Mechanical audio amplifiers

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Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby xooll » Sun Oct 28, 2007 8:14 pm UTC

So, I have decided that it would be supremely awesome to have, say, a guitar amp that is powered entirely through mechanics--no electricity involved. Effects like reverb and distortion are still possible (though messier), but the actual amplification seems kind of tricky...
How do you add energy to an oscillation without using any electricity?
The only thing I could come up with, and I'm not sure it would even work, is this:
Image

This could easily be steam-powered, which would win coolness points. Also, with one of these you could be snooty towards tube amps the way the guys with tube amps are to solid state amps.

So post your own designs for electricity-free amplifiers. Best design wins one (1) internet(s)!
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby eternauta3k » Sun Oct 28, 2007 8:50 pm UTC

Well, on a clock you have the escape mechanism, but I don't think that'd work for audio frecuencies or such a small amplitude.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Habanero » Sun Oct 28, 2007 9:07 pm UTC

If it looks like a and sounds like a calliope, it's probably a calliope. You end up with a bunch of whistles and variable steam pressure provides volume control. I have no clue how you could amplify arbitrary tones (guitar, voice, etc...).
Why make things difficult when it is possible to make them cryptic and totally illogical with just a little bit more effort?

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby semicolon » Sun Oct 28, 2007 9:42 pm UTC

Aren't ears basically mechanical audio amplifiers?

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Solt » Sun Oct 28, 2007 10:36 pm UTC

semicolon wrote:Aren't ears basically mechanical audio amplifiers?


No, they convert the sound from pressure waves to neural signals. They're like microphones plugged into your brain.



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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby eternauta3k » Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:27 am UTC

I think he meant the external ear, you know, the fun rubbery thing on the outside
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby someguy » Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:05 am UTC

How about looking to a Victrola for inspiration? You know, tiny needle vibrating at the end of a horn, by-all-accounts-loud sound coming out the other end. I'm not sure what you'd use in place of the needle though. A piezo tweeter? It'd be cheating, but still...
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby aetherson » Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:53 am UTC

someguy wrote:How about looking to a Victrola for inspiration? You know, tiny needle vibrating at the end of a horn, by-all-accounts-loud sound coming out the other end. I'm not sure what you'd use in place of the needle though. A piezo tweeter? It'd be cheating, but still...


that's what i was thinking.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby xooll » Mon Oct 29, 2007 5:29 am UTC

the outer and middle ear just focuses sound, it doesn't add energy. You can't crank that thing up. I'm not 100% sure how the victrola works, but I think it's the same problem...
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby wing » Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:01 am UTC

What you are looking for is actually WORSE than a perpetual motion machine... You're looking for something that can take a given input energy and produce MORE OF IT with no other input.

Unless of course you'd like to add noisy energy-producing equipment onto it. There are plenty of ways to produce energy that isn't electricity, but not very many ways to store it efficiently and quickly between discharges, as you need to drive a speaker. Also, these methods tend to be way less reliable than anything connected to an electrical feed. On the same token, none of them are the kind of thing that you'd want in the same room as your audio gear for noise reasons.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby xooll » Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:33 am UTC

wing wrote:Unless of course you'd like to add noisy energy-producing equipment onto it.
This is exactly what I'd like to do. Maybe minus the "noisy" part, but yeah. This was never meant to be a practical project.
There are plenty of ways to produce energy that isn't electricity, but not very many ways to store it efficiently and quickly between discharges, as you need to drive a speaker. Also, these methods tend to be way less reliable than anything connected to an electrical feed.
Undoubtedly. This thing, if it could be built, would most likely be breaking all the time. But for those brief moments that every part was working, it would be so cool.
On the same token, none of them are the kind of thing that you'd want in the same room as your audio gear for noise reasons.

A weight and pulley is pretty quiet. Though I have no idea how one could harness that energy for this purpose.
How loud is a boiler, anyway? No pistons attached or anything, just a big pot of boiling water. Hmm. Probably still fairly loud, if a regular pot of boiling water is anything to go by...
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Hexadecimator » Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:52 am UTC

Wel, this might work for an electric guitar (if I'm not mistaken, the vibrating strings generate a small, alternating electric current, right?):
Have a fan blow air through a pipe, which diverges into two pipes. A vibrating reed of some sort alternates the flow of air between the two. One is hot and the other is cold, respectively increasing and decreasing the pressure in each pipe, creating a sound wave when they come back together.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:04 pm UTC

wing wrote:What you are looking for is actually WORSE than a perpetual motion machine... You're looking for something that can take a given input energy and produce MORE OF IT with no other input.


who said there was no other input? clearly any amp, electrical or otherwise has to have a power input as well as a signal to amplify.

essentially what the OP wants to do is use the measured sound to modulate an existing louder sound (that makes it sound all so easy, no?)

re: cones just shaping the signal rather than amplifying it, while this is true it does give you measured signal gain in the region in front of the cone (while/by reducing it behind the cone)
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby silent man » Mon Oct 29, 2007 8:46 pm UTC

Maybe a pneumatic/hydraulic system?

