Buzzing, Rattling and Vibrations

On any given weekday, it is not uncommon to find me tooling along a highway or interstate en route from one place to the next. In over thirty years of business travel I am quite used to doing so.

AR-Hearing-Vibrations.jpgBecause I do spend so much time in the car, I am pretty maniacal about proper maintenance. I am forever getting oil changes, lubrication, tune - ups and similar work performed. One area where I am particularly cautious is tires and brakes. I don't mess around with the things that make the car stop, handle well on wet roads and provide a comfortable ride on dry ones.

So when the tires on my main car needed replacement I didn't hesitate. I have always preferred Michelin to all other brands of tires. Whether they are the best passenger tire is likely debatable, but I doubt I'd get a lot of disagreement that they are one of the more expensive tire options. I chose to go a cheaper route for the new tires I needed.

AR-Tires.jpgImmediately, I realized I had made a mistake. The new tires were, according to my auto shop, the right ones for my car. Rather than the nice, smooth, quiet ride I always enjoyed with Michelin, these were loud and made a roaring sound. I also noticed that I suddenly had annoying rattles and buzzing sounds where before I didn't. When I was on a road that was just a wee bit rough, oh my word.

After three months my sanity could take no more. These tires had to go and I was going to replace them no matter what. No matter how new they were. No matter the cost. After doing so, with, I might add, a new set of Michelin's, a remarkable thing happened. All of the buzzing, humming, rattling, and all that sort of nonsense stopped. Period. I once again had quiet and a profoundly comfortable ride.

AR-Road-Noise.pngOne day on I - 95 I realized that the cacophony of noises I heard before was due to vibrations and harmonics. I later discovered that the tires making all the noise were "harder" (or had a higher durometer) than the Michelin's I was accustomed to using. Road noise was transmitted through the tires and because the rubber on the old tires was harder than the Michelins, vibrations were sent throughout the car and caused anything that might make noise to do so. It also occurred to me that this was very much like distortion caused by vibrations in a high performance audio system.

We spend a lot of time researching components, testing and trying to decide if those components play nicely together. We demo all manner of equipment combinations, and if you subscribe to the notion, cables, to give our systems the best sound possible. We move speakers around for the optimal soundstage and imaging effects. How much time do we spend on vibration control?

I take two things away from this. One, be sure that your audio system is protected as much as possible from unwanted vibrations and harmonics. Your speakers, and your ears, will likely love you for doing so. A total approach if you will. Secondly, if you find a formula or a product that you like and works well, by all means stick to it. That is as true for audio as it is for tires.

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