Thursday, March 31, 2011

SIM Seminar - Day 2

We started the day with Bob explaining how to use SIM3 to dissect an individual speaker, without knowing anything about the speaker beforehand.The 1st task was to find the crossover point between the HF and LF drivers. We moved the mic in front of the HF driver on a UPJ-1P that Meyer had supplied to use for demos, and then looked at the SIM3 screen. You could clearly see a change in the phase response right beneath 2kHz, at the point where the HF driver was handing the power over to the LF driver. What did the data sheet from Meyer say? 2kHz.

Was this such an easy thing to do with a non-Meyer speaker? Luckily Bob had thought of this question and had asked UCI if would provide a few other speakers for us to test. We pulled out an EAW JF-80 that was removed from a class room system because it was nearing the end of its service life (read: completely trashed), and asked Bob to give it a shot. Here is the result:

The first noticeable thing is the two huge dips at 2kHz and 12kHz. We can see a clear cross over point at 2kHz (the point where there is that huge dip). This speaker has definitely seen better days. This is what EAW says their speaker should look like:

This also brings us to the dip at 12kHz, what is going on there? The original frequency response from EAW shows a slight drop at 12k but nothing like what the SIM3 shows. Bob thinks that the HF driver's polarity is probably reversed from the low drivers, but I think that the HF driver just needs to be replaced, especially knowing what this speaker has been through in its life. Either way this speaker needs have some love given to it, or just scrapped all together.

Since we also have a few JF60s, which are the baby brother to the JF80, I asked to test one of those as well to see if they would fare better. This was kind of a given, since I knew the horrible things that have been done to the JF80, but I wanted to see a successful dissection of a non-Meyer speaker. Here is the trace from the JF60:

And here is what the frequency response is supposed to look like:

Notice that the frequency responses are similar (except in the very high end) and the phase response is relatively acceptable. Based on the phase slope we can see that the crossover point is somewhere between 2-3kHz, which is roughly what we would expect (I haven't been able to find a spec from EAW). Even Bob said he thinks that this is an agreeable speaker.

The rest of the day we spent focused on learning about frequency arrival time. We learned that speakers have an easier time moving the higher frequencies in their range because of their mass. You can see this in the JF60 above. It easy for that JF60 to put out 8kHz, but as it gets lower it gets more and more difficult. Around 2kHz the speaker is multiple wavelengths behind 8kHz. This makes it easy to see why we can look at a phase response and determine where a crossover point is. We just have to look and see at what point the HF driver cannot put out the frequencies in time, and has to hand the work over to the LF driver. We can also use this data to create our own perfectly in-phase crossover, say between a subwoofer and full range speaker.

We also talked about how impulse response works. Bob showed us that the impulse graph has a higher/sharper peak for high frequencies and a lower but longer result for low frequencies. So if you are aligning a subwoofer to a full range system you need to look at the point that the low end enters your microphone, not just when the HF peak happens.

At this moment I realized why some people have said that both Bob's systems, and Meyer speakers sound "bright." It isn't that their speakers are bright, it is really that every frequency arrives at the listener in proper time, creating a phase-coherent sound system. I know that the systems I have tuned in the past has definitely not been phase coherent. I have aligned my subwoofer to the point where 8000kHz reaches the listener, and not where 100Hz does. So 100Hz from the subwoofer arrives a few ms before 100Hz arrives from the main system, making the entire system sound darker than it should.

Since I am sure that I am not the only person has created phase-incoherent systems before, in fact I would venture to say that most sound systems are phase-incoherent, I would propose that we, as designers and mixers, have been compensating by changing our source material to be brighter. Then when this source material gets transferred onto a phase coherent system it sounds totally different. I would propose then that Bob's systems are not bright at all, they are correct, and that most other sound systems are the ones that should be fixed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SIM Seminar - Day One

Today was the first of four days of SIM-3/System Design training here at UCI. There were many of people in the class this year - 16 total - including 7 from UCI: Jeff, Beth, Noelle, Patricia, Stephen, Tim and BC. We are honored to have Bob McCarthy here teaching the class and grateful to Mac Johnson of Meyer Sound for the opportunity.

