Posted tagged ‘sound system design’

Off to Mexico for AES and SIM3 Training – Updated

April 25, 2010

I have been busy putting together new material for SIM 3 training, and AES seminar and the upcoming Broadway Sound Master Class. You have seen some of the work in progress below, but I have had to push to get things ready for showtime.  Sorry for the delay in getting more things posted and for my lateness in response to Goran. Just pushing it right now – LOTS of really good stuff coming- phase circles galore but priorities………..

AES Expo

I was invited to give a talk for the AES at the Sound Check Expo in Mexico City

This is a big audio trade show in Mexico City. Lots of  levels of gear mixed together: Pro Audio, Music Industry Audio, Guitars, Pianos, Disco lighting , and the most popular event was getting the autograph of a hot young girl singer. I am sorry but I never made it to the front of the line. :-(.

I did a talk for about 1.5 or  hours and it was like giving a speech at the United Nations. There was a faint spanish language echo in the room when I spoke, about 500 ms delayed. It was a translator in a booth at the rear and everybody in the audience was listening on headphones. Wow, this guy was fast – and good, because I even got a few laughs at my jokes. I remember doing a translated seminar once in China. 4 days without a single laugh – until I tripped and fell down on the stage – the crowd loved THAT!   OK back to Mexico. The lecture was very well attended and it was a great honor to have so many people there. We covered alot of interesting topics including subwoofers steering and fun stuff like that. I was told that this was the best attended training session of the convention (about 120 people) and that felt really good. If only I could have gotten the singer girl to join me on stage we would have REALLY filled up the place!

Here are two pics from the seminar. The first one shows me at the podium. I don’t remember the bubbles floating around the room, but you can see them in the picture. The second one shows the view in the room.

AES Sound Check Expo

SIM3 Seminar

 Next on the agenda was Meyer Sound Mexico where we held a SIM3 Training. It was the usual 4 day session, but in Mexico City the sessions are marathons. Typically we go from 10 am to 7pm, but two of the days we went past 9 pm. The Mexico city schools are some of the most interactive of all the schools I do. The students are sendiing up a constant stream of interesting and challenging questions and we cover SO MUCH material. Sometimes the order in which we cover them is a bit crazy, but we cover TONS of topics.

Working with me on this seminar was Oscar Barrientos and Mauricio Ramire(el Magu). These are expert teachers in their own right so it is great to have them to translate and enhance. My typical style, when doing a translated seminar, is to (try) keep my talking short, to make quick switches to the translators. With these guys, because they know the subject so well, they can follow the concepts and even expand on what I say when they move it into Spanish. This helps speed things along alot – because typically a translator has no audio knowledge, does not know the terms, and certainly does not know FFT analysis. (In Korea once we had a translator QUIT at lunch time the 1st day – because she was too humiliated by all the students telling her she was translating all the audio words wrong. A student, Sean Cho, took over the job and saved the seminar).

Most of the students had been to Magu’s and/or Oscar’s training courses before and a few (Eduardo Brewer from Venezuela and Jorge and Juan Carlos Yeppes) had even been to my course before. It is the ultimate honor for me to have engineers return to my course.  The advanced level of the students helped us to move along at a very fast pace.  I am always very grateful about the way i am treated in Mexico. They are SO GOOD to me.

I also had the honor of meeting Luis Pinzon. He is the only person I know with 3 copies of my book – 1st & 2nd edition ingles, and 1st edition espanol. I happily signed all 3 for him. I wish I had brought a Chinese version to give to him. That would have completed the set!  . Luis also gave me his cable checker – which is quite amazing.

I was taken to some really nice restaurants by Antonio Zacarias and also  we went for Tacos to El Charco – which I highly recommend.  Also went to a Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall near Meyer Sound Mexico – I DON’T recommend this place, unless you want to die.  Funny though ….A week later I had Mexican food in China – The Mexican food in China was better than the Chinese food in Mexico, but Mexican in Mexico and Chinese in China worked out the best.

So here are some photos from the Mexico seminar, taken by Eduardo and Hermes. I think I have the names right on the class photo – if not help me out please. Also if you have some others – please send them to me.

Thanks for inviting me to Mexico, and I hope I can come back soon —actually I WILL be back in Mexico this Novemeber – but it  a cruise vacation – so I won’t be working 🙂

Until next time,

Hasta luego y Buena Suerte


Mexico SIM3 Class 2010

6o6 is getting some hands on experienceNow we know who was reading email during class

Yes this is supposed to make sense..........

