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Thread: Virzi Tone Producer

  1. #1
    Registered User Darwin Gaston's Avatar
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    Default Virzi Tone Producer

    I'm trying to understand the pros and cons of a Virzi Tone Producer. My understanding is that Virzi provides a secondary vibrating thin surface which adds a sound dynamics inside the mandolin sound chamber.

    So my first question is does a Virzi produce a warm sounding mandolin? My second question is if someone plays an old Gibson mandolin with a Virzi and a old Gibson without a Virzi can you really tell the difference?
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I think the biggest problem is that most of the vintage mandolins with Virzis are Loar F-5s and few are in the same location. I seem to remember possibly an A-4 and maybe an F-4 that had original Virzis, but I may be wrong.

    Ah, here we go: Mandolin Archive: Instruments with Virzi Tone Producers

    I have only had one extended experience playing a Virzi-equipped F-5 and it was a few years ago at RetroFret. I loved the way that mandolin sounded: very complex in tone and feel and it changed a bit the more you drove it. However, I did not have another non-Virzi F-5 to compare it with.

    Looks like you may have to make a trip down to Nashville:

    Two F-5s at Carters:
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quite a few years ago I did compare two Loars, one with a Virzi and one without...I don`t know if they were both made in the same year...I liked the sound of the one without a Virzi because for bluegrass it just sounded better to my ears and I have read where a lot of bluegrass pickers prefer a mandolin without one...I suppose it is just a matter of taste and/or for what kind of music you play...I will admit that back in those days I didn`t know about set ups and little things that could be done to make a mandolin sound different so maybe with a decent set up I would have liked the one with the Virzi better, but I doubt it although I have never played one with a Virzi since that day and that was only one mandolin out of all that did have them installed...Just passing on my two cents worth...

    Willie

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer


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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    You can add a virzi tone producer pretty cheap. Find a piece of clay around 15 grams and stick it to the center of the top.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    There are many instances of stronger instrument makers adding secondary soundboards and the like including, but not limited to, Ceccherini mandolins, Gelas instruments, Macchiochi ( I think), Martin Model America guitars, at least one violin I used to own patented around 1888 and the Virzi brothers addition. Joseph Bohmann added some suspended brass rods to the inside of some of his instruments. It was either Selmer or Maccaferri who had that internal contraption in the grand bouche guitars.

    I love these detours from the mainstream.
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    You can add a virzi tone producer pretty cheap. Find a piece of clay around 15 grams and stick it to the center of the top.
    No. Your post just shows your ignorance of what a Virzi does.
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I've built one cylinder-top with a Virzi, one flattop with a hole second soundboard, and probably more to come.... for Virzi's I would say:

    * They're more of a "tone averaging device" than an "enhancing" device. Which is to say you get fewer weak spots tonally, but fewer outstanding bits and IMO a little less character. I'm not completely convinced you can't do better just by um... building a better mandolin. On the other hand...
    * The Virzi effectively sucks vibrations out of the top and gives them back again a little later. This adds some "zing" to the tone, sort of a built in reverb effect which many folks find pleasing.
    * The Virzi as used by Gibson will inevitably make the instrument a tiny bit quieter - anything that takes vibrations out the top will inevitably do so. The effect is not large however. It will also take a little of the "punch" out of the note, but increase the sustain for a more "rounded"/"smoother" sort of tone. This may be a good/bad thing depending on your point of view.
    * As fscott says, a Virzi does add mass to the top and will change the frequencies of the main top modes. Whether this matters much is another issue: a good builder will try to design and carve the top so that the frequencies are optimal (or at least so that the instrument works as a whole) whether there's a Virzi there or not (or whatever the vagaries of the individual piece of wood may bring).

    In short, the effect is subtle, interesting, not to everyone's taste, but I've liked 'em.

    Get one of each

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    There are many instances of stronger instrument makers adding secondary soundboards and the like...
    Whoops! My iPhone liked the word "stronger". I meant "stringed" which makes a lot more sense.
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Eagle View Post
    Henry,
    First I want to say thanks for posting this link on Virzi.

    I find it very interesting to find out that a Virzi Loar is braced differently than a non-virzi because the tone bars must be spread out to accept the virzi which is understandable. However, once the Virzi is removed by an individual, the top needs to be retuned which in some cases I'm sure were never done.

    I think we all take it for grant it because luthiers today have a broader spectrum of tools and materials to work with than what was available back in the 1920s 30s and 40s. I know we can say the same thing about our vehicles, TVs and other things today.