Here are some photos:

Monday, March 28, 2011

a pic from the past

We (mostly) miss having Palmer around! Things are much quieter now. Here's one from the photo vaults:
photo credit: Drew Dalzell

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NYC update: a week of previews are wrapped!

After a long week of work, HIGH is out of tech and firmly in previews. Performances are going well, and I'm looking forward to a day off tomorrow (during which I'll catch up on some UCI work).

In addition to teching the show, there were some additional highlights this week:
* being able to invite Sinan Zafar, one of our undergraduate sound designers, to sit in on tech for an evening.
* spending some time with Sten Severson and David Thomas, part of the design team on The Motherfucker With the Hat, which is in previews next door.

Tonight, after our preview, I'm headed uptown to catch Freud's Last Session, which is running off-Broadway and was designed by Beth Lake, one of our second-year grad students. And enjoy a nice dinner.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

UCI gets SMAART v.7

We are now academic partners with Rational Acoustics - the cool people that produce the SMAART sound analysis and measurement software. If you haven't tried v.7 yet - it is amazing. You can run multiple simultaneous transfer functions. There is also automatic, real-time delay finder adjustment (how great is that!) as well as an averaging trace.

We have a special agreement with the folks at RA that allows us to put SMAART on all of our lab, measurement, and playback computers. We'll try and post pics of v.7 in action soon. We're a bit busy installing it at the moment...

We also plan on hosting SMAART training seminars here at UCI starting with the first one in the fall. Details will be posted here when the dates are settled.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zot Zot Zot!

The UCI mascot is the anteater. Also, the sound of the UCI anteater is 'zot.' Also, Edward Hopper is a great artist. Also, this:

I'm reminded of Palmer Jankens.

Announcing the MFA class of 2014!

We are immensely pleased and proud to announce our next incoming class of MFA sound designers. Matt Glenn and Josh Fehrmann have accepted our offers and will be starting at UCI this fall.

Josh is currently at Sam Houston State University in Houston, TX. Among his recent achievements he won the 2011 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival - Barbizon Award for Outstanding Sound Design for his design and composition work on Dead Man's Cell Phone at SHSU (as well as being entered in the KCACTF national competition). You can find out more about Josh at his website:

Matt hails from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where he is finishing his degree in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance with a focus in Sound Engineering. (Someday soon he will send us bio info and a photo and I can remove this stolen placeholder content!) You can find out more about Matt at his website:

We are sure you will seeing and hearing a lot more from these incredibly talented designers.

Photos from Tim's Thesis Critique

For those of you who don't know, in our program we have a moderated public critique session for all MFA thesis sound designs. We invite a professional designer to take part and provide this invaluable response for the capstone design of each designer's tenure. It's a whole day affair starting with lunch, a walk-thru of the design, attending a performance, and then a public critique.

For Tim's show we brought in Robbin Broad. Robbin is currently Principal Media Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering -- if you've been to any Disney park in Asia or visited California Adventure you have likely heard her work. She is also a very prominent regional designer - having designed at La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, Kirk Douglas Theatre, as well as hundreds of local designs. Also present at this critique were Nephelie Andonyadis (costume respondent), Caitlin Cisek (MFA costume thesis), Rob Salas (MFA directing thesis), and Bart DeLorenzo (directing respondent). The show was MARY STUART by Friedrich Stiller and was presented in the Robert Cohen Theatre. We are honored to have Robbin's support for this and the other events in which she has taken part in.

We are also proud of Tim's amazing work on this and all of his shows here at UCI. The next phase of his thesis completion and pending graduation will involve a juried paper or related digital project.