Magu, Oscar, Paco and 6o6

Eduardo, Magu, Hermes, 6o6, Oscar and the bald guy


Phase Wavelengths: The End Fire Cardioid Array made visible

April 15, 2010

The end fire array is one of the most talked about, even if not the most often implemented of the cardioid subwoofer arrays. It can be a challenge to wrap our heads around how we get the speakers to play leap-frog in the forward direction and demolition derby on the back side. Looking at the speakers from a coverage angle point of view is a non-starter. They are omnidirectional. How do you add 360 degrees and 360 degrees? Easy: A 720 degree speaker (only made by Bose).

Driven by Phase

But seriously, the answer to the end fire behavior is not in the amplitude domain. All of the speakers face the same way, they overlap by a factor of 100%. The spatial picture of the level is only a small factor in the upper range of our interest, 125 Hz, where the speaker has become somewhat directional.

The End Fire defined:

a line array of emitters (in our case: speakers) that are spaced and time-sequenced to provide in-phase addition on the forward side and out-of-phase rejection on the rear. The timing is set to compensate for the diplacement between the sources in the forward direction. The most forward element is delay the most, and sequentially less as we approach the last element.

In our example we will use 4 elements (you can use more or less- more makes it more directional) and space them 1 meter apart. The delay required will be multiples of 2.9ms to sync them in front. The physical setup is found in Fig 1. 

<<<<<< Note: The pictures here will expand to full-size if you click on it. Much easier to see the fine lines>>>>>>

The next thing to view is the individual radiation character of a single element in our frequency range of interest.  The MAPP plots are 1/12 octave, which might seem severe for an omni speaker – but we must use high resolution to see the driving action of phase as we progress. Think about the fact that an octave resolution plot incorporates a 2:1 range of wavelength. In order for us to clearly see the driving effect of phase we can’t have a 2:1 slop factor in the data. What you see in Figs 02,04,& 05  are the decreasing omni nature as we rise in freq. This means that as freq rises we will have both level and phase steering controls. At the bottom only the phase lever will be operational.

The Unfinished Product

Next we look at what could have been. What would the response be if we spaced the elements in a 1m line (facing to the right) without the sequential delay taps. We could call it the End-No-Fire array or the Begin-Fire.  You choose. The reason to do this is to see where the amplitude goes. The answer is: it follows the phase. Let’s look now at the 31 Hz response in Fig 06.  In Fig 06a we see the phase wavelengths laid on to the empty MAPP plot. If the speakers are 100% omnidirectional, this is all y0u need to know to see where the sound will go. The location where the lines cross is where they are in phase. The fronts of the speakers are pointed to the right but by sleight of phase we have magically moved the main lobe up and down.  Fig 6b shows the combined response of the 4 speakers and indeed the strongest sound is heading north and south. The steering is not extreme, however. Why? The answer is in the phase again. The speakers are sequentially only 32 degrees apart (2.9 ms and 31 Hz). The response in the left and right directions don’t fall all the way out of phase – no 180 degree type of differrentials. Therefore the relationship between the elements is more like a lack of cooperation than a serious fight.

As we rise is frequency to 63 Hz (Figs 7a and b) the wavelength is cut in half. The displacement (1 m) is still the same but the pahse shift is now 64 degrees per element. By the 4th element we have reached 192 degrees of phase shift. The 11st and 4th elements are in full conflict. The result can be seen in the squeezing of the sides in favor of up and down. where all 4 elements are 100% in phase.  As we move around the circle (from the top) we can see the lines gradually moving apart. This coincides with the gradual loss of level as we move to the sides.

Next up is 125 Hz (Fig 8a and b). Once again the wavelengths shrink in half. Now we find ourselves with the 4 speakers lapping each other on the sides and spreading out evenly in the corners. The full laps create addition on the sides – mixed with the speakers that are NOT in phase – creating a push/pull situation. This is how side-lobes are built.  On the diagonals we see the deepest cancellations – due to 4 evenly spread arrivals.

The End Fire (with delay)

Now let’s add delay to the array. What happens is that part of the cycle elapses inside the electronics (the delay) and this means that the cycle completes its 1st turn at a shorter distance from the speaker. From then on it turns again at the normal distance relative to its wavelength. In our first look (Fig 9a and b) we will see 31 Hz. The four speakers all arrive in phase at the right side (in front of the speakers). Each travels a different distance, but each has a different electronic head start. The result is the all finish their first lap at the same spot and then go forward from there.

On the back side the electronic head start still applies – but the physical head start is reversed ( is that a butt-start instead?). The result now is that the phase responses fall more quickly apart – such that speakers A and D are 197 degrees apart – big time cancellation. 

The next picture shows 63 Hz (Fig 10). The same thing happens in front but now the back side is spread by more than a full lap. The sides (top and bottom of our screen) gradually fall apart as we move from front to back, creating the incremental steering that concentrated energy forward and rejects it rearward.  The meachanism is laid bare here – where the lines converge is where we see the energy – where they spread we see blue.

