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dbowker
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DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

DIY Gallery Image

A project commissioned by forum member Struts. A funny aside: I quoted him a fair price for my time and materials, which I would have stood by anyway, without knowing the originals went for $2k! Those Mook monks really knew how to put the "magic" into their wallets.

Anyway, it was an interesting project, and working with Mpingo wood is great. Smells like you could eat it- like a spicy French roast coffee or some exotic weed. And tonally, it just cries out to make some kind of music. When you are working on it you find yourself tapping pieces together to hear the nice sounds it makes.

Sonically, I'm on the fence as to exactly what it may or may not be doing for one's TT. It certainly does the job of holding the record down, and looks great doing so. But I have not had the time at all to try out comparing my standard clamp with the Mpingo version (I made two clamps, see the gallery for the back story). When I get around to doing any serious listening testing I'll post those findings.

bertdw
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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

It's absolutely beautiful. Your woodworking skill is to be admired and envied. How much does it weigh?

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

Thanks- I have not weighed it, but I think about a pound or so.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

Gorgeous!

Wood like this is amazing - it is musical.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted


Quote:
How much does it weigh?


It weighs in at 243g which is about 8.5 oz, iow just over half a pound. It feels unexpectedly heavy in the hand; Mpingo is dense hard stuff!

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

Thank you Struts - it must be fun just to hold it. Or toss it to an unsuspecting friend while shouting "heads up!"

Again, beautiful work, Doug.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

Thanks bertdw! And thanks the "weigh-in" Struts. Yes, it feels good in the hand, and is the kind of object that is indeed fun to just sort of play with.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

I know I have said this before, but your work is mui fantastico.

No kidding around or anything here...your work is just straight great.

Have you ever looked at Edgarhorns or anything like that?

I think no matter what you make, it will pretty much be first rate.

dbowker
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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

Thanks Buddha! I had not seen those Edgarhorns before- wow! Is that actual wood used for the horns? I've never seen anything like it...

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted

When knocking off Shun Mook Mpingo devices such as the humble Mpingo disc, the Spatializer Kit (3 discs) and the Record Clamp it's worth considering that each Shun Mook disc (and the knock-off) is directional - in both vertical direction and horizontal plane. The actual Shun Mook disc is marked on the edge as well as on one side, allowing the user to place the disc on a surface correctly and rotate the disc for best results. A single Shun Mook disc can be quite powerful in the correct location in the room, so can a knock-off, however location and directionality are critical. In order to get there, each homemade disc must be marked for direction by ear. The directionality problem is compounded greatly when multiple discs are involved - such as with the Spatializer Kit and the Record Clamp. It's pretty easy to see that without proper marking of the discs, one by one, you can easily wind up with nothing or worse than nothing.

~ Cheers

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted


Quote:
W...that each Shun Mook disc (and the knock-off) is directional - in both vertical direction and horizontal plane. The actual Shun Mook disc is marked on the edge as well as on one side, allowing the user to place the disc on a surface correctly and rotate the disc for best results.


I have never seen one in person, but are they not symmetrical? If so, how could they possibly be directional?

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Posted


Quote:

Quote:
W...that each Shun Mook disc (and the knock-off) is directional - in both vertical direction and horizontal plane. The actual Shun Mook disc is marked on the edge as well as on one side, allowing the user to place the disc on a surface correctly and rotate the disc for best results.


I have never seen one in person, but are they not symmetrical? If so, how could they possibly be directional?

Maybe they are directional like wire?

dbowker
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DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Re: Directionality. When I made my original Mpingo discs a while back I did experiment with directionality. The only possible way they could be directional IMO is by using the grain direction. Unfortunately I never was able to come to any definitive conclusions in this regard. I did find a configuration with which 3 produced favorable results atop my TT plinth. Speakers were either not helped or possibly adversely affected. In all experiments I tried rotating them different directions, but again, nothing dramatic. If there is anything to it I can't say. They never did anything at all for my room no matter what combo or direction.

As to the clamp. Obviously there can't be any direction because it's in the center being spun around, thus nullifying that effect, if there is any.

THE SOUND OF THE CLAMP:
I did recently get to compare my new Mpingo clamp with my standard Well-Tempered clamp (a sturdy clamp made of machined Delrin). Bottom line for me was the Mpingo won out handily. Exactly why, I could not say. More weight, the magic of the wood? Not sure.

I first played Giants Steps by Coltrane, which is actually not that well recorded, the master piece performances aside. It's early stereo with weird sound stage and the piano sounds like it was from in another room with a blanket on top. Those were the kinds of things I was thinking with the standard clamp. As soon as I put on the Mpingo things tightened up noticeably and everything had a more solid tonality to the sound. At first I couldn't believe it and thought maybe it was just the cartridge getting warmed up, but after going back and forth several more times, it was obviously the clamp's "effect". Did it "fix" all of the above problems? No, of course not, but it sure helped bring more of the music out and by giving everything more weight, the spacial ques improved.