(photo credits: BC Keller, Noelle Hoffman)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


What does this have to do with sound, you ask? Nothing - other than two composers and sound geeks who slurp and talk shop. Perhaps at the core, a good ramen is like a perfectly engineered mix - everything 'in the pocket' as we like to say. A crappy bowl is like hearing that one bad snare hit or reed squawk and you're puking, right? Don't you dare mention those freeze-dried packets of hell that grocery stores so flippantly call ramen.

I admit I have a terrible addiction... far worse than any recreational drug. I crave ramen. Ramen, you ask? Why yes, says I. After having spent 5 months of my life living in Tokyo (spread out over 27 trips) I developed quite a taste for the stuff - often leading to late night treks to the local ramen-ya. The stress of having the mouse as a boss led me to it - you try getting stuck on a boat for 2 hours with "it's a small world" looping once every 47 seconds. You would take the train for 20 miles every night, too.

Now, here's the freaky part: Orange County is home to some ultra-authentic, relapse-inducing, and ridiculously soul-satisfying bowls of heavenly noodles. I'm not kidding when I say it is as good here as it is in Japan. Yep... seemingly soul-less OC has repented. I also now have an anteater for a boss - and it's not as desperate a situation.

Over the past year, I've found a kindred spirit in fellow CTSA faculty member, Alan Terricciano. He's a serious foodie and we both suffer from major withdrawal if we don't honor our tradition of Friday noodle slurping. Ramen Quest is what we call it. Here is the best of what we have found (in my order, not necessarily Alan's):

1. Santouka. 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, 92626. Nestled deep inside the Mitsuwa Japanese Market off of Bristol on Paularino. Look for the long line. My favorite, hands-down, is the shio (salt ramen) with cha-shu pork. The pork is pork-belly that has been simmered until unrecognizable and dissolves in your mouth. The broth is rich with just a hint of oil on top (it keeps the noodles from sticking). Get there right at 11:30 to beat the rush. The order and pickup counter is brusk and militaristic: kind of what I imagine a McDonalds deep inside an eastern-block communist nation would have been like. But they have awesome plastic demo food in a showcase.

2. Ajisen. 2700 Alton Parkway, Irvine, 92606. Located inside the Diamond Jamboree Mall at the corner of Alton and Jamboree. Their broth is ridiculous - it has been simmered so long that the proteins break down into a milky white color. My favorite is the Curry Beef Ramen. It is the most aromatic soup I have ever experienced - but the amount of curry taste is just right. Comforting. My second favorite is the Pork Ribs Ramen. It has big chunks of meat with magic little nubs of cartilage that has been simmered to the point they turn gelatinous. The service is authentically bad, though - just like in Tokyo the waiters are simply a conduit from the kitchen to your table and things come out in meaningless order.

3. Shin Sen Gumi. 18315 Brookhurst, Fountain Valley 92708. A little hard to find inside the Fountain Valley Promenade since it doesn't face the street. This is the place to quell the most persnickety and finicky eaters -- you can order your ramen as if you are ordering a new BMW. There is a list of options: broth strength, noodle firmness, amount of oil, along with a list of toppings. Amazing! They will also top off your broth with fresh noodles for $1. By far, the best noodles of all the OC ramen-yas.

4. Kohryu. 891 Baker St. #B21, Costa Mesa, 92626. A new favorite. Spicy Miso Ramen is where it is at. They deep fry green onions which gives the broth an almost french onion soup taste. Just the perfect amount of heat - with that slow and warm after-burn. Haphazard service here, too... it goes with the territory.

The quest is not over... more to come as we expand our circle of yum.

Monday, March 21, 2011


As you all know, last quarter, a near and dear member of our team, a workhorse in our department, a member who has reliably served us for a few years now, ceased working. Poor little Crackle. Tirelessly playing back audio files. Sitting quietly in tech and performances. Waiting to play his favorite track of the show. He finally gave up. Couldn't do it any more.

