeatedly to fit conventional electronic, acoustic and vibration theories to explain the perceived changes in sound.
  4. Those who know that phenomena have been reported repeatedly but state that their own knowledge and experience in conventional theory shows that it should not happen, their instruments show that no change has taken place and therefore it has not happened – end of discussion!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We began our investigation by looking at some of the things that had had an adverse effect on sound over the past few years. Things like other electronic equipment such as tuners, tape recorders, which had been left still connected to the A.C. mains supply but switched off in themselves. When disconnected and taken out of the room, the sound improves. Brought back into the room, the sound deteriorates when the equipment is reconnected to the A.C. mains. The deterioration is variously described as harsh, aggressive or ‘sat on’, boring, with the tempo of the music appearing to slow down. Or alternatively, to have a peculiar feeling of pressure in the ears which makes one want to swallow to clear it. Also switching lights on after listening for some time without lights, causes the sound to deteriorate. Passive loudspeakers in the room, just standing there not connected, telephones in the listening room, electronic alarm watches, calculators, all cause the sound to deteriorate.

All these effects had also been reported in various Hi Fi publications. We agreed with the reports but not with the explanation given for the effect.

Take the passive loudspeakers, just standing in the listening room, not working but adversely affecting the sound. The explanation usually put forward for this adverse effect was the acoustical theory one – that the speaker cones were moving in sympathy …. With the air pressure movements in the room and our hearing mechanism was detecting these slight movements. This explanation does not hold for long under closer investigation.

If a speaker drive unit (magnet and metal frame assembly but without the cone) is placed in the listening room, it has the same adverse effect, showing that the speaker cone is not the problem. If the magnet assembly alone (without the metal frame assembly) is now placed in the listening room, there is still the same adverse effect on the sound. It must therefore be the magnet assembly which is influencing the sound when placed in a listening room.

Now take the reports of the telephone having an adverse effect on the sound – A similar acoustical explanation was suggested for the effect of the telephone – that the tiny transducer diaphragm in the telephone handset was moving in sympathy with the air pressure movements in the listening room and that our hearing mechanism was detecting this slight movement. But telephones are not made like that! There is no transducer with a diaphragm in the handset. But there is a permanent magnetic field around the telephone. All you need to prove this is a small Boy Scout compass. Simply pass it along the side of the telephone case and you will see the compass needle be attracted at one end and repelled when it reaches the other end.

The third item we investigated which has an adverse effect on sound is the electronic alarm watch. Again, the explanation put forward in the Hi Fi Press was the same acoustical one, that the tiny transducer in the alarm watch was moving in sympathy with the air pressure movement in the room and that our hearing mechanism was sensitive enough to detect this. Again this explanation does not hold. The same adverse effect is there when it is a usual electronic watch -–without the alarm! One then has to ask the question, what is causing the adverse effect? Is it the battery or is it the chip? A switched on pocket calculator in the listening room also has the same adverse effect. Again, is it the battery or is it the chip? Well let’s try something with a battery but without a chip. A pen torch.

Again, a switched on pen torch has the same adverse effect on the sound. Is it therefore the battery which is the problem?

So we took the battery out of the pen torch, made it work slightly by putting a resistor across it and placed it in the listening room. Again, it had the same adverse effect on the sound. Take the battery out of the room and the sound is alright, Bring the battery back in again and the sound goes harsh and aggressive, with a pressure in the ears that makes you want to swallow to clear it.

So now we are experiencing not only a magnetic influence on sound but an electrical one. “Wait one moment, wait one moment” I can hear all the ‘serious engineers’ saying, “Sound is supposed to be air pressure waves and vibrations”.

But is sound only air pressure waves and vibrations? Surely sound is also what we perceive as sound. Also what the brain receives as electro-ionic signals from the hearing mechanism. If the electro-ionic signals from the hearing mechanism are changed – then the perceived sound is changed. All I can say at this moment is “Hang on, there is much more to come”.

