Menu Close

Set of brass resonators


The instrument consists of a wooden base and 19 brass spheres. The spheres are arranged by size, and fit into wooden pegs attached to the bass. Each sphere has two holes: a large hole on one end, and a smaller hole at the fluted tip on the other end. The spheres range from 3 cm to 20 cm in diameter.

Accession Number:

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: brass, wood

Markings: None.

Dimensions (cm): (Height = 32, Width = 37, Length = 73


Resonators were used as aides for hearing simple tones. Simple tones were thought to be the basic, pure sounds that were not obscured by mental processes. However, these sounds were not typically discernible by the average untrained listener. As a result, resonators were used to help the observer detect simple tones from the complex sounds in the environment. Each resonator was tuned to a specific frequency, and the listener could hold it to the ear in order to discern the basic tone from the surrounding noise.

Thus, resonators provided a mechanical way of allowing the ear to distinguish basic sounds that were unclouded by the surrounding environment or mental processes. Helmholtz used these in the 1850s to prove his theory about the existence of simple tones.

Condition: Good.

Associated Instruments:


Date of Manufacture: c. 1850


University of Toronto Physics Department

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes: