PWB Electronics – Hifi And Human Perception

PWB Electronics

PWB Electronics – Exploring The Perception of Sound

To grasp the idea that seemingly unconnected and inappropriate low-tech homespun ‘devices’  might have any effect at all on the performance of audio loudspeakers and other electronic equipment, we need to appreciate a little of the background of the people who thought the notion up: Peter and May Belt, operating as PWB Electronics in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK.

In 2005, Mrs. Belt described her husband’s journey: ‘Peter Belt’s background is over 45 years in the audio industry, the first 30 years as a conventional engineer, designing and manufacturing moving coil loudspeakers, electrostatic loudspeakers, orthodynamic loudspeakers, moving coil headphones, plus electrostatic and orthodynamic headphones.

‘During this time Peter was constantly researching how he could improve hifi performance. From time to time, he would become aware of occasions when the sounds produced changed for no apparent reason: all he  knew was that the sound had changed, without any conventional explanation as to why this should be.

‘In a further period of  research, Peter began to see that  many different factors could be affecting the sounds he was hearing; things that would not, by any stretch of the imagination, alter either actual audio signals or acoustic air pressure waves.  This is when he began to realise that it must be the human listeners who were reacting to the listening environment somehow. The last 15 years have been spent in this unconventional area, struggling to find ways to counteract the notional adverse conditions.’

Although Peter Belt is a highly qualified electronics engineer, who had manufactured well-rated conventional loudspeakers and headphones since the late 1950s, and a variant on the electrostatic speaker in the 1970s and 1980s, he’s neither orthodox nor part of the hi-fi establishment.  In the late 1980s, he caused a stir in the audio equipment press (Hi Fi News, Hi Fi Answers, Hi Fi Review and Audiophile for instance) by demonstrating, beyond reasonable doubt, that small and usually overlooked ambient electromagnetic fields in most rooms could seriously detract from the perceived performance of the most expensive audio equipment.

Worse than this, he developed relatively cheap ways of combating these problems, sometimes with the curious and highly unpopular result that cheaper kit sounded magnitudes better than higher-end stuff – which, of course, made him less than welcome with manufacturers and their customers alike.

Now while it is fairly obvious that big fields coming from power cables, ranks of computing equipment, large amplifiers and so on might well affect working sound equipment nearby, this wasn’t what concerned Peter Belt.  Instead, he believed that very small fields from components such as the spinning platter of an LP turntable (or, worse still, a spinning CD itself) affected the way we hear the sounds from our beloved audio systems.

According to Belt, there were also, unnoticed and unhelpful fields (not measurable, unfortunately), which were unwittingly built into the designs of most electronic equipment.  But, because these failed the falsification test for scientific hypotheses (if you can’t disprove a proposition, it’s not science as we know it) audio experts wrote off his proposed fixes as ‘self-deception’ and ‘auto-suggestion for the gullible’.

For a while, however, some audio writers were thoroughly persuaded. Paul Benson for instance, writing in the July 1989 edition of Hi Fi Review, said that a Belt-treated loudspeaker actually improved the sound of the working speakers when brought into the listening room – in diametrical contrast to the more usual deterioration that happened when any other passive speaker was introduced.  ‘Peter and May Belt,’ he wrote, ‘have ways of treating all electromagnetic pollution. Ways that are incredible – literally incredible.  But they work …  The beauty of it is that the products and free applications clear up the electromagnetic smog in the room (which) allows us to hear what equipment is capable of doing.’  The really odd thing about this ‘smog clearing’ though, was that according to Benson it made the listening room and the listeners feel better. ‘The improved listening environment’, he added, ‘is far more important than expensive equipment upgrades’.

Small wonder then,  to discover that Peter and May Belt were dropped relatively quickly by the orthodox audio press.  After a flurry of interest, and glowing reports from such ‘hifi’  worthies as Jimmy Hughes, Paul Benson and Keith Howard, most commercial coverage dried up from 1993 onwards – and next to nothing was printed about their subsequent developments until 1999.

Then, when the industry magazines Soundstage, Audio Online andAudio Musings began to review PWB products, a new wave of interest developed.  It is an interest that is still continuing today.  The Belts are still in business, with the help of their son Graham, and their products are more numerous than ever.

Some Early PWB Devices

The theory behind the early devices was that ‘electronic smog’ (in the form of unnoticed, but adverse, electromagnetic fields) affected human perceptions of the performance of hi-fi equipment.  Clear this up, the reasoning said, and better sound reproduction would result from quite inexpensive components.  Since even the physical spinning of a CD could generate electronic ‘pollution’ apparently, then fixing small pieces of permanently charged metal foil to the discs was one of the things that could put matters.  So far so good.

In a similar fashion, two other ‘permanently charged’ PWB  products, ‘Cream Electret’ and ‘Spiratube,’ both seemed to produce beneficial effects when applied to audio equipment and to cabling – and these effects were substantially enhanced by subsequently freezing both the audio leads and the foil-treated CDs. There was no great conceptual difficulty with these propositions, because the simple treatments might be doing something materially useful – and common sense implied that a more complete physical explanation for what was actually happening would be found eventually.