Next I tried out some vocals with The Fleet Foxes, which has great sound stage and tone anyway and mostly acoustic instruments, and once again the Mpingo just brought things that much more to life. Lastly I tried out some Elliot Smith and got the same results and at that point I was satisfied it was real.

Now some may think perhaps due to the trouble it took to make the thing I was inclined to "want" it to sound better. I don't think so. Remember this clamp was actually the "reject" version since it had the hairline crack at the top, which I deemed unacceptable to be the end product of our friend Struts' commission. SO really, seeing as I got paid for my time, if this clamp didn't "do" anything for my system I would not have been at all unhappy to just put the thing on a shelf and have it be a nice little ebony sculpture or something. Or maybe I'd have used it for it's aesthetic value which I would have been just as happy to report. I went in pretty well thinking it wouldn't do anything significant, or perhaps not repeatable, but I have to say in all honesty something real is happening with the way this wood interacts with a system, especially on a turntable. All those Koetsu cartridges, not to mention my wood-bodied Grado, must have some good reasons for being built that way.

So for sure in my setup, adding a little more of the musical Mpingo added quite a bit more to the music coming out of the speakers.

Cheers!

Elk
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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

I forgot about grain, although in my experience the denser the grain structure the less directionality the wood has. Ebonies are very dense and close grained.

Interesting comparison information, fun to read!

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

The Mpingo disc is a resonator, quite a powerful one. Doesn't the word "Mpingo" mean "talking wood?" - something like that, it has been a while. Anyway, the trick is finding the magic location where it kicks in. If the record clamp isn't built from the ground up, and each disc carefully "measured" and marked prior to assembly, then the structure of the finished clamp as a whole will be out of whack, relatively speaking, regardless of whether the clamp is spinning or not.

Cheers

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

"The Mpingo disc is a resonator, quite a powerful one. Doesn't the word "Mpingo" mean "talking wood?"

I think it may be called "singing wood"- but then again that's the name indigenous tribesman gave it. Not exactly a scientific analysis of it's properties. I personally don't subscribe to the claims of magic resonance from Mpingo wood.

It IS musically resonant- obviously the reason it's used for clarinets and other instruments. But what the original Mook guys claimed was that the wood had additional properties at an "energetic" level- like it was somehow giving off positive vibes from the Astral plane. I have no interest in even debating this aspect, if there is one, which I doubt.

The simplest answer usually is the best one, as the maxim goes, and in this case it seems to be: the resonant aspects of the wood can (not always) have a positive interaction with some equipment and speakers. Given time and some trial and error, I have no doubt we could find a dozen other woods (rose wood, blood wood and bubinga come to mind) that are also very dense and have musical qualities that might work too. If one needs a tweak at the energetic/etheric level I suggest just meditating more for a quieter mind, which will by far enhance your musical experience more than anything else!

If you REALLY want to go down the path of Mpingo magic, please post a new thread for that purpose as this one is more about the process of making one yourself and the repeatable observations I have posted. IMO magic and energetic tweaks have been argued ad infinitum with absolutely no one changing their minds either way and are not very productive.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

We frequently visit a place that is near some ancient bristlcone pines. If there is ever any deadwood, I'll try and get you some 2,000 year old wood to check out.

Probably too late for this season, 'cause the snow will be there soon, but maybe next spring!

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Most likely you misinterpreted my comments. I am simply saying the Mpingo discs (and knock-offs) operate via mechanical resonance. I am not suggesting there's anything magical going on, tho as I said the effects can be magical, it all depends. IIRC the "ebony" commonly used in musical instruments is actually a type of rosewood, not Mpingo wood. One more thing, the original Shun Mook Mpingo disc has a rather odd feature - there is a small circular cut-out in the disc that I understand contains a small quartz crystal.

Cheers

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:
We frequently visit a place that is near some ancient bristlecone pines. If there is ever any deadwood, I'll try and get you some 2,000 year old wood to check out.

Oooooh that would be SWEEEET! Just make sure it's legal- wouldn't want to have you picked up by the ranger for bristlecone poaching!

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Mpingo is used to make clarinets and oboes. Rosewood is also used - which makes sense as these words are of the same genus.

It is musical in the sense that it rings or resonates with mechanical energy. A piece of it struck gives off a pleasant sound.

I used it and rosewood making harpsichords, hammered dulcimers and other string instruments for nuts and bridges as these woods transmit the energy from a plucked or struck string energy very effectively to the soundboard.

