Archive for September 2010

Morristown Community Theater SIM3 Tuning

September 21, 2010

This has been a busy week for tunings. in an 8 day period I am scheduled to do two jobs: Morristown Community Theater and Carnegie Hall. The Morristown job is done and I am half way through Carnegie at this moment. The Morristown system was a really interesting tuning. It was a room/system that had everything you might encounter in the field. Left/Right mains were 15 box Line arrays in 3 segements (A-B-C) There were frontfills, underbalcony fills, an overbalcony fill, infills, outfills, a center downfill and subs. The room is a heritage 1920’s vintage art deco movie house which limited the placement options. Everyone there was great to work with. I was invited by Jonathan Peirce to get it done in two days. we definitely filled those days up.

I got crappy photos – but good SIM data and both will follow after I get done with Carnegie.


Sound System: Design & Optimization hits 10,000

September 13, 2010

Thanks for your support

I am grateful to announce that Sound Systems: Design & Optimization has reached the milestone of 10,000 copies sold. Around half of these are the English language editions and the remaining half split equally between the Spanish and Chinese language editions. Work is currently underway to translate the 2nd edition into Chinese. I want to extend my thanks to everyone that has supported this project, either by buying the book, promoting it to others, or helping me write it. Thanks especially to my editor Catharine Steers at Elsevier, all of my peer reviewers and those that contributed photographs and perspective pieces for the book. Thanks also to John and Helen Meyer, Gavin Canaan, Mac Johnson and all the staff there that continue to support my educational efforts through their sponsorship of my seminars and to all who have taken their valuable time to attend them. Thanks also to everyone at LiveDesign, Rational Acoustics, TC Furlong, and others that have helped promote this book.  Also to Ana Lorentz for translation of the Spanish Edition and to Magu for his help in that effort. Finally my highest gratitude goes to my wife Merridith who negotiated the deal and was one of just two people (along with Thorny) to read the whole book during its development.

When this was written I felt that less than 1250 books would be a failure, and anything more than 2500 would be a success. Reaching 10,000 in less than 4 years is far beyond my wildest dreams.

So thanks a million, I mean a ten thousand.



 In case you are interested: Here is what I did with the proceeds from the book: I crossed back over the art/science line to a 1978 Gibson Johnny Smith, and a 2009 Breedlove Bossa Nova.

1978 Gibson Johnny Smith

Breedlove Bossa Nova

Toning Your Sound System

September 10, 2010
No this is NOT a typo. I did not mean to write “Tuning your sound system” because that is entirely a different subject. So what is the difference between toning and tuning?

 Here is a simple example from the muscial side: This is my son Simon. He has a guitar effects pedal that has exactly the TONE of Eddie Van Halen. One small thing though: he can’t TUNE his guitar.

A legend in his own mind


Sound systems also have a similar contrast between these two concepts. Tuning  a sound system (in my estimation) is where you adjust the system so that it has uniform response over the listening area, with minimal distortion, maximum intelligibility and best available sonic imaging. Tuning is about making the far seats similar to the near seats. An objectively verifiable – but verifiably unattainable goal of same level, same frequency response, same intelligilbility throughout the room. Making the underbalcony as similar as possible to the mix position (which hopefully is NOT under the balcony). It is about making sure every driver is wired correctly, still alive, aimed at the right place and cleanly crossed over to the next one. It is about making it so the mix engineer can mix with confidence that theirs is a SHARED experience. Because it an objective pursuit, the use of prediction tools, analysis tools and our ears all play important roles in the process.  It does NOT, however mean that it sounds GOOD. “Good” is subjective.

Toning, on the other hand, can’t be done wrong. It is entirely subjective. Toning a system is the setting of a bank of global equalization filters at the output of the mix console that drives the sound system. If you want to set it by ear fine. If you want to set it by 10,000 hours of acoustical analysis containing mean/spline/root squared/Boolean averaging then go for it. If I am the mixer and I don’t like it, I will change it. Too bad. I like MY tone better. Deal with it. I don’t like flat. Deal with it. I like flat. Deal with it. There is nothing at stake here. Nothing to argue about. And no need to bring objectivity, or an analyzer to the table. The global equalizer is just an extension of the mix console eq. In the end the mixer will choose what they want to eq on a channel by channel  basis and what they want to eq globally. But also in the end there is no wrong answer, because it is entirely subjective. I have worked shows where, in my opinion the mix sounded like a cat in heat. That’s my opinion, and therefore not relevant, unless asked for. I asked the mixer “Are you happy with that?” They say “Yes”.  As long as I have ensured the cat in heat is transmitted equally to everybody in the room (i.e. TUNING the sound system), my work is done.

