“Guitar play-in”

Myth or Science?

Along with cryo tuning, the so-called “play-in” process for instruments is probably one of the hottest topics currently being discussed by musicians on Internet forums.
Many still discard it as nothing more than voodoo, just another fairytale myth. But only a few people know that vibration damping reduction – to give it its correct name – will dramatically improve the sound of an instrument.

For all those doubters, please let us briefly explain the principles behind this method, which was originally invented by structural engineer Prof. Gerhard A. von Reumont. A patent application for his method for vibration damping reduction developed was filed as far back as 1977. The key principle behind it is the fact that every material has its own internal stress. In the case of steel, for example, this stress can cause cracks to form. To combat this, an attempt was made to introduce externally generated vibrations in the resonance range to reduce the internal stress of the material.
It was found that, after a certain amount of time, the energy that was introduced into the material remained constant or even increased. The reason for this is that the reduction of internal stress is also accompanied by a reduction in internal friction energy. As a great lover of classical music and a passionate double bass player, Professor Reumont transferred this method to the world of string instruments and even wrote a book about it – a book that is widely regarded as the standard reference for this field: “Theorie und Praxis des Vibrationsentdämpfens zur Resonanzverbesserung von Musikinstrumenten: Beseitigung von Wolftönen und andere Regulierungsarbeiten.” (Theory and practice of vibration damping reduction in order to improve the resonance of musical instruments: Elimination of wolf tones and other tuning steps)

Using this method, it is possible to positively influence the frequency range and thereby achieve a lasting improvement for the characteristic sound of an instrument.

What are the advantages of “playing in”?

Our experiences and customer opinions completely match what Prof. Reumont described in his book.

Tones become clearer and brighter, the instrument much more responsive. The overall volume of the instrument is increased, and its sound is much more balanced. The overtones and dynamic range are noticeably improved.
One of our customers put it in a nutshell: “The guitar has found its soul!”

Play-in systems

There are different types of play-in systems available on the market. The original method of Prof. Reumont is still used today by Emil Weiss, but it is extremely complex and therefore also quite expensive.
The first affordable play-in system was the ToneRite® System from the USA, which needs a different product for different instruments. However, the effectiveness of the device is rather low, as it is simply placed on the strings and uses an integrated motor to make them vibrate. The frequency range of this device is very limited.

In the last years we´ve offered the following play-in systems: CuteCube² and iBall Guitar.
They both work on NXT technology, which is very common in the audio sector. Specially developed transducers are used that can transfer vibrations to any type of material and use it as a resonating body to create sound. For example, a table top can be turned into a speaker by attaching a transducer! In Hi-Fi applications, this technology is used in planar transducers.
Our play-in systems can be used for all types of acoustic and electric string instruments. Both items are not longer available because the manufacturer has discontinued the prduction. We are looking for a replacement right now.

The big advantage of these systems is that any external music source can be used – including MP3 players, smartphones or CD players. This allows the instrument to be played-in with the same music that will be played on it later. But of course, simple test sounds from audio test CDs can also be used.

Another system that uses this technology is the PrimeVibe system from the USA. However, after difficulties with the manufacturer we have temporarily stopped offering this system.
Our system offers significant additional advantages over the very lightweight PrimeVibe System – for more information please refer to the product description.



One device for all string instruments!

The major advantage of these systems is that any type of external music source can be used. This could be, for example, an MP3 player, a smartphone or a portable CD player. 
This allows the instrument to be played-in with the same music that will be played on it later. It is also possible to use simple test sounds from audio test CDs.

Using the transmission of vibrations to play-in an instrument is a significantly more focused and accurate approach, as this uses a whole range of frequencies instead of just a narrow bandwidth. The results are more far-reaching, and through careful selection of the signal it is possible to selectively influence the outcome.

Udo Pipper addressed the subject in the 7/2012 edition of the German magazine Gitarre&Bass. He used both the PrimeVibe and CuteCube² with white and pink noise and achieved very good results with them.

Here’s a brief explanation of the different types:
White noise is random noise with the same amplitude across all frequencies. 
With pink noise, the lower frequencies have a higher amplitude than the higher frequencies. The amplitude decreases inversely proportionally with increasing frequency, but all frequencies are still present.
Accordingly, white noise can be used as the baseline, with pink noise used to focus primarily on boosting lower notes.
High-intensity white noise will deliver tangible and audible results after just 3-4 days.

