HISTORY

One of my favourite Beltian techniques, there is some doubt about who first devised this idea. Canadian audio engineer Ed Meitner, who had been researching freezing items at cryogenic temperatures for improvements in sound, back in the 80’s, or British audio engineer Peter Belt, who had also been researching the effects of heating metals, and was the first known advocate of freezing at the temperatures of domestic freezers, for a similar effect. I’m inclined to believe it was Peter Belt who first thought of the idea of improving sound at freezing temperatures, but that Ed Meitner’s research on cryogenics, despite being at a roughly similar time in history, was likely not influenced by Peter’s. Even with the advocation of both avant-garde audio engineers promoting the idea, and with later articles in the NY Times, Stereophile and other publications writing about it, the idea has not generally caught on with the public. Either the audiophile public, the community of musicians, or the many others who might have been able to make great use out of this procedure. There are however, some audio companies today that are using cryogenics to improve the sound of cables. Besides being a great and free! way to improve the sound of your entire system, it’s also a kind of sad commentary on just how little our world progresses because of resistance to certain new ideas, and the dynamics of social politics.

THEORY

Theories are always fodder for endless arguments in audio, and no matter how much sense they “seem” to make, I know they are not always right. So I tend to take them with a grain of salt. But if you need a theory “to make it work for you”, here is one person’s:

“Theoretically speaking, the freezing method does work. You’ll need to look at the molecule/atom level to understand the freezing process. Basically, when something is warm/hot/room-temp, the atoms move freely within it. And when cold/frozen, the atoms are restricted and do not move. During the fabrication process, the item is definitely subjected to heat at some point of time. This would mis-align some atoms. It will still give you the output that you want, but not perfect. For engineers or people who design circuits, they would know that theoretical and practical calculations/designs/values are never the same. Part of it is also due to the mis-alignment of the atoms.”

PROCEDURE

WhiteBigChill.jpgThe procedure is simple. Testing the technique is not, however, because it takes so long to create the effect, that many who don’t have the necessary listening skills might forget what their original sound was like. Therefore, if you wish to properly evaluate this technique, I suggest that you start with two identical objects that sound the same, and freeze only one of them, keeping the other as a control. This is usually done with CD’s, because its easy to have two of those (you can make a copy of one for example). However, it should be noted that the technique is effective on just about anything. I have frozen amps, cd players, dvd players, wire, cable, speaker drivers, watches, cameras, mp4 players (and non-electronic stuff I won’t mention ‘cos it won’t make no sense at all to most people). For this experiment, we are freezing CD’s, and we’ll leave it at that!

1. Place the test CD in the coldest part of your freezer (if you can turn up the cold, even better). (If you are trying to freeze electronic items and are worried about condensation, place them in ziploc bags). Leave it in the freezer overnight, or about 12hrs.

2. Take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge for a few hours to get to fridge temperature. (Some people, freezing audio components in this manner, transfer them to an ice or ice-pak filled cooler chest for even slower thawing). Then immediately transfer it to the coldest part of your house, where you will wrap it up in thick blankets or such, to prevent a quick thaw. The key to this technique working is a slow thaw. The slower, the better.

3. Once the CD has thawed totally to room temp, you’ve completed the process. However, I always repeat the procedure a second for better effect. You can test it now if you wish, but if you can’t discern differences, try putting it back in the freezer and repeat the process. (PWB says twice is about as good as it gets). The whole procedure repeated twice should take about a day and a half to two days.

SOUND

Now you can compare the frozen CD with the control CD you did not freeze. Listen to the overall quality of the sound of each, paying attention to such characteristics as timbral quality (how natural the tone of instruments appears to be), and musicality (whether one performance is more engaging than the other), and overall resolution (which CD appears to be better defined). If you have frozen a DVD, try to discern if one image has more detail and vibrant color or texture than the other. (Yes, all Belt effects can improve video as well). The reason its one of my favourite techniques is because, unlike some of the others which can vary depending on how they are set up, this procedure can never do anything wrong to the sound. If you can find no differences in either CD/DVD disc even after 2 repititions of the process, go on to some of the other ideas, such as L-shapes.