Parallel with these investigations, we had been continuing with our normal, everyday work of trying to find what would improve sound. For some time we had been finding that the sound differed, depending on what material the record rested on. Through a long process of elimination, we narrowed the best materials down to Natural untreated Cork and Felt. Natural untreated cork just coming out better than felt. There was one disadvantage however. Obviously to try different materials, one has to continually be taking off the record. We could hear the ‘fizz’ of static every time we used the untreated natural cork. Using normal record anti static liquid on the record or cork was of no help as the sound deteriorated when this was used.

We decided to attempt a very unorthodox approach. We developed a process which has turned out to be much longer and more complicated than we first expected, taking many unexpected twists and turns before success. The results of this treatment, when the cork mat was placed under the record, was way past anything that we had expected. The improvements to the sound given by the cork mat was now way past the standard of the felt mat. We were not able to use the technique we had developed on the plastic record itself, but we looked around for something suitable to treat which could be then used to wipe the record surface.

Luckily, we had to hand a quantity of the reticulated polyester foam material used as the decorative speaker fronts. Cut into small squares, this type of foam responded well to our treatment and wiping the surface of the record with a piece of specially treated foam produced a totally unexpected substantial increase in sound quality.

We sat back and tried to come to terms with what we had done. Obviously, the specially treated foam was leaving an influence on the record surface which was way beyond anything that could be explained by ‘antistatic’ theory. Having now become used to the new, excellent standard, my husband wiped the surface of the record with a handkerchief. The sound deteriorated. Wiping the record again with the treated foam and the superb quality came back again.

Now comes one of those ‘chance’ events so loved in all good discovery stories! Although most people now realise that most of these events are not ‘chance’ and to any skilled observers, random happenings are assessed as skilfully as carefully carried out experiments. Any good researcher will learn as much if not more from the unexpected or from what goes wrong as they would learn from what happens as predicted. I learnt that much from Dr. Salk of Polio vaccine fame.

During his assessment of the effects of wiping a record surface with our specially treated foam, as my husband lowered the perspex lid of the turntable, he noticed a slight layer of dust. Instinctively, he wiped the perspex lid surface with the treated foam. Unbelievably, the sound improved yet again. He just could not believe what had happened so he wiped the lid surface with a cloth. The sound now appeared to deteriorate. He again wiped the perspex lid surface with the treated foam and again the sound improved. Totally disbelieving what was happening, he wiped the metal case of the amplifier, the brick fireplace and the painted surface of the door with the treated foam. Up came the quality of the sound each time.

It was surprising over the next few weeks, just how many surfaces so treated would improve the sound. But all these were areas which we had not realised could be a problem as far as sound was concerned, so we decided to try areas which, by experience, we knew were problem areas.

Take the loudspeaker. We knew that speaker cones and speaker decorative fronts were a source of problems. So we wiped the speaker material front from top to bottom and the speaker cone from top to bottom. The sound improved. Wiping the speaker front material and the speaker cone with a cloth caused the sound to deteriorate.

Next we looked at the component problem area. We again knew from our research which components had an adverse effect on the perceived sound so we re-introduced these components into the audio circuit and checked to confirm that they still had an adverse effect on the sound. We then wiped the components with our treated foam and the components stopped having an adverse effect on the sound. Wiping the component with a cloth re introduced the adverse effect. Even components which were not in the signal path i.e. Power pack components, responded in exactly the same way.

We continued with this approach, next looking at interconnecting wire. Again from our past research, we knew which type of wire had an adverse effect on sound. We reconnected this wire, checked that it still had an adverse effect on the sound and wiped it with the treated foam. The adverse effect stopped. Wiping the wire with a cloth re introduced the adverse effect. Taking an interconnecting lead which we knew to be directional, we connected this lead the ‘wrong way round’. After checking that it still had an adverse effect on sound, we wiped it with the treated foam. This time it was better than the untreated ‘correct’ way round.

Our earlier research had also shown us that mains connecting leads also had an influence on the sound. We had never been able to explain why or how but we had had a very strong suspicion for some time that the A.C. main energy was a source of considerable problem for sound. When we wiped the insulation around the A.C. mains connecting leads with the treated foam, the sound improved! Wiping the connecting lead with a cloth caused the sound to deteriorate.

I think this is a good time to state that all this assessment was not carried out only by ourselves. We have a small but enthusiastic band of listeners constantly in contact with us, always interested in trying to improve their Hi Fi and listening enjoyment. At each stage they were told of our findings, experienced the same problems and tried our treated foam with the same successful results.