    The bottom line is we are very lucky because luthiers in today’s world build to our individual needs and wants and we have more options available to us today to make our mandolin louder, mellower, and brighter......I know I do!!
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Teak View Post
    No. Your post just shows your ignorance of what a Virzi does.
    It adds weight, which changes the modal frequencies, and subsequently the tuning of the air chamber. If your chamber is tuned to 300hz, adding 15 grams of anything.. clay, wood, fancy carved wood thingie, will drop the frequency a bit to something like 296hz. That alone changes the timbre of the tone.

    Anything else the virzi supposedly does, isnt supported by any evidence Ive seen. The differences one hears is likely due to the lower timbre caused by the added weight, which is provable and evident.

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    * The Virzi as used by Gibson will inevitably make the instrument a tiny bit quieter - anything that takes vibrations out the top will inevitably do so. The effect is not large however. It will also take a little of the "punch" out of the note, but increase the sustain for a more "rounded"/"smoother" sort of tone. This may be a good/bad thing depending on your point of view.
    * As fscott says, a Virzi does add mass to the top and will change the frequencies of the main top modes. Whether this matters much is another issue: a good builder will try to design and carve the top so that the frequencies are optimal (or at least so that the instrument works as a whole) whether there's a Virzi there or not (or whatever the vagaries of the individual piece of wood may bring).

    In short, the effect is subtle, interesting, not to everyone's taste, but I've liked 'em.

    Get one of each
    Tavy,
    Like you, I like the effect of a more rounded/smoother tone but everyone's different and some players don't care for that sound and that's okay! Thats why we have Collings, Gibson, Givens, Weber, Ellis, Nugget and Gilchrist it would be very boring if everyone liked the same thing.

    In one of my prior post I made the comment that we are very lucky because luthiers in today’s world build to our individual needs and wants and we have more options available to us today.
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    It adds weight, which changes the modal frequencies, and subsequently the tuning of the air chamber. If your chamber is tuned to 300hz, adding 15 grams of anything.. clay, wood, fancy carved wood thingie, will drop the frequency a bit to something like 296hz. That alone changes the timbre of the tone.

    Anything else the virzi supposedly does, isnt supported by any evidence Ive seen. The differences one hears is likely due to the lower timbre caused by the added weight, which is provable and evident.
    Okay, fair enough.

    And when someone puts an LR Baggs radius mandolin pickup on top of the mandolin (like Sierra Hull does), it that also like adding a lump of clay? Or glues a couple of K&K piezos on the underside of the mandolin top?

    I own mandolins with and without Virzi, and I can hear the difference. As explained above, it fills out the spectrum a bit but weakens the "chop" that bluegrassers all love. Mike Black (who has given the best side-by-side example to date) figures that it aids in the projection from an oval hole. Perhaps, a Virzi makes less sense in an f-hole mandolin.
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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by MT2 View Post
    I find it very interesting to find out that a Virzi Loar is braced differently than a non-virzi because the tone bars must be spread out to accept the virzi which is understandable. However, once the Virzi is removed by an individual, the top needs to be retuned which in some cases I'm sure were never done.
    I doubt that the tone bar layout was different for Virzis. Check out this thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...ight=Loar+1924

    I also doubt that the top needs to be retuned. Why Mike Marshall had the top on his Loar reworked by John Monteleone is a different story. I know that mando quite well BTW.

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by Teak View Post
    Okay, fair enough.

    And when someone puts an LR Baggs radius mandolin pickup on top of the mandolin (like Sierra Hull does), it that also like adding a lump of clay? Or glues a couple of K&K piezos on the underside of the mandolin top?

    I own mandolins with and without Virzi, and I can hear the difference. As explained above, it fills out the spectrum a bit but weakens the "chop" that bluegrassers all love. Mike Black (who has given the best side-by-side example to date) figures that it aids in the projection from an oval hole. Perhaps, a Virzi makes less sense in an f-hole mandolin.
    Where the added weight is applied is important. If we use 15 grams of clay (do it, youll hear a change in tone) and put it squarely in the center next to the bridge, it will have more effect on the modal frequency than if you move it off center, and even less as you move to it closer to the edge near the rim. Builders can achieve various tones by how the top is carved. Leaving more wood near the center and less near the recurve gives a different tone than leaving less wood in the center and more in the recurve.

    And it is interesting that 15 grams of added weight to the top is the minimum amount of weight which seems to be just enough for us to start to detect a change in tone - just about the same weight as a virzi. Loar certainly knew it changed the tone no doubt.