We were all worried for his health. Would he breath life into a thesis show? Can he be the guy who helps the first years with their UCI Design Debut? Would we get our sound effects library back up back?

It was not looking good.

But! Last week! There was a turn for the good.

It was discovered that his heart was still good! Little Crackle went in for a exoskeletal transplant! It was a tricky procedure. There was some rehab time, while the wounds healed. And I am happy to report that Crackle is back to life, 100%, and looking quite stylish in his new brushed aluminum threads!

To add happiness to joy, we learn that Crackle found true love! Yes! While convalescing, there she was, across the ward, he spotted Kashi, and it was love at first site.

The pundits said it would never work. He is a Hitachi, she is a Seagate. He is 350 GB, she is 500 GB. But here they are, together at last. Don't they make a cute couple!

Joe is outta' here!

Joe Wilbur has successfully completed his thesis defense and is officially an Alum! The sheer scope and subsequent roller coaster ride approached that of a PhD dissertation -- but I am proud to say it was all worth it -- and that he has produced a masterful thesis with all due merit, pomp & circumstance. Three cheers...!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Every spring, a group of undergrads studying (mostly) music theatre converge on NYC for a month of intensive coursework, masterclasses, and workshops with the music theatre community. Led by Professor Myrona Delaney, this is a great opportunity for some talented undergrads to get an intense taste of NYC.

This year, one of our talented undergraduate sound designers, Sinan Zafar, is part of this group of NYC students. He arrived today, and tonight, he and I are going to meet up (along with a couple of other students) for a welc0me-to-NYC dinner. Three cheers for UCI in NYC!

Friday, March 18, 2011

UCI to host Meyer SIM-3 Training and System Design seminar

From Tuesday, March 29 through Friday. April 1, 2011 we will be hosting a Meyer advanced seminar in sound system design and optimization using the SIM-3 analyzer.  As taken from the Meyer website:

This in-depth seminar provides participants with a thorough theoretical and operational understanding of source independent measurement and a solid grounding in application of SIM analysis in the design of complex audio systems. The seminar gives a brief review of SIM theory and system development, followed by a comprehensive discussion of field use procedures for the SIM 3 audio analyzer. The seminar then extends the foundation of SIM measurement into sound system design. Participants will look at the complex interactions of loudspeakers in a variety of configurations and acoustical environments from the standpoints of phase, frequency and impulse responses.

The class will be led by industry leader and expert, Bob McCarthy.  Bob is author of "Sound Systems: Design and Optimization - Modern Techniques and Tools for Sound System Design and Alignment" (2nd ed., Focal Press, 2010 - ISBN 0240521560).

There is still room left for this seminar.  This is only the second time for this session to be held in Orange County and we are honored to have been chosen as the host again.  It will be held onstage in the Claire Trevor Theatre here on the UCI Campus.  Ask anyone who has taken this seminar and they will undoubtedly tell you how immensely valuable it is.

For more information on the SIM-3 system:

To register for this event:

Here are some pics from the last time we hosted this seminar:

UCI Prof. V. Olivieri heads to Broadway with High

I'm writing to you from a rehearsal hall in NYC, where I'm attending final run-throughs of High, starring Kathleen Turner.  We tech on Monday, preview at the end of next week, and open in mid-April.

Here's a link to an article on playbill.

And another at BroadwayWorld.


USITT video

Here are some videos from the Guerilla Sound Challenge at the USITT conference in Charlotte North Carolina.  There were an exceptional number of participants this year.  I made a short video introducing them all:

Two of the participants are connected to UCI: Tim Brown '11 partnered with incoming student Josh Fehrmann to take the challenge as a team.  Here's their design:


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome to our blog!

Hello and welcome to the UCI Sound Design blog!

This blog will be a place for current students and designers to post their on-going work.  It will be a glimpse into the lives of the students, and shows at UC-Irvine. 

Coming soon will be a post and pictures from our upcoming SIM Training and System Design Seminar presented by Meyer Sound!