You'd need a membrane acting as a microphone, which controlls a three way valve.
When the membrane is at rest, the valve is closed.
When the membrane vibrates, and it is down, the valve is set to position 1 which lets the gas/fluid push on a piston, which moves down the speaker membrane. As the microphone-membrane moves back up towards its neutral position, the valve is closed, the pressure is released and the spreaker-membrane also returns to its neutral position. When the microphone-membrane goes up, the valve opens to position 2, which allows the gas/fluid push the piston from the other side, moving the speaker-membrane up... You get the point.


This should be able to amplify an input waveform, though I rather doubt that it would work well at higher frequencies. I don't know enough about acoustics, but if there's a way to double or increase the frequency of a given vibration, maybe you could tune the strings of your input instrument down to a frequency that the amplifier can handle, then raise the output-signal to the desired pitch.

Most likely this will
a) not work at any usable frequency
b) either require an input signal loud enough to kill Okapis at a hundred paces OR be so riddiculously delicate that the mere thought of looking at it will cause it to get stuck. Either way the sheer pointlessness should make it cool.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Rey » Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:47 pm UTC

silent man,

I think I am thinking the same way you are. I was thinking about how you can get tones out of a water pipe from air getting into the line. It may be possible to add an gas feed that had a membrane preventing it from leaking gas into the system. Just have the gas at slightly less pressure then it would need to push up the membrane. The incoming sound would let varying amounts of gas into the line. I think the output value would act like a reed in the system.

On second thought it wouldn't work NVM.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby xooll » Tue Oct 30, 2007 12:48 am UTC

silent man wrote:Most likely this will
a) not work at any usable frequency
b) either require an input signal loud enough to kill Okapis at a hundred paces OR be so riddiculously delicate that the mere thought of looking at it will cause it to get stuck. Either way the sheer pointlessness should make it cool.

Now you're getting in the spirit of things!
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Hexadecimator » Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:05 am UTC

Does it have to be limited to no electricity?
It would require electricity and a bit of signal processing, but an internal combustion engine would make an awesome amp, assuming you could get enough variation in the frequencies it produces :D.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby ShowPony » Tue Oct 30, 2007 2:41 am UTC

Hexadecimator wrote:Does it have to be limited to no electricity?
It would require electricity and a bit of signal processing, but an internal combustion engine would make an awesome amp, assuming you could get enough variation in the frequencies it produces :D.


I can't fetch mp3's at work to check, but if you go googling
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you'll find several sites which may still have the recording of a Formula One engine playing "When the Saints go marching in."

I was working on a Formula One game when that mp3 first did the rounds, we asked the physics and audio programmers if we could have our game doing that. :D (We didn't do it, alas.)

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby TheKhakinator » Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:04 pm UTC

OK.

FIRSTLY, if you take something like an engine or a pipe or whatever, and use it to make sound, you are not AMPLIFYING anything, you are making A NEW SOUND. This is about making a non-electronic audio AMPLIFIER.

Secondly, this is probably possible by passing vibrations through a fluid then doing some kinky shit.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby evilbeanfiend » Tue Oct 30, 2007 2:33 pm UTC

TheKhakinator wrote:OK.

FIRSTLY, if you take something like an engine or a pipe or whatever, and use it to make sound, you are not AMPLIFYING anything, you are making A NEW SOUND. This is about making a non-electronic audio AMPLIFIER.

Secondly, this is probably possible by passing vibrations through a fluid then doing some kinky shit.


well yes and no - you have to add more energy in somehow, another loud sound might be one way of adding energy.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby TheKhakinator » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:11 am UTC

Add more energy with a pump. I should have looked it up. You can't use sound to amplify other sound. You can, for example, like with some Tesla coils, turn a high frequency sound on and off many times a second to change the frequency (say, a Tesla coil making a 44KHz sound which is above human hearing, is turned on and off 440 times a second to give a sound at 440Hz.)

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Remorse2 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:17 am UTC

The mechanical amplifier I think of is a lever. The lever needs to be small enough to be moved by sound waves. Sort of like the little guy lifting the fat kid on the seesaw. The little sound waves are caught in a flexible diaphragm. The flexible diaphragm is connected to a rod and with an off center pivot. The opposite end of the rod is connected to a large diaphragm.

The immediate problem is the large diaphragm is pushing more air. It will need some assistance. Maybe add springs it the large diaphragm end of the rod to make it super easy to flex.

My idea sounds possible.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby sttpeok » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:33 am UTC

The mechanical amplifier I think of is a lever. The lever needs to be small enough to be moved by sound waves. Sort of like the little guy lifting the fat kid on the seesaw. The little sound waves are caught in a flexible diaphragm. The flexible diaphragm is connected to a rod and with an off center pivot. The opposite end of the rod is connected to a large diaphragm.

The immediate problem is the large diaphragm is pushing more air. It will need some assistance. Maybe add springs it the large diaphragm end of the rod to make it super easy to flex.

