Meet Timbrefone: An Elegant Acoustic Amplifier
By Ken C. Pohlmann
On one hand, an audio amplifier can comprise electrical components like resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, integrated circuits, power supplies or batteries, and vacuum tubes or power transistors. On the other hand, an audio amplifier can comprise a block of wood.
It is not entirely clear how a block of wood can amplifier an audio signal. In fact, your run of the mill block of wood cannot amplify sounds. But if the block of wood has a certain shape then yes, it amplifies quite nicely. The Timbrefone, handcrafted in the wood shops of Artificer Wood Works in beautiful High Ridge, Missouri, has the prerequisite shape. It will input the sound from the speaker in your iPhone and make it louder and therefore better.
The trick, of course, is that a horn (you can impress your friends by calling it a waveguide) provides an acoustic impedance match between the sound source and the air, thus improving efficiency. Horns, probably starting with animal horns, have been used by humans since time immemorial to produce louder(er) sounds. Many musical instruments, for example, have horns. Edison phonographs and all early acoustic phonographs used horns for their amplification. Even when early electrical amplifiers came along, because their power outputs were so low, horn loudspeakers were still needed to get sufficient gain. Horns also work on the receiving end, improving efficiency between air and receiver. Cup your hands behind your ears, augmenting the natural horn shape of your ears. A lot louder, right?
All of which brings us to the very cool Timbrefone. Yes, there are other acoustic phone horns, and the bigger ones, usually made of metal and replicating early phonograph horns, are louder and have a wider bandwidth. But I like the Timbrefone because of its stark simplicity, and from a woodworking standpoint, its sheer beauty (really, the picture doesn't do it justice).
The Timbrefone is not your usual block of wood. For starters, as you can see, it is made of layers of different wood to create a truly beautiful appearance. The block measures about 3(h) x 5-1/2(w) x 7-1/2(d) inches. The acoustic magic comes from the curved horn embedded in the block. Specifically, it curves to the right and terminates in a hole that corresponds to the speaker in an iPhone. Of course, it works with other phones that have a speaker in the same spot. A top cutout cradles the phone and is big enough (3/4(h) x 3-3/8(w) x 3/4(d) inches) to accommodate many phone cases.
Timbrefone prices range from $99 to $129, depending on how fancy you want your wood to be. In any case, it's free shipping, and Artificer Wood Works even plants a tree for every product they sell. You can read all about the Timbrefone here.
Oh ye of little faith. Are you still doubting that a block of wood can amplify sounds? Watch this video and behold the power of wood.
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