We also looked at another area of music and that was the musical instrument. Again, we and others had the same success. We had found and others confirmed, that wiping the polished cabinet surface of a piano with our treated foam improved the sound. The sound was described as clearer, sweeter and when the surface was wiped with a cloth, the sound was described as much more ‘ringy’ and harsher.

Now came the turn of the passive speakers, the telephone, the electronic watch and the pen torch battery. Exactly the same results – when the speaker magnet, the telephone, the electronic watch were wiped with the treated foam, they stopped having an adverse effect on the sound. Wipe them with a cloth and back comes the adverse effect.

When we tried wiping the pen torch battery with the treated foam however, something totally unexpected happened. We had expected from our past results that the battery when treated, would cease to have an adverse effect on the sound. Not, as actually happened – to improve the sound. Now we found that if we removed the treated pen torch battery from the listening room, the sound deteriorated. Bring it back in again and the sound improved.

The mind now began to boggle! To find out what would happen with more treated pen torch batteries, we purchased more batteries, treated them with the foam and placed them in strategic places around the room. We found that we could wipe a treated surface with a cloth, and providing we attached a treated battery to that surface, the surface would no longer be a problem to the quality of the sound. Also if the treated batteries were placed in the corners of the room, behind the loudspeakers, the sound improved considerably.

But the listening room began to look ludicrous with pen torch batteries scattered around, so my husband suggested that we try the much tinier hearing aid batteries to see if they would respond as well as the pen torch batteries to wiping with the treated foam. This we tried. The metal cased hearing aid batteries responded well to treatment and they certainly looked inconspicuous in the room.

At this stage, we sat back to assess all our results.

Obviously there was some form of energy on the surface of connecting wires and the interaction of this energy with the surface material had an adverse effect on sound. When we specially treated the surface of the material, it ceased to have an adverse effect.

Obviously there was some form of energy on the surface of A.C. mains wire and this too had an adverse effect on sounds which could only be alleviated by our treatment.

At the end of our extensive research into different connecting wires culminating in the Lead (Pb) tube discovery, we were as convinced as Dr. Ivor Catt that there is a large proportion of electrical energy flowing outside wire. We had also been convinced for a considerable time, that A.C. mains energy does not travel neatly and tidily down the inside of copper wire and that the A.C. mains energy is a source of considerable problems in audio.

There is also obviously some sort of field around a battery which has an adverse effect on sound until the battery is given our treatment.

Not only had we been manipulating sound by magnetic means and by electrical means but we were now manipulating sound by other means. How could this be? Sound is supposed to be air pressure waves and vibrations. How could anything magnetic, electrical or other have any effect on air pressure waves?

But supposing! Before all ‘serious engineers’ throw up their arms in horror at any speculation, it is perfectly acceptable to speculate, providing one does as Dr. Scott Murray recommends and that is to remember to put up a marker flag at the point where you begin speculating.

Supposing sound (air pressure waves) has an electrical component to it. Then the electrical component of sound could be manipulated independently of the air pressure waves. But there is one considerable obstacle to this theory. For a human being to register that a change of an electrical nature had taken place, we would need a mechanism in our hearing system to detect when such an electrical change takes place. And there is no known mechanism.

Peter and I were sitting pondering these seemingly insurmountable problems whilst at the same time staring in disbelief at all these batteries dotted around the room.

Then it suddenly hit Peter like a bolt from the blue. “Of all the things which is connected with sound and uses a battery – a hearing aid”. I looked at him. All the trials and tribulations of the past twenty years came flooding back.

Our daughter who is now 23 years old has had impaired hearing since birth. She has had one operation but without any success. On numerous occasions she has tried a hearing aid, only to reject it each time as ‘awful’ as ‘hard, aggressive and shouty’, irrespective of how low the volume was set. I have in the past dismissed her protestations as variously, her being awkward, stubborn, stupid or downright vain.

