Friday, October 18, 2013

Field Trip: L'Acoustics

Today, the grad students and I took a trip up to the L'Acoustics in Oxnard, northwest of LA. L'Acoustics is  one of the premiere loudspeaker manufacturers in the world, but most of us had not gotten a chance to take a good hard listen to their products. Scott Sugden was our contact, and he spent half a day with us, talking about science, theory, and lots of listening.

Our day started with a lecture/discussion about sound and physics. Scott talked about coaxial v. non-coaxial cabinets and how L'Acoustics applies those ideas into their smaller cabinets. From there, he shifted seamlessly into line array theory, including a clear illustration of how line arrays function differently than point-source boxes. Along the way, we listened to most of the product line, including a scrimmage shoot-out between a Kiva array and a Kara array (which both sound pretty damn amazing).

Line Array shootout. Be aware of bleeding ears.

I won't get too wonky here except to say that after taking Bob McCarthy's SIM class last month and Jamie Anderson's SMAART school last year, it was fascinating to hear yet another take on sound systems, measuring, design, and theory. The physics don't change, but focus of attention does.

Thanks to Scott and everyone at L'Acoustics who took care of us and made today happen!  We hope to see you again soon!

Josh, Mark, Kelsi, Matt, Scott, Matt, and Brian.  Thanks, Kelsi, for the branding!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

SIM Seminar with Bob McCarthy

UCI Sound recently hosted Bob McCarthy on campus for a seminar about SIM, Meyer Sound's advanced loudspeaker and sound system measurement tool. The seminar lasted four days, during which McCarthy filled out heads with information, demolished untruths, and taught us how to think more logically and clearly about sound systems.  Of the three faculty/staff in the sound program, I'm the only one who hadn't yet taken this seminar, so I was excited to finally be able to fix that. Bob's presentation was detailed and specific, and while there's no way that I could have retained everything he said (there were people in the class who had taken it three or more times already), I definitely have a stronger understanding about how large systems behave.  

Each of the MFA students at UCI wrote a bit about their own experience in the class. Thanks, Bob & Meyer!

-Vinnie Olivieri 

Matt Glenn:

Two years ago when I entered the MFA program at UCI, I was a stereo or 5.1 kid. I knew nothing of system design—I was a what-comes-before-the-speakers kind of guy. Through the Meyer seminars we've hosted, I've not only grasped the core concepts of speaker system design but system design has become a strong interest of mine. Bob's seminar was an incredibly engaging perspective for me—truly, it alters the way I think about sound.

Bob's seminar presented a large amount of information (and we only covered a small percentage of his book), but what stuck with me was his constant reference to his core concept of linearity in the physics of sound. In a teach-a-man-to-fish kind of way, Bob instilled these concepts so that we could derive the answer to any system design situation. One day, maybe I'll even be quick at it like Bob... but baby steps. On top of the lecture, Bob was also gracious enough to invite us to join him at the Orange County Performing Arts Center (at Segerstrom Hall) as he demonstrated his tuning methods on the [very strange-looking] hall's sound system (see the picture above). It was pretty awesome to watch Bob work, not only to see his quick problem-solving but also to learn from his inter-personal skills when completing a difficult task.

Thank you Bob, thank you Meyer, and thank you Mike, Vinnie and BC for this awesome seminar. I know at least 6dB-intellect more than I knew before.

Josh Fehrmann:

It seems that every year around a week or two before school starts, we have some sort of training seminar.  I have found these siminars to be a wonderful way to shake off the dust from the summer. SIM class was a wonderful experience and shook the hell out of any brain dust that had accumulated. In my two years at UCI, I have had the opportunity to learn a number of tips and tricks of system design and optimization from some of the best in the business.  I am so thankful for the wonderful opportunity and life long lessons I have learned from these Meyer seminars. With SIM class, I finally felt like the puzzle pieces fit together. I am so thankful to Meyer and for Bob for sharing so much wisdom and knowledge. My art can only be made better from these opportunities.

Our four days with Bob were absolutely amazing. I loved that Bob took the time to thoroughly explain his concepts for system design and optimization. It was a great learning environment. In particular, I loved his approach to combining systems. ALWAYS REMEMBER A+B= AB  and AB = “new” A . Our class also had the brilliant opportunity to watch Bob tune a large system at the nearby Segerstrom Hall. This tuning solidified the ideas we were exploring in class. Segerstrom is quite the unique space in that it is completely asymmetrical. The physical make up of the space created some unique “real world” challenges and Bob seized the opportunity to teach us ways to deal with them. I was also reminded of how important interpersonal skills are within our business. Bob is a master at collaboration and it was great to watch him interact with everyone involved. SIM class was a wonderful experience and thanks again to Meyer, Bob, and the people of Segerstrom Hall for allowing us to have had such an amazing opportunity.

