PDA

View Full Version : Sound ports, fad or function?



Graham Greenbag
11-01-2017, 12:24 AM
I had the chance to buy a good Uke with a sound hole in the upper bout but decided not to and to stay with the traditional style instead. The number of Ukes for sale with these player facing sound holes seems, to me, to be increasing. Is it just a fad or is, as I suspect is the case, there some value in having a top port. Perhaps it’s one of these things that’s good for some situations and less so others?

My UAS is under control at the moment (though I have positive thoughts about a couple of Sopranos and then there’s that nice Concert .......) so mine is just more of a general question than anything else. I do have a cheap Uke I could add a sound hole though to (????????) so maybe it’s not a completely academic question.

What do people think. Are sound ports a fad or a function?

Booli
11-01-2017, 02:00 AM
as to fad, it seems to me it is driven but he function, and a function that players desire.

I have no sound ports on my ukes as of yet, but others have said that the function is to direct more of the sound to the PLAYER instead of the audience.

One of the problems I have in recording the uke is that the sound recorded is NEVER the sound I hear with my own ears, but instead an approximation.

With many years working as an audio engineer in various forms, with enough experience, and a handful of very nice and different microphones, there is ALWAYS something missing. Other folks do not hear it, for they hear the sound that is projected FORWARD and not the sound that a player hears that is both projected sound as well as reflected sound, as well as the sound that does NOT move forward but is felt mostly as direct vibration from the instrument in your hand and/or against your body.

For me, a side sound port would seem to frustrate me and make this dichotomy of what the player hears, vs what the audience hears even FARTHER apart.

However, if you care not for recording, or for recording what YOU as the player are hearing, then maybe the sound port is useful to sweeten what you as the player will hear, as it allows the air pressure of the sound waves to escape toward your face, as well as forwards, away from you.

My next step in experimental recording techniques is to use binaural microphones which you wear in your ears like earbuds and these are designed to mimic the hearing perception of your own ears, and be a sort of virtual-reality for audio, sort of a super-directional and dual-mono recording rather than any kind of stereo recording.

So yes, they are BOTH fad and function it seems to me, but this is just my humble opinion.

Folks that have ukes with sound ports will likely be able to comment better on the perception or efficiency of their function.

Everything is, relative. LOL. :)

Jim Hanks
11-01-2017, 03:05 AM
I have several ukes with side ports and for me, there is a small but perceptible function to them. Honestly the effect is not as great as I had hoped for. Maybe because I play almost exclusively in small rooms and am getting more reflected sound anyway? Regardless it is still useful and I haven't found any downside to the feature, so if I can get it for not much extra I'd rather have it than not.

DownUpDave
11-01-2017, 03:50 AM
None other than Pete Howlett came right out in these pages and gave his stamp of approval. His was very skeptical but finally decided to build a tenor with a side sound port, he publicly said he was convinced.

I own several tenors with side sound port and I really like the over all effect. Three of us were visiting Luis of LfdM Guitar and Ukuleles and Adrian started to play a baritone with a side sound port. Luis put a piece of paper over top and we the audience immediately heard a difference. It is not just the player who hears the difference.

When Andrew at HMS received the first Farallon with a sound port he said right on the video recording that it made a big difference and was the best sounding Farallon they had ever heard. So yea it does have a function. As they say your mileage may vary.

Down Up Dick
11-01-2017, 04:15 AM
I don’t suppose it matters to anyone, but I don’t like the way they look. UUers really go on and on about the beauty of the different woods they pick (Ha!), and then they order an extra hole cut right on the top and hang an ugly tuner right on the carved headstock.

I guess sound and tinkering is really everything, and whadda I know anyway. My ukes are plywood for heavens’s sake. :old:

MopMan
11-01-2017, 04:37 AM
Within the accoustic guitar community the side soundport has slowly gained traction as well... the anecdotal opinions have mounted and while some traditionalists still complain, the general consensus seems to be shifting from novelty toward acceptance.