At no time had I believed her that the sound from the hearing aid could be ‘hard, aggressive or shouty’. To my shame now, I must admit that I had never tried a hearing aid for myself, but now I decided to do so. I borrowed a hearing aid belonging to an aged relative, blocked one ear, fitted the hearing aid in the other ear and switched on. It was awful! The sound was ‘hard, aggressive and shouty’ irrespective of where the volume was set. Our daughter had been right all the time.

I wore the hearing aid for a week under as many different circumstances as I could. Inside and outside, near busy roads, in public transport, shopping in a supermarkets. It was distressing at times and very fatiguing, particularly in supermarkets. I would feel strangely low spirited, fatigued and very depressed. At the time I put it down to the strain of wearing the hearing aid.

Having tried the standard hearing aid with a standard battery fitted, we then treated the battery by wiping it with our ‘magic’ foam. The improvement was surprising even to me. I wore the hearing aid again for a week and used it in as many of the same circumstances as before. The sound was now so natural that I would have to keep switching it off to check if it was still working.

Our daughter does not live with us, now having her own flat and as we had not seen her for quite a few weeks, when she did eventually visit us, she had no idea of the work we had been doing with hearing aids. We still told her nothing of our work.

I adopted my usual concerned (nagging) mother role, mentioned I had borrowed a hearing aid from an aged aunt and would she please try – yet again – to please me – a hearing aid. I used my well worn argument that I felt she was missing so much in life without one. She adopted her usual hunched shoulders, her face gave the usual grimace but to pacify me, she fitted the hearing aid. Her reaction can be imagined. I found it both amusing and heartbreaking! Amusing because we had taken her completely by surprise and heartbreaking because we had not been able to do it all those years ago.

Her immediate reaction was to ask which model it was and that she was going to have one. When she saw the expression on our faces, she realised that this ‘model’ was not available, that it was an improvement her father had been able to carry out. She made arrangements to visit her E.N.T. consultant for her routine tests and to be fitted with a hearing aid which she hoped we would then modify for her. I accompanied her on the visit having first sent all details of our findings together with a device to treat a battery, to the E.N.T. consultant beforehand.

If readers think that Peter Baxendall and Mr Self would be sceptical and disbelieving, believe me, this would be nothing, nothing, to the scepticism and disbelief we were met with by the Audiology Department at our local hospital.

However, because of my daughter’s and my enthusiasm, the E.N.T. consultant requested the audiology technician to carry out some preliminary trials, with the proviso that the patients should be selected at random, that the patients own hearing aid should be used and that the patients own battery should be used. I came away from the hospital convinced that nothing would happen, no tests would be carried out.

Six weeks later, I accompanied my daughter when she returned to collect her ear moulding. I was met with the words “Oh, we have carried out some tests, with some very surprising results”. I was shown the list of the patients tested and the ticks showing which had registered an improvement. Over 75% of the patients tested had registered that an improvement had taken place. They had also been asked to describe briefly this improvement and the list read variously:- clear, clearer, clear, more natural, clearer, a lot better, clearer etc. The E.N.T. consultant now requested that the tests should continue.

Peter and I knew that there were two disadvantages to our technique of wiping the hearing aid battery. Firstly, it was very fiddly as the hearing aid battery is very tiny and secondly, that the effect of our treatment on the surface of the battery could be wiped off with a cloth.

We decided to see if we could develop a technique to specially bombard the surface of the metal case of the battery and this would then leave it permanently treated. Eventually we were successful and the permanently treated batteries were tried at the audiology clinic with similar successful results.

The audiology technicians still could not overcome their disbelief. They still continued to use the same conventional approach i.e.

“If a patient has impaired hearing and can only register a certain narrow frequency range, and the hearing aid only amplifies that narrow frequency range, how can a treated battery improve the patients hearings”.

This seems a perfectly sensible and logical approach until one looks at the results of the tests.

The same patient with the same narrow frequency range, wearing the same hearing aid finds the sound to be improved when fitting a battery treated by our technique!

Using the improvements we had made to audio sound, we had been able to improve hearing aids. Now, using the further techniques we had developed to permanently treat the metal case of the hearing aid battery, we began to put these techniques to work to improve audio still further.

Our early techniques had enabled us to change the surface of plastic by a very special treatment so that these surfaces could have a beneficial effect on sound. Using our latest techniques, we were now able to change the molecular surface of metals by another special treatment so that these metal surfaces could now work to our benefit.