The direction of the grain does not matter for this purpose. Thus the question re directionality. If it's round, it's round. And uniform throughout.

I suspect our resident woodworking expert agrees with me that the direction of the grain makes no difference when working the wood. The stuff is simply very hard in all directions.

The 2,000 year old wood would be fascinating, just so it isn't petrified. Wood salvaged from centuries old underwater wrecks of ships that were transporting wood would also be fascinating to work.

The comparison between Delrin and Mpingo record clamps still intrigues me. Why would the material make a difference? Delrin is a bit lighter, but has uniform density as well.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

"The comparison between Delrin and Mpingo record clamps still intrigues me. Why would the material make a difference? Delrin is a bit lighter, but has uniform density as well. "

Well, different plastics also have different qualities of sound and resonance, among other factors. Delrin is dense, but sort of dead sounding from what I can tell. For all I know it's LESS dense than Mpingo. The problem is that each material has it's own set of measurements, and most do not have conversion tables.

For the Mpingo, I wonder if "uniform" in terms of grain is even the same as "uniform" for plastic- I don't think so. The fact that you have grain at all means their is some differences at a micro level- I don't think just in color either. Grain does matter, a lot when you are working with larger pieces, as far as movement and water absorption. How it works on a small scale I don't know. It's the Woodworkers version of Unified Theory problem in physics, no?

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Very good points and thinking. Maybe some time we will know how these physical differences influence acoustics.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Speaking of rosewood and resonators, anyone care to take a stab at knocking these little bullies off? No, you don't have to explain how they work.

http://sixmoons.com/audioreviews/acousticsystem4/sugar.html

~ Cheers

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

No one can "explain" how they work other than a psychologist.

These two (Marja & Henk) are consistently, delightfully nuts.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Rosewood sugar cubes- Interesting, but I'll pass on that. There is a limit to this stuff and it's defined by me as either working with the decor, or being invisible. And also not being something pets or children will attempt to ingest or carry off.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:
And also not being somehting pets or children will attempt to ingest or carry off.


dbowker
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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

I just happened to be re-reading some of the recommended components section last night and came to the Turntable Accessories section and what was there? Yep, the Shun Mook Mpingo clamp (retail $2800!!!) Dang- I seriously charged too little, heheh! Anyway- I had no idea it had such a following among most of the editors. Micheal Fremer gave it a hands down "best of" appraisal in the, er, "Clamps" category. Anyway- it was a nice confirmation that there truly is somehting working with this thing and apparently it applies to whatever TT it's used with.

The thought I've always had is, why not make the entire TT plinth out of it (aside from outrageous materials cost) or maybe a similar wood like ebony or Rose wood? TOO much mojo maybe? Of course wood movement is always a factor, so that alone might be the reason not to do it. I know where I live there is an enormous swing in temp and humidity from January to July and back again. I bet it plays hell with people's pianos for tuning.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

I think one has to be very careful making anything for a TT out a material that rings. Perhaps this is why such woods are not used for platters and plinths.

The cost on that clamp is mind-boggling!

Piano tuning: My experience is that every piano has its swet spot, the condition to which it always returns and stabilizes. For example, I have seen pianos that go out of tune when in the sun, but return to perfect intonation when the sun moves away (don't ever keep your piano where this occurs - not good for it). The same is true of humidity, although the cross layering of soundboards and pin blocks makes this less of a factor.

My expectation was that such changes would quickly drive the instrument out of tune, but they are actually quite resilient. Of course, this kind of environmental exposure eventually drives them out of tune - but so does playing.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/shakti/hallograph.html

Yet more exotic hardwood resonators to the rescue.

"A recording that seems too dry is instantly livened up with a slight rotation more toward the listener." .....hmmmm

Cheers

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

I've wanted to play with these for a long time.

It they weren't so expensive I'd buy them just as a decoration; they are strikingly odd.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

They pop up from time to time on Audiogon; there's a pair there right now for half price, but sale pending.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:
I've wanted to play with these for a long time.

It they weren't so expensive I'd buy them just as a decoration; they are strikingly odd.

We played with those one year at T.H.E. in Alex Paychev's APL Hi Fi room.

People sitting in the sweet spot could listen blind and be able to tell when the things were raised and lowered.

Off axis, the effect was not dependably demonstrated.

We've done the same thing with those stand things with the three PVC pipes standing vertically. Those made the imaging "larger," but less 'specific.'

I guess my take on these is similar to the first three rules of real estate: Location, location, location.

Hope that isn't too controversial.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:
People sitting in the sweet spot could listen blind and be able to tell when the things were raised and lowered.


Really? They don't look large enough to do much of anything.

Did the improve or impoverish the sound?