    This is nothing new. Many great builders like Kemnitzer and Gilchrist will use bridges of different mass to shape the tone of the individual instrument. Need to lower the frequency a tad? Use a denser bridge. Raise it? Use lighter.

    As far as pickups, etc.. If its adding weight closer to the center of the top or on the bridge, it is most certainly changing the timbre of the instrument.

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    Barn Cat Mandolins Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    As we probably all know, this discussion repeats itself at regular intervals with no resolution in sight. That said, it can be very entertaining.

    As for me, here's my decision. This is a piccolo mandolin I am currently having built by Mike Black (chronicled in another thread).

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Purr more, hiss less. Barn Cat Mandolins Photo Album

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I guess the focus of the question should be, can a Virzi do anything that cannot be done in another way. Not merely does it make a difference. If it just adds weight, I guess the answer would be no. But if, by its shape it changes the air pumping mechanisms behind the sound hole(s), then maybe.

    It is kind of fascinating, but I would want a better grasp of the science to know what is supposed to be happening with a Virzi.
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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Here is Roger Siminoff's article with history and an explanation of what to does acoustically: J&J Virzi “Tone Producer”

    Also of interest to this discussion:

    Although the Virzi Tone Producer clearly imparts warmth and tone, many of the Tone Producers in Loar-signed F-5 mandolins have been removed by musicians (or their repair persons) with the goal of achieving more power (commonly referred to as “bark”) in favor of tone (an act which Loar would have despised since the air chambers of these instruments were “tuned” with the Virzi Tone Producer in place).
    And here is the Virzi patent:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    "Although the Virzi Tone Producer clearly imparts warmth and tone, many of the Tone Producers in Loar-signed F-5 mandolins have been removed by musicians (or their repair persons) with the goal of achieving more power (commonly referred to as “bark”) in favor of tone (an act which Loar would have despised since the air chambers of these instruments were “tuned” with the Virzi Tone Producer in place)."

    The concept of tuning the F5s parts has been heavily debated on the MC. If tuning the top was more than good start in the building process and the final goal and formular in turning out a fine mandolin, instrument making would be comparatively easy.
    I have a hard time to imagine a Gibson luthier sawing off a back of an F5 to retrofit a Virzi (which happened to several F5s) and then what - retune the top from the inside? How that, especially when the top was quite thin to begin with?
    And how come Darryl Wolfe mainly experienced a louder mando (while maintaining the timbre) after removing the Virzi in several cases?

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I've always been skeptical of the entire tuning the sound chamber thing in the 1920's. Tuning it to what and how were they measuring it? I accept that the Virzi could change the sound and make it more pleasing or less pleasing to the ear. I just seriously doubt there were different specs for the insides for mandolins with or without a Virzi installed.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I’ve got a tremendous F5 with a Virzi and the tone bars are in the same exact spot as a non-Virzi.

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I've always been skeptical of the entire tuning the sound chamber thing in the 1920's. Tuning it to what and how were they measuring it? I accept that the Virzi could change the sound and make it more pleasing or less pleasing to the ear. I just seriously doubt there were different specs for the insides for mandolins with or without a Virzi installed.
    +1
    I posted several times about the same... I've been on hunt for anything related to Loars and their construction for almost two decades and all clues are simply going that way...
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    I'm sure Tony Williamson has some thoughts to go along with this discussion. I had the privilege to be in the audience a couple of years ago when Tony did a presentation of a number of Loars, some '23 and some '24, including Virzi models, at MerleFest. As Tony admitted, the F5 was not designed to be a chop monster, but geared toward the last vestiges of the Mandolin Orchestra craze. That they are also powerful instruments is a testament to the quality of the Gibson product and innovative design.

    All mandolins were played through the sound system, and with the system turned off. The Virzi equipped Loars did indeed seem to have a more 'focused' sound, perhaps not quite as loud as the non-Virzi models. For the record, the mandolins DID sound different
    with a noticeable coloring between the '23 and the '24 models.

    I have always been somewhat skeptical about the whole notion of the Virzi, and can't help but always think of John Hartford and Norman Blake jacking one out in a motel room.

  32. #25

    Default Re: Virzi Tone Producer

    Well, basically it is a baffle. Or more specifically, a tuned baffle. No reason to think it wouldn't work. Baffles are used in a similar way in audio speaker cabinets, pa cabinets/ bass guitar cabinets. etc. to tune, modify, delay, or direct the sound. The question to mandolin players, "is it a better sound?" (that is the real baffle!)
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Mar-14-2018 at 12:05pm.

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