We had available a quantity of small, steel mesh discs and various sizes of crocodile clips. Using the techniques developed to treat the metal case of the hearing aid battery, we specially treated the surface of the steel mesh discs and clips. We were now able to fit the treated steel mesh discs using treated metal clips to quite a number of surfaces and each time the sound improved.

As before with the ‘magic’ foam and treated batteries, taking off the treated steel meshes and treated clips re introduced the adverse effect on sound.

We now found new areas not previously tried would respond when treated clips and treated meshes were attached. These new areas were the outside of electrical plugs, electrical sockets, mains wiring, the surfaces of mains operated equipment, central heating pipes and radiators, gas pipes and gas fires, light fittings and unbelievably, windows, curtains, carpets and clothes.

We had also been aware that other electrical appliances connected to the A.C. supply in other parts of the building had an adverse affect on sound. We now began to investigate what effect on the sound the treated steel meshes and clips would have when fitted around other areas of the building.

The pattern followed exactly the same as for the listening room itself. When the treated steel meshes and treated clips were fitted to the surfaces of the electric central heating pump, the immersion heater, electric cooker, refrigerator, washing machine, conduit pipe covering mains entry into the house, the outside of the electricity meter, the gas input pipe into the house, the water pipe into the house and again unbelievably, carpets, curtains and even windows. When our working memory had become accustomed to the new excellent standard of sound, taking any one treated device off caused the perceived sound to deteriorate.

Something else however was becoming very obvious. The ‘boxy’ sound, usually associated with the loudspeaker cabinet had completely gone. The sound was now open, airy, unhindered by any constraints.

This Peter found devastating.

It may be very interesting and thrilling to make new discoveries but when you have spent the past 30 years designing and making every conceivable shape of cabinet to try to reduce the ‘boxy’ sound, when you have experimented with every conceivable cabinet material to try to reduce the ‘boxy’ sound, tried every available acoustic damping material, tried all combinations and materials of moving coil speaker cones, designed electrostatic diaphragms and made electrostatic speakers, designed and made orthodynamic speakers, all in an attempt to reduce the ‘boxy’ sound, then our results were indeed devastating! The ‘boxy’ sound had gone, without touching the speaker cabinet or speaker drive units.

It was obvious that somehow we were manipulating the environment in which we listened (and lived) ionically. If we were manipulating the environment by ionic means, then we must be manipulating the ionic environment. Before we had carried out our treatment around the building, some form of changing energy must have been having an adverse effect on all the surfaces, but we had been unaware of it until we had been able to treat the surfaces. Could the culprit be the A.C. mains as we had long suspected?

In his book ‘The Young Rutherford’, Sir E.V. Appleton describes an experiment Ernest Rutherford carried out at the turn of the century. Appleton describes Rutherford as “manipulating the ionic energy he was using with the Cambridge Town Mains”.

But if something of this sort is happening in our environment, how is it changing the sound and how can we as human beings detect it? If we are able to detect ‘electro-ionic’ change in our environment, where is the detection mechanism?

Perhaps I can enlarge on the ‘boxy’ sound further. In doing so, I am going to simplify outrageously and will probably upset a few people.

All the time our ears are working, the brain is continuously and automatically asking the working memory to identify the sounds. When we sit and listen to a record, the brain asks the working memory to identify the sound. The working memory struggles to find the nearest description and sends back the message “I need more information but it sounds like a box”. The brain replies saying “Don’t be silly, I am reading the record label and it is supposed to be a string quartet”. At which the working memory replies “Oh all right then, a string quartet in a box”.

When we carry out our treatment and beneficially change the environment, this time the working memory gives the answer “a string quartet” – no mention of a box! Take away our beneficial treatment and the working memory replies again “a string quartet in a box”.

This process is what I usually call ‘the ticking clock phenomena’ because this process of continual assessment of our surroundings is what enables us to be aware when a clock has stopped ticking.

In the Hi-Fi press, this is what causes so much of the confusion and controversy.

When a reviewer describes a particular amplifier as ‘slowing the tempo of the music’ or ‘dull and boring’, there is usually subsequent correspondence from owners of this amplifier who protest, saying it is the best amplifier they have heard.