This flamenco guitarist has managed to capture on a recording the best set of sound clips I have found comparing a guitar with a sideport to one without. He is thoroughly convinced that the soundport is an important development in guitar technology:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjG1rH9d2iA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJLTqE_-pxI


To my ear, an instrument with a sideport produces a wider, more open sound than one without. The difference is perhaps subtle, but definite.

I conjecture that the mechanism is via an imperceptible delay--sound escaping from the side hole reaches the ear of a listener after bouncing off the ceiling, while sound escaping from the front of the instrument reaches the ear of the listener directly. The result is that the tiny difference in time it takes for these two sound sources to reach a listener's ear causes his brain to interpret it as a more complex sound. That's my theory, anyway. Nobody yet can say for sure why they sound different.

Jardin
11-01-2017, 05:04 AM
To my ear, an instrument with a sideport produces a wider, more open sound than one without. The difference is perhaps subtle, but definite.

I conjecture that the mechanism is via an imperceptible delay--sound escaping from the side hole reaches the ear of a listener after bouncing off the ceiling, while sound escaping from the front of the instrument reaches the ear of the listener directly. The result is that the tiny difference in time it takes for these two sound sources to reach a listener's ear causes his brain to interpret it as a more complex sound. That's my theory, anyway. Nobody yet can say for sure why they sound different.

Good description. I liken it to a stereo-like effect.
From the ukuleles I have made and testing I have done, with and without. I feel that they do give a more open sound and this stereo-like effect.
These are both functional reasons I've really come to enjoy sound ports in my instruments.
But the fact is that everyone has their own tastes so do some testing if you like.

Kevs-the-name
11-01-2017, 05:09 AM
As a player, I have recently acquired a ukulele with a personal sound hole (Compass Rose Tenor). I was certainly not convinced about its worth, until plugged it with a sock! I am now totally convinced that the soundport is effective on ’this’ ukulele. I do not perform or record, so I am only concerned in the sound ‘I’ can hear. I do not feel I would require a sound hole on my Concert Koaloha, I like the sound as it is.

As a newbie builder, I am yet to add an extra hole, however, I have the template/jig to do so as I am certainly interested in trialling it, however, I’m not sure which size will benefit most - probably tenor.

Croaky Keith
11-01-2017, 07:14 AM
I removed a pick up system from my Kala KA-SEME, & the sound quality did change a little, it seemed to give it a slight mellowness, compared to when it had the hole blocked, so yes, it can make a bit of difference, but mainly to the player, I think.

acmespaceship
11-01-2017, 09:09 AM
A side port can be mighty helpful if you play in a group. Otherwise you hear all the other instruments better than you hear your own. Which, for beginners, may sound like a good idea but really it's hard to play well when you can't hear yourself.

Be kind and listen to what everybody else hears coming out of your ukulele. :uhoh:

mds725
11-01-2017, 09:14 AM
When Andrew at HMS received the first Farallon with a sound port he said right on the video recording that it made a big difference and was the best sounding Farallon they had ever heard. So yea it does have a function. As they say your mileage may vary.

It turns out that Blackbird can add a side sound port to a Farallon built without one, so I brought mine in (Blackbird is in San Francisco, where I live) to get one. A friend of mine brought hers in as well, but because she strings her Farallon with reentrant G, Joe declined to add a side sound port for her. He says (and I'm sure I'll butcher this and not say it as well as he did) that something about the physics of sound causes a side sound port to improve the sound of lower notes but not higher notes, and that a side sound port makes a difference on the sound of a low G string but not on the sound of a high G string. I noticed a difference in volume while playing my altered low-G Farallon, presumably because some of the sound was being directed upward toward me, but I also noticed a difference while Joe was playing it and I was standing in front of it. I prefer side sound ports, but I have a few ukes I like (including a rare no-side-sound-port Moore Bettah!) that I would never stop playing merely because they don't have a side sound port.

Rllink
11-01-2017, 09:58 AM
A side port can be mighty helpful if you play in a group. Otherwise you hear all the other instruments better than you hear your own. Which, for beginners, may sound like a good idea but really it's hard to play well when you can't hear yourself.

