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Reducing the carbon footprint. This has become a new term to signify the global need to control harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. Increasing the carbon footprint is an unthinkable proposition in that context. But perhaps not in audio. I'm not talking about carbon monoxide of course. I'm referring to the use of carbon fiber for enclosures and sub assemblies of loudspeakers and electronic components.

From Formula One race cars to motor- and sweat-powered cycles, avionics and boats, carbon fiber as a building material enjoys great success for its superior strength-to-weight ratio; and for lending itself perfectly to organic wind-slippery forms. For similar tensile strength benefits at low mass, carbon fiber also shows up in loudspeaker drivers. Though quite resistive, this material also conducts electrical signals.
Additionally, Carbon fiber has electromagnetic shielding properties. This broadens its usage for audio component supports beyond self-damping structural benefits.

One of the most thru-engineered resonance attenuating devices for audio is the Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular equipment stand. It employs carbon fiber for its triangular struts and most effective shelves. More radical yet because it points at the future is Alvin Lloyd's Monaco turntable. There the non-angular form factors which this material invites have been exploited far more profoundly.

When I say future, I propose that one new frontier in audio design will involve the transcendence of the now ubiquitous rectangular enclosures we encounter ad infinitum for electrical circuits and loudspeakers. Equipment supports by GPA and Silent Running have proven just how large-scale the insidious effects of micro resonance pollution are on the audio signal. But such component supports and footers must attack the problem after the fact. Much of it could be addressed far more effectively by how the electronic circuits so susceptible to mechanical vibrations are encased. Instead of ringy metal enclosures constructed of panels, imagine what the very same circuit would sound like were it encased in a carbon-fiber shape that was strategically designed to optimize resonance attenuation and electromagnetic shielding.

If we extrapolate from the now well-known benefits of GPA-type equipment support solutions, it very much stands to reason that the same principles employed methodically to a new science of equipment enclosures would yield very audible benefits. Rather than circuit-based, this approach would primarily be one of mechanical engineering. In loudspeakers, we have seen first examples from Wilson Benesch, Marten Design and Thiel. One newer entry is Vandersteen's new Model Seven. Yet it is
Morel's Fat Lady Project above which perhaps presages more profoundly what such structural designs might look like. You see, once designers are liberated from the constraints of common wood or metal joints with their implicit aversions to curves, a whole new world of possible shapes opens up. Self-damping properties can be increased without reliance on the now necessary filler materials and their negative effects on the sound. Seams can be minimized or avoided altogether. Weights can be reduced to ease shipping expenses. Cosmetics can be improved.

To investigate this field of course requires cross-denominational fluency of engineering disciplines. The necessary research and production methodology at present is mostly outside audio altogether. As an industry, audio doesn't pay enough to attract top-shelf engineers from other disciplines to migrate over. Hence progress in this field will be slow. It's why first examples of carbon-fiber enclosures seem translations mostly of prior wood, MDF or metal-based forms. Morel's Fat Lady Project begins to chip away at those some but it seems fair to say that we're at the very beginning of exploring such possibilities. Many designers already know how different their circuits sound when unencased on a bread board versus stuck into a metal box for mass production. Some have experimented between aluminum, stainless steel and brass - same shape, dissimilar materials. Others have gone to Acrylic or Lexan to avoid metal altogether. In some quarters, solid wood is the preferred solution. Elsewhere, it's composites of stone dust, wood dust, resins and so forth.

Again, the necessary backgrounds to successfully work in composites and exploit them fully aren't to be found in audio. They have to be imported. How soon and how much of it we'll see is impossible to predict. But I strongly believe that here is a powerful barrier which eventually will have to be moved to keep raising the performance of audio components. If I ran a well-funded farsighted audio company, I should contract with someone like Alvin Lloyd along these lines: "Here is a fully matured circuit we can't make any better shy of throwing silly money at very minuscule improvements in parts. We'd like you to take this circuit and improve its performance purely via mechanical addresses. Change where and how the circuit boards are mounted, suspended, isolated or coupled. Do the same for transformers and other parts. Disregard the enclosure altogether and start from a clean sheet. Give us demonstrable performance improvements without altering our circuit. Change just the environment our circuit is placed within." Such an approach surely would yield benefits of a magnitude that would surprise most of us a great deal...