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Herr Helmholtz’ Tube

Herr Helmholtz’ Tube

by Mike Doolin

previously published in American Lutherie #91, 2007

See also,
“There’s a Hole in the Bucket” by Cyndy Burton
“Sideways” by John Monteleone
“Three Holes are Better than One” by Robert Ruck

Design innovator Mike Doolin tried an interesting experiment. Mike’s guitars have the distinctive double-cutaway feature and they don’t lend themselves to a port up in the neck/cutaway region for reasons of underlying structure. So Mike put one in the lower bout and very unexpectedly found his Helmholtz resonance had raised something like a major third. He felt that compromised the responses of the guitar. His solution was to “tube it.”

The side was ported before I assembled the guitar. After gluing the back on, I realized the change in the Helmholtz when I tapped on the guitar with the port open. It seemed obvious that a shift of a major third up was going to radically change the sound of the guitar, probably killing most of the bass response. I knew that ports in bass reflex speakers are often tubes, where the longer the tube the lower the resonant frequency. I also knew that the tube could be either inside or outside the box. So I initially held a roll of toilet paper against the port, letting the cardboard core of the roll form a tube that extended the port. That dropped the main air resonance back down, showing me that I was on the right track. Then I turned a tube of wood on my lathe to fit the hole and experimented with the length until the air resonance moved less than a half-step with the port closed or open. I recall the port being 1 1/4" in diameter and the tube being about 2 1/4" long, but that’s just from memory.

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