But both are right. The reviewer has most probably a higher standard already in his working memory, and his working memory is telling him that the amplifier does not reach this standard. Whilst the customer’s working memory will be telling him that it is the best standard yet. This is the only explanation for something I have observed all the time at audio fairs. When you can have some people sitting in demonstration rooms listening intently to the most atrocious sound whilst others stand at the doorway, grimacing.

The buying public, after reading reviews can end up by being more confused than helped. Take the example of a reviewer assessing the XYZ speaker. The reviewer describes the speaker as ‘preferring’ classical music to rock music. This is nonsensical. A speaker cannot discriminate between classical and rock music. But it is the only way the reviewer can describe it, this exactly what his working memory is telling him. If he likes rock music, then he will probably have a high standard in his working memory to judge against. If the standard is not good enough from the speakers he is assessing, he does not like the sound of rock from the speakers. However, the standard for classical music in his working memory may not be as high, so the working memory does not reject the sound of classical music from the speaker.

However, a reader of the review who prefers classical music will have a desire to hear this speaker which is said to ‘prefer’ classical music. He has a demonstration of this speaker and rejects it because his working memory will probably have a higher standard of classical music. He walks away from the demonstration shaking his head, wondering how on earth the reviewer could possible recommend it.

This latest discovery regarding the ‘boxy’ sound prompted us to investigate, with new eyes, the classical acoustical and vibrational approaches which have surrounded loudspeakers development for the past 50 years. We have already discovered that a loudspeaker magnet by itself has an adverse effect on sound. We had also discovered that we could improve the sound by wiping the cone material of the speaker drive until with our treated foam and also improve the sound by wiping the decorative material of the speaker front with our treated foam. If we took a new piece of speaker front foam, completely untreated by us and placed it in front of the speaker, the sound would deteriorate. This deterioration effect on sound by the speaker front is also mentioned by nearly every loudspeaker reviewer, but they reply on acoustic theory to try to explain it. However, if we attach to the untreated foam front one of our treated devices or clips, the sound improves. Now if you try to listen without the decorative front on the speaker, the sound deteriorates. It is as though the whole speaker front is influenced by the treated device or clip in exactly the same way as it seems that the whole surface of an object is influenced by attaching one of our treated devices or clips to it.

We now decided to look at the speaker’s internal acoustical damping material. This particular aspect of loudspeaker design has occupied many people for many thousands of hours in trying to find the best material. From our considerable past experience, we knew which acoustic damping material had an adverse effect on the sound. We took a known particularly poor material and placed it in the speaker cabinet in place of the good material we were using. We confirmed again that this poor material had an adverse effect on the sound. Now, leaving the material exactly as it was inside the cabinet, we attached some of our treated devices to it. This time, the sound improved. Take away our devices and the sound deteriorated again.

We next turned to the speaker cabinet port. We filled the port with the poor acoustic damping material and again confirmed that it had an adverse effect on the sound.

“Well”, the serious acoustical engineers would say, “You have overdamped the port!”

But, if you leave the damping material as it is in the port and now attach one of our treated device to it – the sound improves.

Surely, it would appear that it is not acoustical energy which is affecting the sound but ‘electro-ionic’ energy.

Next we looked at the speaker stand problem. So much has been written about the effect of different speaker stands on the sound. We took a speaker stand known to have an adverse effect on sound until spiked into the carpet or floor. We took out the spikes and confirmed that the speaker stand without spikes now had an adverse effect on sound. We now attached our treated devices to the legs and base of the stand – and the sound improved. Remove the treated devices and the sound deteriorates.

What price vibration theory now?

Again, we looked at another reported phenomena which engineers are trying to explain. It is being continually reported in the Hi Fi press that the material the Compact Disc player rests on affects the sound. Engineers are attempting to explain this phenomena using vibration theory. If we stand a Compact Disc player on a simple plastic bag, the sound deteriorates. If however, we leave everything as it is, not move anything but attach our treated devices to the surface of the plastic bag, the sound improves.

Again, what price vibration theory?

Nor can vibration theory, electronic theory or acoustical theory explain our results with windows, curtains, carpets and clothes!