By the time we reach 125 Hz (Fig 11) we are turning multiple laps on the back side and even on the sides (hence the side lobes). There is also a small component of directionality of the speakers here.

So hopefully this helps clarify some of the mysteries of the end fire array. Comments or questions are welcome , of course.

I have done similar work on several other cardioid sub arrays and will post those when I can.

Subwoofer Delay Taper (Update 1)

April 6, 2010

Here is a quick preview of my next post.  These plots contain concentric circles. Each represents a wavelength traveled from the speaker at 125 Hz (2.73 meters). The first one shows 7 speakers spaced at 1/2 wavelength (1.37m) and all set to 0 ms delay. The concentric are all the same for the 7 speakers and we can see where the beam will go – the top center, where all the speakers are in phase.  The MAPP plot then shows you the result. We can also see where the nulls will be – the areas where the wavelength rings are spread all over.

The second set is the same speakers, same spacing but with a delay taper of .67 ms per box. So it’s   0.0, 0.67,1.33 …..up to 4.00 ms. At this freq this translates to 0, 30, 60, 90….. up to 180 degrees (30 deg per box). In this case the concentric rings are all different – because the delay sets up a different origin timing. (I will explain this better later – this is just a preview)  Where is the beam going to go?   Well it is just as obvious as the 0ms version eh?

all for now……………………….

Here are the answers to Matt’s question about what happens on the back side. It is a mirror image with the reflection going in the direction if the delay ===> Right.

Phase wavelengths in front and behind the array

MAPP levels front and back with delay taper

Here is the same physical setup (67ms delay taper) at 63 Hz. The DELAY is the same (.67ms per box) but the PHASE shift is different – it was 30 deg per box at 125 Hz. Now it is 15 deg per box at 63 Hz.  It will be 7.5 deg per box at 31.5 Hz – (not done yet).  The concentric circles are rescaled to the 63 Hz size and recentered to the 15 degree increments. ( I will explain that later) Suffice to say – THESE CIRCLES ARE NOT A FEATURE OF MAPP. They are insanely (correct wording) detailed Autocad scaled drawings. There were derived by a simple 2304 step process.

This is a work in progress……….

63 Hz with delay taper

Uncoupled Array Design: Beginnings and Endings (Updated)

March 28, 2010

** Update:  A downloadable version of the calculator to do this work is available (courtesy of Daniel Lundberg). Go to the bottom of this post for preview and instructions. 


When a coupled array is assembled, its operating range is limited primarily by its power capability. Even very large arrays will congeal fairly quickly and once they have joined together let no phase tear them asunder. Wow! Not often that we can work hard-core religion language into speaker array theory (not to say there is not a lot of mysticism out there in line array theory land).  So coupled arrays, once joined, once fully formed will maintain there shape over distance, finally either running (literally) out of air, or into the wall.  

Uncoupled arrays are quite the opposite. They can’t wait to destroy themselves. The battle begins with each speaker owning  its piece or real estate close by, in front of it. As we continue forward we have a happy meeting with the neighboring speaker’s response. They greet with an in-phase handshake and we have a crossover, known as the unity line.  At this point the speakers are working together and the line that runs from speaker center to center (through the crossover) is approximately unity gain. This is exactly what we want to happen – an extended line of unity gain, wider than a single speaker. Ideal for frontfills, underbalconies, parade routes, racetracks and more. This is both a happy beginning AND a happy ending.  How so? The beginning part is obvious, but the ending part…………well what I mean here is that this beginning is the best response we will get. It is all downhill from here as the more distant areas directly in front of each speaker no longer have sole ownership of the coverage. The others speakers are spilling in and they are arriving late. VERY late in acoustic terms. The displacement between the speakers (a factor that is large in an uncoupled array) now creates a very rapidly changing variation of time offsets between the elements. The result is combing that moves rapidly down in frequency and becomes stronger with each step we go deeper into coverage.  

How far can we go before we throw up the white flag and surrender? One could evoke a variety of subjective answers such as: until it sucks, or until I can afford another set of speakers to take over etc., but these are not very satisfying to me. There is a verifiable milestone: three’s company. When we reach the point where the entire length of the coverage line is within the pattern of three sources we have reached full immersion into the combing. Three is a magic number. With three sources arrayed along a line, or an arc it is impossible to find a location that is equidistant to all three. This guarantees two or three arrival times from speakers operating within their coverage  angle. That is the fight I was talking about before. The only way to stop the fight is to drown it out with another much louder speaker – like a mains to take over for your frontfill, or stop it – like a back wall for your underbalconies.  

In my book I go through a set of design calculations for uncoupled line source and point source arrays. The variables are the coverage shape of the speaker (The Forward Aspect Ratio/FAR), the spacing, and the splay angle. From these we can determine where the coverage will start (D unity) and where the coverage should end (D limit). If you know the speaker and where your audience starts, you can determine the spacing, and where you will need to connect to the mains. If you have fixed positions you can get the right speaker model etc.  