What did remain a puzzle though, was that according to Peter Belt, one of the charged foil strips used to treat CDs had to be placed in a very specific location – over the ‘Compact Disc’ logo that initially appeared on all commercial discs – and, unless this was done exactly, the perceived benefits to the sound did not occur.

Why ever not?  Logic suggests that if the printing on the discs was generating spurious electromagnetism, then either all of the print should be covered with the charged foil, or else the specific placement of the foil strips should make no great difference.  Yet, the placement of the foil really did affect the result, which meant that something additional to the ‘smog’ theory must be at work on CDs to produce the problems in the first place, and then the benefits to the listener after the ‘treatments’ had been applied.

Peter and May Belt’s ideas about what was actually happening seemed so outlandish at the time, that a little more description of their experiments is necessary, before we can discuss any potential explanations.  One of the more staggering PWB products was called Morphic Green Cream.

In the PWB online news group’s postings, there were references to this cream, claiming extraordinary results from it, despite its relatively high cost.  It could be applied to almost anything in minuscule quantities. Applying it to only one terminal of one speaker, BK was staggered to hear the sound stage take a gigantic leap away from both loudspeakers – and to crystallise into a genuinely 3D reality.  Applying cream to the other speaker (also to one terminal only) completed the transformation, and the result was completely enthralling. After this, for review purposes, Mrs Belt generously provided a complete pot of this remarkable stuff, resulting in even more dramatic improvements to the apparent sound quality.

Although Morphic Green Cream was originally meant for manufacturers, it proved to be so effective that some PWB news group respondents talked seriously about down-grading their equipment, and of substituting cheaper treated components for higher-priced gear.  At the time BK had no absolutely idea how this cream ‘worked’ – and he still doesn’t – in much the the same way that he doesn’t quite know what makes his old house feel so comfortable to visitors.

BK once asked Mrs. Belt if she thought that there was an upper limit to the benefits of PWB treatments, adding that common sense would say that there should be. ‘I don’t know,’ she said candidly, ‘but then, common sense also says that many of our products can’t possibly work!’

Happily however, PWB Electronics continues to thrive to this day and is still producing new devices on a regular basis.  Some current favourites with PWB customers are ‘PWB Universal Rainbow Magnablocks’ – small pieces of specially prepared foil, which can be applied equally successfully to the listening environment or to items of audio equipment, and the ‘Digiplus’ treated phono plug, which should be inserted into the empty phono sockets of amplifiers, CD and DVD players.  The very latest products – a range of specially treated plastic dustcaps – should also be used on the empty sockets of electronic devices including the HDMI ports on TV sets and the USB ports on computers.

The Birth Of A Theory – A Dowsing Perspective

Visitors to the PWB website will find that over the last thirty years or so Mrs. Belt has written extensively about how the company’s products might work.  Gradually, but systematically,  she has shown that they have no effect at all on electronic equipmentitself. Instead, what seems to be changing are the listeners’perceptions of what is happening – sufficiently consistently for the effects to be much greater than chance events.

Sadly, however, until very recently Mrs. Belt’s ideas were mostly roundly rejected as ‘unscientific’, or even as deliberately fraudulent, by significant numbers of website/newsgroup commentators who simply ‘knew better’ – and, as often as not, without even trying out any PWB’s devices for themselves, of course.

On the other hand, some reviewers have been more encouraging.  In 2012, Dr. Bill Gaw of EnjoytheMusic.com and Art Dudley of Stereophile Magazine both wrote very positive articles about one of PWB’s most longstanding products ‘Cream Electret’ – with Art’s article including a long and very detailed interview with Mrs. Belt.

BK has always remained assiduously careful never to probe for information that Mrs. Belt had not made public (the Belt family is running a commercial enterprise based on their own intellectual property after all).  As a consequence, Mrs Belt has kindly allowed him to undertake personal experimentation into some of her ideas.  One of these has been the exploration of how positive messages written on home-made labels, e.g. GOOD SOUND>O.K. could improve the perceived performance of audio equipment to which the label could be attached – with Blu Tak or something similar.  Further experiments along these lines can be found on our Do It Yourself  page.

BK is also grateful to Mrs Belt for introducing him to the work of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, whose work on a biological principle he calls ‘Morphic Resonance’ has proved to be an enormously useful springboard to further thinking about how and why the simple labelling process, described above, might begin to become half-way understandable. Before we delve into that though – and because this is a discussion about dowsing – we need to consider NT’s work with the Northern Irish dowser Billy Gawn.

GAWN

Click For Billy Gawn’s ‘Information Dowsing’

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM.  For an almost complete account of all the early PWB developments plus lots of free experiments to try out – please visit The Advanced Audiophile web site.  BK had thought that this  site had disappeared from the Internet, but he was delighted to find it again recently, through a link to one of his own articles. The Advanced Audiophile has not been updated for a  while now, but it still remains the most comprehensive source available for PWB Electronics memorabilia and commentary.  It also includes the original articles by Paul Benson and others mentioned above.

Bill Kenny and Nigel Twinn 2015

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