Be kind and listen to what everybody else hears coming out of your ukulele. :uhoh:When I play at the bar downtown, they always have an amp turned toward the stage so that I can hear myself. With all the people noise and the sounds of the pool players in the back, it helps to keep the person on stage from getting aurally disoriented, for lack of a better term. It makes sense that a side port would serve the same purpose if someone were playing in a similarly noisy venue without amplification?

Peace Train
11-01-2017, 02:09 PM
...something about the physics of sound causes a side sound port to improve the sound of lower notes but not higher notes, and that a side sound port makes a difference on the sound of a low G string but not on the sound of a high G string.

This is likely due to the fact that bass is non-directional, meaning that it disperses vibration throughout a room no matter where the sound source is placed. Think subwoofer on a stereo system. Since treble is directional it makes sense that you wouldn't want it dispersing out the top of a soundhole where it will be lost on everyone but the player. Think tweeter on a stereo system. Thanks for sharing Joe's input.

Pete Howlett
11-01-2017, 02:11 PM
I thought they were a gimmick at worst and at best a great marketing ploy. I resisted for ages until I just had a lapse in concentration and found my self putting one on a cutaway.

In my very humble opinion it does improve the sound. I can't explain it. I am also not going to argue one way or the other. Like all things it's right down to personal preference.

Side bar - I have designed a simple tool for making them :)

printer2
11-01-2017, 02:48 PM
At lower frequencies sound is omnidirectional. As the frequencies with wavelengths approaching the size of the top the sound pattern become more of a figure 8 pointing out in the front and back of the top. The back, if it is active, radiates part of the sound off the back and instruments have a more 3d sound to the player but it has less projection than an instrument with a non-live back. With the sound port part of the radiation of the highs get out the port and to the player. It is not a massive change but noticeable if done right. One thing to keep in mind is that the addition of a sound port you are increasing the soundhole area and the Helmholtz frequency of the instrument may drop. This may change a resonance and place it on a note's frequency, or move it off of one.

sequoia
11-01-2017, 06:39 PM
A side port can be mighty helpful if you play in a group. Otherwise you hear all the other instruments better than you hear your own. Which, for beginners, may sound like a good idea but really it's hard to play well when you can't hear yourself.

Be kind and listen to what everybody else hears coming out of your ukulele. :uhoh:

This is a good point.... The side port certainly isn't a fad and it works. It simply lets the player hear more of what they are playing. Kind of like an acoustic "monitor" for acoustic instrument players. Instead of all of the vibration being projected outwards, some is projected up into the players ear. This has to be a good thing. However I have two reasons I don't like them: One, it is ugly and violates the beauty of the curved side. A hole is basically ugly no matter how much you pretty it up with whatever. Two: There is some vibration energy in the box that is "leaked" out the side that doesn't go to the top which decreases volume slightly. I have absolutely no data for the second statement, but it seems a possibility. That said, it is a real improvement and a valid idea.

M3Ukulele
11-01-2017, 07:53 PM
Curious to hear that a high G Farallon isn’t recommended. I’d like to hear from someone who has one in high g. I’m getting ready to order a Farallon and was thinking I wanted a sound port. I’m definitely a high g player Comments appreciated from more Farallon owners

slackkey007
11-01-2017, 08:21 PM
Here's a video, which I believe, if I'm not mistaken, is the 1st Blackbird Farallon w/side sound port that Andrew received over @ HMS/theukulelesite.com and both Andrew and Kalei are blown away by the difference in sound and projection compared to a Blackbird Farallon without a side sound port. Watch the video in its entirety. Kalei is amazed at the very beginning with the loudness and then at the end of the video, both Kalei and Andrew chime in on their thoughts and are highly impressed!


https://vimeo.com/220854857

Ken Franklin
11-01-2017, 10:34 PM
I'd like to chime in here. First I'll qualify this by saying that my personal uke has no sound port and I love it's sound. I do however think that there are times at group gigs that I wish I could hear it better and there are some notes on the fretboard that are not as loud or sustaining as others.