An example reference chart using a 80 degree speaker in an uncoupled line source is in the book.  This shows nicely how to solve for this particular model and then one can refer back to the FAR chart to get the angle/FAR conversion for other speakers.  

Uncoupled line source design reference for an 80 degree speaker

Design procedure for the same speakers as above

Another example reference chart uses a 90 degree speaker in an uncoupled point source source in the book.  In this case the splay anglwe variable is added to the equation.  

Design reference for 90 degree speaker in an uncoupled point source array

Design Procedure example for a 90 degree speaker

It is not possible to put an XL file into the book and not practical to give a separate chart for each speaker angle/spacing etc.  but folks that bought the book don’t have a working calculator/spreadsheet that they can go to on their computer so I was in the process of making one for the blog and then Daniel Lundberg contacted me with his calculator based on this same concept. Whereas mine was derived from observing the trends and behiavior of many, many, array interactions, Daniel’s goes to the heart of the trigonometry involved.  

So over the past few days I ran through some different models of speakers athdifferent angles and spacing to check for consistency between a) my published values derived through observation of other speakers at other angles  

b) Daniel Lundberg’s values derived through trigonometry and geometry  

c) what we can see on the MAPP plots now  

The good news is they are all in very close agreement.  The largest discrepancy is in the limit values for the longest range, and even these are relatively close.  

Comparison of observed and mathematically derived values 45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 0 deg splay 45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 4.5 deg splay

45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 9 deg splay 45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 13.5 deg splay

45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 18 deg splay

45 deg speaker with 4m spacing and 22.5 deg splay


Here is what the downloadable version of the calculator to do this work looks like (courtesy of Daniel Lundberg). You can have a copy of it. Free. 

HOWEVER, the security rules of this blog host prohibit me from posting an XL file. 

Therefore, if you want a working copy of this calculator, you will need to send me an email request to If you think this is just a trick to get you on my mailing list…………


Line Array Gain Taper (Breaking the Line II)

March 10, 2010

After Bob Gardam’s comment on Breaking the Line I decided to give a quick go of the hypothetical scenario I had proposed in my reply:

12 boxes,  6 @ 2 degrees @ 0 dB, 3 @ 4 degrees @ -2 dB, 3 @ 8 degrees @ -4 dB.

I made screen dumps of 3 scenarios:

1) 0,-2, -4 dB taper – the system as it would be if operated below limiting

2) 0, 0, -2 dB taper – the system as it would be if the top section only was limiting

3) 0, 0, 0 dB taper – the system as it would be if the whole system was limiting – or if there was no gain tapering

As expected the compression reshapes the HF range most noticeably. The honed agular shape – longer throw for the uppers – becomes rounded so that the relative level in the near areas goes up.  This is most easily seen in the 4 kHz response because there is minimal fingering, but is also present in the 8 k Hz response.

The 1 kHz response carries on the trend in a similar – yet reduced fashion. Notice that the main frontal lobe is barely affected. Waht you see is an increasing bulge in the underside heading toward the near seats.

The 250 Hz response requires a very careful look to spot the changes. Two things are happening. As the taper is reduces by compression the additional coupling of the lower boxes steers the main lobe downward by a whopping 1 degree.  Not exactly a game changer. People who can hear that in their system should check out the products of Acoustic Revive.  The other change is that the beam has narrowed very slightly. This can be seen by the markings I made of the original shape. The mechanism causing the narrowing is the same as the downwaqrd beam steer – increased summation causes both.

So here is your choice – loud HF in the front ALL the time, or only when we drive it limiting. Bear in mind also that the limiting simulated here is a brick wall. Actual limiters will be more forgiving so results in the field would be somewhat LESS than that pictured.



December 18, 2009

LDI  2009

On November 20th and 21st I went to LDI and conducted seminars on (guess what) sound system design and optimization. These were part of a Cirque du Soleil sponsored education program and each session was 2 hours. I find it difficult to cram that subject into a 32 hour seminar so compressing it down to 2 is just too much fun.  Nonetheless we did have two good sessions – the best was the second one where I was joined by Paul Garrity, Matt Ezold (both from Aurbach and Associates) and Bob Barbagallo from Solotech.  All of us have been involved in a large number of the Cirque productions such as the Beatles, Zumanity, Zaia and others. This gave us an opportunity to share our perpectives on how these projects come together. Paul and Matt described their role in translating the artistic vision into a stage, flyspace, lifts and a room while Bob B described the process of taking the macro version down to the minute details of wire terminations etc. I described my role in taking the hundreds of speakers and making them work together to create even coverage over the space. It was an informative day for me, getting a chance to sit back and see what goes on before I am ever brought in to the picture.