Good toning enhnaces the musical quaility, or natural quality of transmitted sound. Good tuning ensures that the good (or bad) toning makes it beyond the mix position.

 Piano Tuning…. and Toning

One does not have to know how to play a piano to be a competent piano tuner. It is an objective pursuit. Numbers. It can be done with an analyzer and/or a trained ear. The toning of a piano, a subjective paramater, cannot be wrong. John Cage opens up the piano and scatters nuts and bolts on top of the strings. This “tones” the piano. Is it wrong? Of course not. But before John Cage plays the “prepared” , i.e. toned piano, do you think he has it TUNED?  You bet.

John Cage Prepared Piano - a subjectively "toned" piano

 Below is another example of a “toned” piano.

I always wanted to find a way to work a deer head into my music

 Below are the tools for TUNING a piano. Similar to the ones we find our artistic auto mechanics using to TUNE up our car.

Tuning Forks

Hmmm..... Digital calipers: Objective or subjective?

Strobe tuner: otherwise known as a frequency analyzer


Just semantics or more?

So why do I make this distinction?  Because I have recently experienced several cases where people are confusing these concepts. In one case a guy wrote an article about how much better systems sound if they don’t have a flat response. Better to have peaks and dips. He notes that people that tune sound systems with analyzers do the clients a disservice by making thr system “flat”. Who am I to argue with this. He doesn’t like flat. OK. However, in the course of putting down acoustic analyzers for global equalization, the article never mentions the OTHER things that we use analyzers for: checking polarity, aiming the speakers, adjusting splay angles, adjusting relative level between speakers, setting crossovers, phase alignment, intelligibility analysis, treating reflections or most importantly: working to make it sound uniform throughout the room. The article compares equalizing your church sound system to your home hi-fi, which is to say TONING the system.  Maybe this guy’s approach is great for toning the system, but it is useless for tuning the sound system. The article “The fallacy of a flat system” can be found here


Then I received a question from one of my recent students from Asia:

Dear Bob:

Last week I join the BRAND X SPEAKER COMPANY seminar, they use another method to alignment the line-array system.

1) the whole line-array should be same EQ & same level.

2) they use room capture software to alignment the line-array system. They capture about 15 trace at difference mic position in the venue but not on axis speaker position and finally they sum average of the trace to 1 result then EQ it. What do you think?


This was my reply:

1) the whole line-array should be same EQ & same level. 

I cannot find any good reason for this. The lower area is covered by the lower boxes, the upper area by the upper boxes. They are in very different acoustic environments, they are very much at different distances. Why lock yourself into a solution with no flexibility? If the end result is a perfect match… then great. If not…what can you do besides make excuses?

2) they use room capture software to alignment the line-array system. They capture about 15 trace at difference mic position in the venue but not on axis speaker position and finally they sum average of the trace to 1 result then EQ it. What do you think?

This solves NOTHING. The end result is the same eq to all speakers. If it was an average of 2 positions or 20,000 positions the average is still just ONE set of parameters. If it sounds different in the front than the back before you average then it will sound exactly the same amount different AFTER the average. Why bother to take samples all around the room if you are not going to do anything about the DIFFERENCES around the room? It is just a waste of time.

The only reason to use an analyzer is to get objective answers such as: is it the same or different?  Not for subjective ones such as – does it sound good?

Example: Let’s say you average 20,000 seats and put that in as the eq for all speakers. Then the mixer hears it and wants a boost at 2 kHz.  What are you going to do? You are going to boost 2 kHz or get fired. Who cares about the average now?



In this case a manufacturer is using toning techniques without dealing with the tuning part. BOTH must be applied if we are going to bring the tonal experience to the people that pay to hear our sound systems.