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

That IS interesting. But how do you have a tweak that improves sound but makes all your friends either laugh, shake their heads, or wonder if you need to get a new hobby?

...Of course, many of us won't have to worry about that because the Voice of Reason, i.e. our female partners, would never allow it to happen.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

"I guess my take on these is similar to the first three rules of real estate: Location, location, location."

Location is important since the culprits are reflected acoustic waves and standing waves in the room that are room'system dependent; however, the experiments you conducted in Alex's room also illustrate the illusive behavior of the exotic wood itself:

Direction, direction, direction.

Hope this is not too controversial.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

"They don't look large enough to do much of anything."

That sounds like a topic for a new thread. (Only joking).

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:
...Of course, many of us won't have to worry about that because the Voice of Reason, i.e. our female partners, would never allow it to happen.


Yes, the warmware problem.

I occasionally experience a carbon-based speed limiter when driving. It's the G force accelerometer that needs to be reset; 130 mph in a straight line is no problem, but the same speed in a sweeper results in squealing. I don't get it.

Back to audio: the holographs look pretty complex for Doug to easily replicate.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests


Quote:

Quote:
People sitting in the sweet spot could listen blind and be able to tell when the things were raised and lowered.


Really? They don't look large enough to do much of anything.

Did the improve or impoverish the sound?

Ah, the question.

Well...

I think that audiophiles are profoundly predisposed to confuse 'different' with 'better' when they hear a difference in something...at least at first listen.

It's a mixture or self congratulation for having identified a difference, the initial rush of something being different, and having their listening apparatus tickled by a different sonic signature that may, initially, seem to be delivering new (deeper) insight into what they are listening to.

So, I can't really fall back on whether they made the system sound better, if that makes sense. Better/worse is the part of this discussion that I think takes me the most time and effort to figure out, and it is not the realm of instantaneous DBT/SBT's to determine in this type of condition.

I apologize if that was an obtuse answer.

For my own experience with them...

They were placed at tweeter height, and initially altered that tweeter driven sensation you sometimes get of a feeling of more ear pressure when there is a sudden shift in your sonic environment.

What I think they were doing was acting as a new reflective surface, and I may have been getting more HF signal arriving at my ear sooner than if the sound had travelled off to some other surface, instead.

Even though you could "feel" (in sense terms) more than "hear" them go into place, my initial impression was 'different' rather than a feeling of 'better' or 'worse.'

The testing was pretty darn close to ideal instantaneous SBT conditions as I can think of, though.

AS I sat longer, I thought maybe they added a bit of HF emphasis and changed the imaging, but I would need more time to really come to a 'better' or 'worse' description.

I have my doubts as to someone being able to align and callibrate each piece of wood to accomplish grain-directional characteristics that would be the cause of the effect rather than the result of the more macroscopic effects of reflection, etc.

It could easily be tested, though. Just make them out of different materials. As to Doug making them, we could look around at wood catalogues and see if the wavy parts are pre-made.

Cheers.

Addendum:

Trying to explain the feeling still...

Have you ever been listening and then started a new track or had someone put on a new tune and, initially, the sound was set too high? For me, that will sometimes alter how my ears feel, and that sudden burst of extra HF will kind of persist for a second or longer, even as the vloume is decreased. When those devices were moved in and out, I could feel that feeling, only to a much smaller degree.

dbowker
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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

"Back to audio: the holographs look pretty complex for Doug to easily replicate."

Actually, with a few dimensions, some pictures and what the materials were, it wouldn't be that difficult to make. Depending on what that dark wood is, it could get expensive. That much ebony (if it is ebony) would easily run you a couple hundred dollars alone. But would I want to? Not that much, because of the reasons I mentioned before.

And from Buddha's comments not even a guarantee that it'd all be worth it in the end anyway. Even if the Mpingo clamp added nothing sonically it would still be a nice conversation piece. So somehting like that was kind of a win-win regardless of the fact it actually worked as reviewed. Stuff like these deflectors are just a little too out there for me. I actually don't care for most of the room treatment solutions out there either, although a couple of panels could be integrated into a living space easier than wacky wave stands.

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Great description, Buddha. Astonishingly good in fact - one of the best. Conveying aural experiences with words is incredibly difficult. You made it look easy.

And Doug, I laughed at "wacky wave stands".

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Ebony ain't that expensive, it's the Mpingo that's super expensive.

Cheerio

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Re: DIY Mpingo Record Clamp Tests

Where I buy it, they are both about the same, Mpingo being a bit more. Ebony in quantity would be quite expensive, which is one reason it's used mostly for detail work on furniture, piano keys or instruments and not full dining tables. In fact I've never even see it sold in planks at all- whereas other exotic rare woods all the time. Anyway- I'll the Wave Stands to another DIYer out there.

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