Very good results can also be achieved with sounds from sound bowls. These tones range from very low, rumbling bass notes to very high, fine sounds.
Good results can be achieved by alternating sounds from a sound bowl with noise. You can order the CD for this in the shop. Of course, you are also free to use your music of choice for the play-in process.

Uli Lauterbach, bass player by trade, is always on the road and has tried most things.
His feedback on playing in

Hi George,
I’ve just bought a PrimeVibe from you. My ToneRite is going on eBay…

I am a professional bass player myself, and I seem to have been blessed with exceptionally good ears…
I left the PrimeVibe running on my new Fender Marcus Miller V 24h with white noise – the results were tangible straight away, both in the sound of the bass and in its improved action...
very linear frequency response, but by contrast the overtones have been weakened … very precise and fast in terms of response, but the key/fundamental tone behaviour was slightly less clear than before.
Then I left the Luther Vandross CD “Luther Vandross” running on my iPod until just now…then I picked up the bass…
you play a few notes and reality disappears off into the distance…an incredible experience, honestly…zero latency…and I’m no esoteric…
The “Luther Vandross” CD is the most well-balanced production I have ever had the pleasure to listen to…and I have been listening to music 24/7 since I was 5…haha, no joke…
no matter where you put it on, you will see nothing but overtones and harmonics flying through the room…notes everywhere…

Grab a guitar and leave the Luther CD running as a repeat playlist for 5 days via PrimeVibe. I would love to see the look on your face when you play the first note ;)

At my gig yesterday, my bandmates asked me if I had a new bass…haha…”Lutherized”…I was able to stretch my bass solos to twice their length…
The dance floor was bursting at the seams…the low B string was suddenly melodic and completely stable, with a fast response and zero booming…spooky ;)

What do you think, would I be able to swap the PrimeVibe with you for a Cube? The PrimeVibe is quite involved in terms of handling, and I have a few instruments
that I would like to quickly play in for some studio jobs…
The SD card feature of the Cute Cube especially is a great idea, I would be able to do without connecting the iPod…the EQ is cool too…
you can put your hand on it and adjust the low-end vibrations to suit your own feel…

- So we swapped the PrimeVibe for a Cube. Note Jörg -

The CuteCube makes a great impression…the whole house seems to be vibrating! Its technology is a bit more “2014” than the PrimeVibe.

In the meantime, I have kept experimenting…whenever I tried white & pink noise again, the overtones were weakened and isolated keys became less clear again.
So, I asked myself what type of music has the highest proportion of overtones and the strongest vibrations. Obvious – Gospel!
For two days now I have had the WOW Gospel Compilations 2003-2010 running over it, and the results are simply outstanding!
No matter which key, all tones show the same stability…fills in my bass lines suddenly work with a completely new note selection, I absolutely love it!
For live work I use an instrument I refer to as a “batar” – with 2x bass strings and 4x guitar strings. I am going to play this in next with the WOW Gospel albums.
I’ll send you before and after sound files, each with new strings and exactly the same recording settings, so you can hear for yourself…

Happy Wednesday & all the best,



The following tips will help with the play-in process and should always be followed:

Fixing the transducers!
Depending on the particular guitar, there is not always a flat contact surface available, and as a result the transducers – e.g. the PrimeVibe system – can start to wander around easily.
If this happens, the transducer should be fixed. BUT....... AND THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT:
The housing of the transducer must NEVER be pressed down, as this could prevent the unit from vibrating freely.
If this happens, the coil of the transducer would get hot, potentially scorching the housing and eventually burning out.
The housing should only ever be fixed on very lightly. It doesn’t matter if the housing is fixed to the bridge with adhesive tape, or to the body with a long elastic band, the housing must never be pressed down!!   

Signal strength
The supplied signal should never be so loud that distortion occurs during operation. Always turn it down to an appropriate volume during play-in.
Less is definitely more here! It’s much better to extend the duration of the process.

Duration of the vibrations
Of course, everyone wants to hear a result as quickly as possible, but the play-in process takes time.
After four days you will – at best – be able to feel and hear some first signs of improvement depending on the material.
So, people, please be patient and allow the process to run for 12-14 days, and even repeat it again afterwards if necessary. Good things come to those who wait!