Keep an eye on both sides of the issue, but bring the right tool for the job:

Recommended system tuning attire

System toning outfit (Women only PLEASE!)


Toning apparel for men

Tokyo Seminar – 23 years of relationships

September 9, 2010

How is your japanese?

The sign reads ” Meyer Sound SIM3 Se-mi-NA (seminar)

Our seminar was held on the 47th floor of the Sumitomo building in Shinjuku, a high rise area of western Tokyo in August of 2010. Shinjuku has the highest concentration of tall buildings in Tokyo and is a huge railway hub. A great location that everyone can get to………even those that come a long way.

We stayed in a hotel that was so close we just walked there each day. Here was the view from our room

Shinjuku area view from our hotel

I have been visiting Japan on an irregular basis since 1987, for a total of maybe…30 visits. Two people that have been a continuous presence through those years are Hiro Tomioka and Akio Kawada. They have been so kind to me and they are two people very much dedicated to the highest levels of sound quality. Hiro has been doing SIM work since the EARLY days and has taught many of the Japanese engineers how to tune systems. Here is a current picture of Hiro.

Flashback 1987:

But we were not always so old.  Here is a picture from around 88 on the Diamond Dust tour for Yumi Matstoya.

Bun Sato (L) and Hiro (R) 1987

Hiro is on the right here – and Bun Sato, who was my personal guide for years, is on the left.

 I had come to Japan to work with a major domestic artist Yumi Matsutoya. She is big stuff over there – even if you never heard of her. Big enough that I can still drop her name in a sushi bar here in the US and the waitresses all smile and the guys behind the sushi bar roll their eyes. It seems that going to a Yumi show was like takinh your girl to a chick-flick, but let me tell you – they came. Year after year.

Here is a pic from a show back in 1987. The backdrop was all flourescent lights that a guy would trigger off and on by hitting his hands on a primitive drum pad.

End of show: Yumi Matsutoya: Osaka Jo Hall 1987

I can remember at the end of the 1st show when the lights came up I thought “I am the only person in 15,000 with blond hair!”

The sound system was provided by Soundcraft, still a major player in Japan. The crew was all japanese (except me) and many of the folks have been had great careers since that time. Here we are as young guns:

I went out and visited the ATL office in the middle of Japan in the highlands, a city called Kofu. We went wine tasting. This was the worsdt wine I EVER tasted – even worse than Missouri wine – and that is no small feat. 

At the ATL Office in Kofu 1988

 Naito (then the co-owner of ATL had connections in the wedding industry in Japan. This is BIG business. So big that people go bankrupt throwing weddings. Anyway they took we to a wedding place and dressed me in a formal wedding outfit as shown in the picture below. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


We did a lot of veryt important work over the years with Yuming and Soundcraft and ATL. We developed many of the SIM tuning techniques over there – in larger part thanks to the fact that we could put 8 microphones out in the audience and no one ever bothered them.

On to the present

We had a nice sized class in a small sized space.  As usual there are not many questions when I do a seminar in Japan – except during the breaks. But by the last day people were asking a lot. We had Nauko-san as the interpreter again. She is really great and has a great sense of humor. It is rare to have an interpreter that can translate not only the technical stuff – but also be able to get a joke to go through – ESPECIALLY my jokes.

Tokyo Classroom Nauko-Hiro

 One of the fun surprises of the class was to see Joe Atanacio again after………………. lots of years. He does sound for the US Air Force Band which means it costs US taxpayers about $4 million to have him come to the seminar which I think is money much better spent than on SMAART bombs (not SIM bombs).  Anyway Joe was great to see and we had some interesting discussions over sushi and sake. Good stuff. 

Joe Atanacio

The class went smoothly – although it can be tough in such a small space – we still got some good data. I will put those traces  up soon in another post. 

Tokyo Classroom 1

Tokyo Classroom 2

and finally thanks to the lovely Tomoko-san who made all the arrangements for us and took very good care of Merridiith and I.


If you have ever tuned a sound system – watch this video – 3 min.

September 2, 2010

This is a highly informative  – and realistic – short video on the how a system optimization engineer and FOH engineer relate in their job roles.

We have Bennet Prescott to thank for this. I only wish I had done it myself.