Wiping the compact disc with our treated foam improves the sound. We are talking about a piece of plastic encoded with digital information. What price digital theory and bit sampling theory now?

If some form of changing energy is affecting surfaces and adversely affecting the environment we live in and we can overcome this adverse effect with our ‘electro-ionic’ treatment, how can we as human beings detect these changes in sound. Where is the mechanism?

This could be the answer to the question that has perplexed engineers for over a decade. “Why is not a microphone or measuring instrument able to detect many of the perceived changes in sound?”

The answer is most likely “Because the air pressure waves and vibrations are not being changed. The only thing that is being changed is the ‘electro-ionic’ information and this change can only be detected by a part of our hearing mechanism”.

The text books on the human hearing mechanism are not a great deal of help. But at least they are truthful! What they do not know, they say they do not know, unlike many electronic text books which give the impression that everything is already known regarding electronics.

For example from “An Introduction to the Physiology of Hearing” published 1982.

“The intracellular voltage changes of inner hair cells cause the release of transmitter at the synapse at the base of the hair cells, so activating fibres of the auditory nerve.

Outer hair cells will be omitted from the model; we have too little information on their properties, and are not sure of their role in transduction”.

And from “Science & aesthetics in sounding and hearing” 1985

“Much remains poorly understood about the functions of the hearing mechanism”.

What they do know about the human hearing system however, has been of considerable help to us in understand the results of our research.

For example from “An Introduction to the Physiology of Hearing”

“It is presumably advantageous for the current to be carried by K+ rather than say Na+. …….. we must not however forget that the transducer current may also be carried by other ions, for instance Cl- and Ca2+. A second relevant property of neuronal membranes is that ionic conductances can be electronically modifiable”.

What happened next was one of those flukes, one of those coincidences that make one wonder if there is really such a thing as ‘fate’.

We are well known as headphone manufacturers and consequently do quite a considerable amount of headphone listening. One evening last autumn, we were listening to the radio, assessing some improvements we had made to our headphones. We heard a broadcast of interviews with various experts in research into hearing and details of their latest research findings.

Let me give you some very brief background. It is known that sound air waves travel through the ear mechanism as vibrations until they reach rows of hairs in the inner ear known as the inner and outer hairs. It is known that the inner hairs respond to the vibrations and in so responding, create an electrical (ionic) signal which travels along the auditory nerve to the brain, so telling the brain that a sound has occurred. It had been presumed that the outer hairs had a similar function.

In the broadcast, Ian Russell of Sussex University reported how, in the course of his research, he had discovered that the outer hairs respond to an outside electrical field. That the hearing mechanism is a two way system. That information is fed from the ears to the brain but also that electro-ionic signals are sent from the brain to the ears.

Because of his latest findings, Ian Russell is now beginning to believe that the outer hairs act differently to the inner hairs. That the outer hairs are under the direct influence of the brain by electrical (ionic) signal. That when the brain wants to hear a sound more distinctly, it sends a message to the outer hairs to become more rigid – to ‘tune in’ to the sound. Alternatively, when the brain is getting too much noise, as in a loud work situation or a loud disco, then the brain sends a message to the outer hairs to become limp, to lay flat. According to Ian Russell, it now looks as though the outer hairs are the ears ‘fine tuning’ mechanism.

When Peter and I heard this, we became very excited. Could this be the mechanism which can be influenced by the environment’s electro-ionic energy? Could this be the mechanism we have been looking for for over three years?

It is reasonable now to study the following working hypothesis.

If the A.C. mains is reacting with the surfaces of all materials and this reaction is having an adverse effect on the ‘electro-ionic’ environment in which we listen (and live) and this adverse electro-ionic environment is in turn acting as a suppression mechanism on the outer hairs, then somehow treating the surfaces could take away the adverse effect. Once the adverse effect on the outer hairs is removed, then the outer hairs can perform correctly as the ears ‘fine tuning’ mechanism.

If the environment can affect our electro-ionic hearing activity, what other neural activity can it affect?

At the same time as we discovered that the ‘boxy’ sound usually associated with speaker cabinets had disappeared after we had specially treated surfaces throughout the building, we also observed that the television picture had improved. This phenomena however did not take us by surprise.