Those things said, I would only make ukuleles now without sound ports if the customer requests that it not have one. My initial thinking came from experience building guitars where some builders feel that the Helmholtz resonance of a guitar can be compromised by a sound port and at the very least the size of the soundhole should be reduced to compensate for the size of the sound port.

Following that line of thought my first ukulele sound ports were small. They had some effect of providing more volume and a slightly different tone to the player but since then I have made them larger and ignored what might happen to the Helmhotz resonance. Though I have no scientific data to support my thinking I've come to the conclusion that the larger sound ports make my ukuleles sound better.

Here's what I think might be happening. The Helmholtz resonance is in a fairly narrow range and notes played in that range can be more pronounced. Conversely some notes can be more muted. So I think the sound ports give my instruments a more even response on the fretboard. And the larger ports can give the player more of a monitor which is helpful in loud group settings.

I had a recent experience that might reinforce my thinking. I sold an older ukulele to a guitar customer who gave it to his wife for Christmas. While she liked the uke a great deal, she heard another uke of mine that someone in her group had and she was more taken with it's sound and even response.

She brought hers in not really complaining but wondering if it could somehow be more like the other uke she had played. There were some notes that were more muted on the A string so initially I decided to swap out the string for a thicker one. I thought that was a nice improvement but she wondered if something more could be done. I told her that I thought a larger sound port might improve the tone and player experience. She was game, so I enlarged the sound port significantly. She was delighted. She told me that I really opened her uke up and the muted notes were gone.

Still don't know if I'll put a hole in my personal player though. I might.

hawaii 50
11-02-2017, 08:33 AM
Curious to hear that a high G Farallon isn’t recommended. I’d like to hear from someone who has one in high g. I’m getting ready to order a Farallon and was thinking I wanted a sound port. I’m definitely a high g player Comments appreciated from more Farallon owners

Mark(MDS725) talked to Joe who is the designer/owner of Blackbird ukes and guitars...I would trust what he says about the SSP and high G strings....but that is just me...:)

good luck with your new Farallon.....

Graham Greenbag
11-02-2017, 08:52 AM
I had the chance to buy a good Uke with a sound hole in the upper bout but decided not to and to stay with the traditional style instead. The number of Ukes for sale with these player facing sound holes seems, to me, to be increasing. Is it just a fad or is, as I suspect is the case, there some value in having a top port. Perhaps it’s one of these things that’s good for some situations and less so others?

My UAS is under control at the moment (though I have positive thoughts about a couple of Sopranos and then there’s that nice Concert .......) so mine is just more of a general question than anything else. I do have a cheap Uke I could add a sound hole though to (????????) so maybe it’s not a completely academic question.

What do people think. Are sound ports a fad or a function?

My thanks to everyone who has supported this thread by adding their comments to it or even just reading it, the response has been absolutely fantastic.

It seems to me that the overwhelming body of opinion is that sound ports are much more of a useful functional feature than a fad so that has answered my initial question, thank you all. A few folk have reservations about them and particularly their appearance; to me that’s very understandable in that we get used to the way things normally look and anything new or different fails the common appearance test (if it looks right then it is, or it’s at least near enough correct). My own impression of them was something similar: they don’t look right but (questioning traditional build and traditional use) maybe they do help you hear yourself in group playing situations and maybe they do direct the sound more usefullly when playing for your own ears only rather than those of a group of listeners.

To my mind the overwhelmingly positive comments give rise to a couple of further questions:
- Is it best to place the sound hole on the top point (?) of the upper or the lower bout ?
- What size (diameter) relationship(s) between the main sound hole and the side sound port work best / work well / are usual?
With regard to the above two questions what do folk think / observe / use / build ????

resoman
11-02-2017, 09:12 AM
Thanks for starting this thread. I am about to do my first sound port and this has been very helpful.

