For many years we have offered cryogenic treatment for audio equipment. Musical applications for cryo treatment include audio tubes, guitar strings, brass instruments, speakers, cables, pedals, microphones, harmonicas, and even amplifiers. However, recently some customers have decided to conduct experiments with our helium cryogenic processing service. A typical cryogenic treatment uses liquid nitrogen and normally achieves temperatures as low as -310°F. Helium processing allows temperatures to drop as low as -450°F which allows even further relief of residual stresses and increased dimensional stability.
Cryo treated equipment presents many observable results. Our customer, Charlie Kersch, noticed an extended dynamic range in his treated musical components. He also mentioned that high notes were much clearer and had less distortion. Overall, he believes that the sound quality of his components was improved. At the same time, audio component life should be extended as well.
If one wants to cryogenically treat their audio components then they should know that some parts cannot be treated and may require disassembly. In particular, plastic parts sometimes become brittle and crack during the cryogenic process. Therefore, if you want to treat an audio cable that has plastic termination plugs, then you may want to see if removing it is possible prior to cryogenic treatment. The bottom line is that metal and plastic items should be loosened or taken apart to protect plastic parts from any adverse affects.
I asked our customer, Charlie Kersch, the following questions via email.
1. What processes did you use? Cryogenic treatment? Cryogenic helium processing? Or both?
2. What did you treat in particular? What processes were used on these components?
3. What immediate results did you see after treatment? Were they quantifiable (IE. Did you do actual tests or are the results by ear?)?
4. What are your impressions of cryogenic treatment and/or helium processing?
His response is below.
I am finally finding the time to return your E-mail.
I have been using both nitrogen and helium cryogenic processing. I have been trying to fing a balance between cost and results.
Nitro/cryo. items included; cables (patch, speaker, instrument, power, USB), harmonicas, analog guitar effects pedals, analog wah pedal, microphones. He/cryo. items include vacuum tubes, a Vox AC-15 handwired combo amp with a Celestion Alnico Blue speaker and instrument cables. Currently being treated are more of the same and a Hammond melodica with internal mic pick-up.
I have used quantitative test results done by others to guide what process I try. Results in my equipment have been judged by ear only. I have been on the lookout for a simple software program for documenting changes that may be observable on an oscilloscope.
I have noticed an extended dynamic range in treated equipment. High notes in particular are clearer and less brittle sounding. Longevity of equipment should be improving dramatically, but will take some time to know for sure.
I was pleasantly surprised the Vox combo-amp worked immediately on putting it back together and turning it on. One of the vacuum tubes had an dampening sleeve which cracked apart. That particular tube and the rectifier tube both developed sympathetic resonance at certain frequencies. I am not sure if the cryo treatment or poor quality tubes were to blame. I replaced both tubes with some cryo’ed NOS tubes of better quality. It’s now my favorite amp to play through. I have a Fender and Victoriette to try next.
Some plastic parts cracked. Some adhesives failed. One instrument cable had the outer cover crack along its entire length; its matching partner was unscathed. The plastic part of a banana plug cracked.
The plastic comb in a harmonica cracked. Cracked plastic was repaired with cyanoacrylate and are perfectly utile.
The harmonicas played more like broken-in instruments. The reeds respond faster and bend easier. I wear out all my harmonicas by wailing loud on the bends. I am waiting to see how well the cryo’ed harps last. I sent in a couple more to be treated. Those I disassembled to avoid cracking the plastic. Any combo metal-plastic items should be loosened or taken apart for treatment.
Overall I have pleased with results. Noting better sound quality and anticipating better longevity. I would most like to see someone do objective testing on the difference between Helium process and multiple treatments with nitrogen. So far I have been able to compare cables treated with helium to those treated once with nitrogen. The sound difference was easily audible; esp. in the high frequency range. The Helium cables also become much more flexible compared to the Nitro cables.
Guitar strings play more like broken-in strings and stay bright longer in both tone and visually.