At the time of our discovery three years ago that Lead (Pb) tubes improved sound, we had reasoned that if they improved sound in the listening room, then they should also improve sound from the television. We therefore inserted Lead tubes at the end of the audio signal wire, just as it was connected to the T.V. speaker drive unit. Exactly as predicted, they improved the T.V. sound. However, at the same time, we decided to try another experiment. We inserted small Lead tubes at the end of the three video signal wires just at the point where they were connected to the three colour guns. The T.V. picture quality improved. We observed better definition, better subtleties of colours. Better depth of picture, increased clarity of textures – the sheen of wood, the shine of metal, the sparkle of glass, better textures of skin, hair and fabrics. Throughout the three years research, we had continually checked ourselves using the T.V. Whatever we found improved the audio we tried, wherever possible with the T.V. We achieved an improvement each time.

We had no explanation for this phenomena, we could only observe it, but any subsequent improvement in T.V. quality did not take us by surprise.

  • The same working hypothesis could now be extended to the improved T.V. picture. If the adverse effect on the ionic environment could be removed, then the sight’s neural activity should also be able to function more efficiently.

We have been down the path of the theory of ‘something’ affecting the audio signal until we found that wiping a musical instrument case with our treated foam changed the sound.

We have been down the path of the vibrations caused by working loudspeakers in the room theory, until we found that in another room with no loudspeakers, only a music centre with a tuner and a set of headphones, when we wiped the perspex lid of the music centre with our treated foam, the sound improved.

Similarly in the same room, when listening to headphones for some time without a light on, when the light was switched on, the sound from the headphones deteriorated.

We have been along the path of the theory of R.F. somehow affecting the audio equipment, until we found that attaching one of our treated devices to the curtains or carpets improved the sound.

We have been along all the classical theories and come to a brick wall each time.

If the environment can affect our ‘electro-ionic’ hearing activity and sight activity, what other neural activity can it affect?

We know that there is a considerable number of reports from people living in the vicinity of over head A.C. mains power supply cables or living over underground A.C. mains power cable, who are complaining of headaches, depression, fatigue, palpitations, general feelings of stress, nausea etc without anyone being able to pinpoint the cause.

If our survival mechanism is designed to respond to changes in our environment thereby activating the ‘freeze or flight’ mechanisms, then stress symptoms under the working hypothesis I have described are no longer surprising.

There are also the reports published in the Lancet of the higher than normal incidence of deaths from leukaemia in the electronic equipment assemblers, radio/television repairers, amateur radio operator groups.

I hope that some of the visual display operators who are experiencing health problems do not become only another tragic statistical figure.

Also I am now fully convinced that the low spirits, depression and fatigue I felt when wearing a standard hearing aid was not as I then suspected from strain of wearing it. There was the same strain on me when wearing the improved hearing aid but I no longer experienced the low spirits, depression and fatigue.

I would not normally write to Electronic magazines, they are completely out of my territory, my interests being music and psychology. But Peter Baxendall and Mr Self have stepped into my territory, the area where I know what I can hear! Also the so called ‘serious engineers’, working only in conventional theory were not able to help my daughter with her hearing problem.

My husband has done so – but only by using his subjective listening ability and a completely unconventional electro-ionic technique.

So where do we go from here? I fear not very far. I fear that there is too much vested interest in keeping the status quo.

I fear that no acoustic expert is going to make any effort at all to show that major problems in sound may not be acoustic.

I fear that no electronic circuitry expert is going to make any effort to show that a major problem in audio is not the electronic circuit.

I fear that no hearing aid battery manufacturer is going to make any effort to show that the battery may have a direct adverse effect on the human hearing mechanism.

I fear that the Hi Fi press will not be prepared to report very often, changes to sound which they cannot explain, where they have to admit that they do not know. They will lose readers fast – they are expected to be experts – they are expected to know!

People in the Hi Fi scene all over the world are experiencing these changes in sound. Because they are so fragmented and inhibited by the ‘measurers’ and because everyone struggles to find an explanation from their particular expertise, not many people are prepared to state that they do not know, that they cannot explain what is happening.

March 1986

May Belt