Croaky Keith
11-02-2017, 09:23 AM
Upper bout, nearer your ears, mine was about 2", (if you rounded out the squarish hole).

dkame
11-02-2017, 11:34 AM
I am not a sound expert but it seems reasonable that benefits could be gained by adding a sound port. There have always been debates about sealed and unsealed speakers and the general thought is that the low end bass response could be extended in a smaller sized speaker cabinet by putting in a port. This lessens the damping force on the speaker given a small volume cabinet at low frequency, large speaker displacements (ignoring port tuning issues which can generate resonances and port noise). Now a ukulele is already like a ported speaker with the driver being the sound board and the sound hole being the port and it is already has a relatively small volume with limited sound board displacement ability. So if the goal is to get the most out of your vibrating sound board, opening up the box could lessen the damping which could improve the sustain of the soundboard across the whole frequency range. Well then why not just take the back off the instrument? Half the sound just gets absorbed by your stomach or goes behind you instead of some of that being redirected out the front sound hole or amplifying the sound board vibrations at certain resonances. Some folks favor a very rigid uke body for this reason to reflect the sound pressure waves rather than have them absorbed by the back. So a possible approach would be to enlarge the existing sound hole. Shouldnt this have the same effect as adding a side port? In this case, the sound waves coming out of the front hole would presumably be all in phase with the same distance of travel to the listener. The possible advantage of the side port would be that the sound waves between the front and the side may have a shift in phase and a lag in distance, possibly contributing to a sound with more depth like the intentional creation of sound reflections in a concert hall. For this reason, speakers sometimes have directionally adjustable ports, or selectable front or rear porting, to adjust for preferable dynamics in any particular room arrangement. So there might be a couple of real reasons why a side ported uke would sound better to the player or listener, all other things being equal.

sequoia
11-02-2017, 07:44 PM
To my mind the overwhelmingly positive comments give rise to a couple of further questions:
- Is it best to place the sound hole on the top point (?) of the upper or the lower bout ?
- What size (diameter) relationship(s) between the main sound hole and the side sound port work best / work well / are usual?
With regard to the above two questions what do folk think / observe / use / build ????

- Upper bout. The players arm will cover a lower bout sound port negating the "monitor" effect (if such a thing exists). Also see: Hemholtz (sp?) Effect. Don't decrease air pressure in the box too much.
- Size? Not too big and not too small. Oval instead of round. Eccentric circle. Looks better to my eye.

Oh and another thing that was not discussed: What does a hole in the side do for structural integrity? It weakens the box. It certainly isn't increasing the strength and should probably be reinforced with a couple patches or a "doughnut" patch, but this would best be done pre-assembly although could be done post-assembly. Just thinking out loud here... Beau posted a good video a few years back on cutting a sound port. Very knarly and violent. Fun with cutting tools! I loved it.

neo1022
11-02-2017, 07:49 PM
Curious to hear that a high G Farallon isnt recommended. Id like to hear from someone who has one in high g. Im getting ready to order a Farallon and was thinking I wanted a sound port. Im definitely a high g player Comments appreciated from more Farallon owners

Joe tends to advise against it, as the effect is minimal (compared to the extra cost). Low-g is a different story... But then again, you can do whatever you want!

kohanmike
11-02-2017, 08:48 PM
Not long ago I saw a uke on eBay made by Bruce Wei, it did not have a front sound hole, but a series of small rectangular ports around the bouts and one larger oval sound port in the upper bout. It so intrigued me, I ordered a custom made of spalted and curly mango and a cutaway, but in describing it via email, he misunderstood and put the larger oval port in the cutaway. As it turns out, that didn't make any difference, it sounds very good, lots of projection and sustain. The leader of our group says it kind of sounds like a resonator, but I don't hear it that way, another said it's bright and has lots of presence.

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Spalted done montage.jpg

EDW
11-03-2017, 07:34 AM
I would want one large enough to double as a holder for a beer! :cheers:

lakesideglenn
11-03-2017, 11:07 AM
I've never played one but to me they look like bird houses ...

resoman
11-03-2017, 12:44 PM
I would want one large enough to double as a holder for a beer! :cheers:

I'm thinking small enough for a shot glass

EDW
11-03-2017, 05:48 PM
I'm thinking small enough for a shot glass

That works!