My idea sounds possible.

This thread was started 12 years ago!
However, I think a high-quality multimeter can help a lot to identify the problems. Recently, I have found this multimeter blog with top rated multimeters list Best Multimeter Reviews 2019 {For the Money}. You can select a multimeter according to your budget and then check each part of the amplifier. Although, it is an old post and I guess you have solved your problem.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:05 pm UTC

(Noting the necro. And now the ninja that says as much.)

Levers in themselves don't add energy. They take a displacement and a force and convert to a complimentary displacement and force. Small displacement to large displacement requires that the force be lessened by (at least) the same factor.

Springs to make it move easier away from centre (thus adding force to one/both outward swing, depending on setup) correspondingly would impede the recentering on the reverse side of any asisted slope, and springs to drive towards centre would oppose outward travel. Dumb springs.

I could see a latch/unlatch mechanism that links the greater-moving lever to a select helper-spring (or hydraulic/pneumatic/gravity-fed assist), according to wave-phase, but then that needs resetting while the next helper-thing (left with potential to it) grabs back again, before it needs resetting when out of direct use. 'Unmodulated' mechanical energy could be applied (the steam reservoir, perhaps) to do that, but it needs to be a more rapid reset than the potential return-time of the lever it has to be in place to assist (or one of a set, cycled through).

And anything more complex than a major back-and-forth waveform would lose out, as the major oscillations are reinforced and drowning out* many of the subtleties of tone and pitch.

Perhaps, taking a trick from the cochlea, have an array of sound-responsive in-reeds (lever inputs) that are designed by their construction and helper-side action to be responsive to a particular area of the frequency spectrum, with enough amplification of all the several overly-selective (and therefore input-wasting) gathering elements to make a good go at outputting a veritable choir of polyphonic outputs that reproduce a reasonable semblance of the input. But still features multiple notch-/low-pass filters, with inherent dampening for any frequency element that doesn't even push enough to 'register' as needing a Helper push, never mind mechanical latency and retardation. (And the word, that I can't currently bring to the fore, that relates to mechanical/other delay due to slack needing to be taken up before a reversed direction of action is responded to. I'll probably remember it in a while, but let this stand as a placeholder until it pops, unbidden, back to mind later in the day edit: "hysteresis" - only took a few minutes!.)



* Ignoring for now the potential drowning out by the resetting helper-elements - maybe padded contact points and clever mechanical isolation methods need to be used.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:15 pm UTC

sttpeok wrote:This thread was started 12 years ago!

sttpeok, please read the rules thread. Specifically the forum guide, specifically on posting in old threads.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby commodorejohn » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:51 pm UTC

I'd say you probably want to look at old-school resonator guitars, but even that's not exactly the same thing (a resonant chamber doesn't add energy, AFAIK, it just focuses it in boosting certain frequencies while attenuating others.)
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby Zamfir » Thu Apr 25, 2019 12:47 pm UTC

commodorejohn wrote:I'd say you probably want to look at old-school resonator guitars, but even that's not exactly the same thing (a resonant chamber doesn't add energy, AFAIK, it just focuses it in boosting certain frequencies while attenuating others.)

That's not quite it. The body of a guitar does add a lot of energy to the sound. Its function is efficiency, to convert a higher fraction of the string energy into sound energy.

Resonance is one such trick. It does not move energy from certain frequencies to others. Instead, at the resonant frequency it is very effective at sucking energy from other parts of the system (i.e., from the vibrating string)

The core trick is simpler: surface area. The top surface of a string instrument has the same function as the cone in a loudspeaker. It magnifies the moving area compared to a lone string, and therefore pumps more liters of air back and forth for the same string movement.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:38 pm UTC

Ah. The more you know!
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:31 pm UTC

In a traditional amplifier, a source of (raw) energy is modulated by a signal. The result is a new signal of greater strength. Tubes and transistors do this - the original signal isn't "made bigger", but a new signal is created that is bigger than the original. The mechanical equivalent would be something like a valve, whose opening and closing is controlled by (air) vibrations, and which itself controls a source of high (air) pressure from elsewhere. The result is that the high pressure source gets modulated, and created a "bigger" copy of the input source.

Another mechanical amplifier is a flame speaker of sorts, where the modulation of the intensity (and thus pressure) of a flame is controlled by a sound signal. One could also envision a device whereby the chemicals being combusted are controlled by sound waves. Not quite a mechanical audio amp, but a hybrid chemical/mechanical one.

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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:54 pm UTC

All of those things sound pretty damned epic, but I particularly want to hear some kind of high-pressure air stream/steam pipe modulated by partial closure according to an input signal.
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Re: Mechanical audio amplifiers

Postby New User » Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:49 am UTC

Well, as far as musical sounds involving pressurized air, that sounds like how a pipe organ works. I don't know about amplification, because I think the keyboard just controls the valves. The pressurized air flowing through the pipes makes the musical tones, rather than amplifying another sound. But at least examining that design might give you some ideas.


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