Mark Caspary:

Four days with the incredibly knowledgeable Bob McCarthy was yet another spectacular once-in-a-lifetime opportunity made possible by the collaboration of Meyer sound and UCI sound design program. Bob has the ability to take the “vudu” out of sound. Bob explained all of the strange phenomena of sound with data, numbers, ratio and math. He gave us insight into far more then what was on the analyzer screen, by explaining what the sound itself was doing.  Bob's passion and upbeat antics made the drier parts of the seminars interesting and seeing and working with the SIM software and hardware has converted me to the power and specialization that that Meyer’s SIM brings to the “system tuning a optimization” playing field.  

Brian Svoboda:

We were so thankful to have spent this time with Bob courtesy of Meyer Sound.  It's not every day that you have an opportunity to hone your skills alongside one of the top sound system tuners in the world.  Bob effectively condensed several decades of experience into a 4-day seminar that covered everything from fundamentals of system design to system optimization in completely non-ideal environments.  The latter concept was fleshed out by working with Bob in Segerstrom Hall, an architecturally challenging venue with a previously non-optimized Meyer loudspeaker installation.  Observing Bob's professional and interpersonal process surrounding this optimization was fascinating and inspiring.

I was most impressed with his ability to maneuver a sound system "blind":  The data itself tells us so much about what is happening during a tuning.  Knowing how to interpret this data will give you an edge that even sophisticated speaker modeling software cannot provide.  I was equally impressed with his line array tuning process - specifically, the maximization of equal SPL coverage relying much more on positioning and relying less on level shading.

Matt Eckstein:

To say that Bob McCarty wrote the book on sound system design and optimization would be a vast understatement (although he quite literally did write the book).  Having the opportunity to soak in even a fraction of his almost-three-decades-worth of experience was the opportunity of a lifetime, an amazing start to the 2013-2014 academic year, and a perfect way to jump right into graduate school!  We all learned a lot about tuning a sound system from Bob in the classroom, but just as valuable was the experience at Segerstrom Hall, a puzzle of a hall with some very challenging tuning obstacles.

Watching Bob sculpt an optimized system (at times from scratch) using the ratios and concepts we learned in the classroom was thrilling.  Bob relied on the data from the SIM analyzer, and what he knew the sound system should be doing, to tune the hall.  On top of the practical lessons while we were tuning the Claire Trevor Theatre and the Segerstrom Hall systems, watching Bob work with our class at UCI and the union crew at Segerstrom was also a great reminder for me about the importance of communication, teamwork, and humility.  Thanks so much to Bob, Meyer Sound, and UCI for a really inspiring start to graduate studies here at UCI!!

Kelsi Halverson:

As my first activity at UCI, Bob McCarthy's SIM Training class might have been the most intimidating I could have been a part of. My initial reaction: “WHERE AM I? WHAT AM I DOING HERE? CAN I QUIT?”

Let’s be honest: Bob is a certifiable genius. His knowledge regarding all things audio is astounding and inspiring. He answered questions in ways that would make Alex Trebek weep with happiness. His description of proper line array arrangements was one of the most memorable discussions. 

In reality, minds like Mr. McCarthy’s are rare. Coming into graduate school, I know I have a ton to learn amongst people just as smart as Bob. This class helped affirm that I made the right decision coming to UCI. I am so incredibly excited to begin my three-year adventure with this incredible group of artists, friends and support system.  

BC Keller:

This is the 3rd time I've taken the SIM class with Bob McCarthy. Each time I take it, I learn more and more. It's decades of life lessons, condensed into 4 days. It's a lot to absorb. I've been asked, "why keep taking it?"
 Two reasons. 
1) Because I'm still learning new tricks from him. 
2) I want to hear what the students are being taught, so when we run into a situation, I can say, "remember when Bob was talking about...". Reinforcing the class with real world magnifies the learning experience for our students.

This year, we had the added bonus, of a field trip to Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa! It's one thing to see Bob tune a couple of UPJ's in the seminar. It's quite another to see how he puts system after system together in a large, complex venue! At first glance, it seems immense! But watching Bob follow his basic math equation of "A+B=AB, which is now the new A. New A + B = AB, which is the newer A..." Repeat as needed. A big thank you to the folks at Segerstrom Hall for letting us in to observe!

My favorite part of the seminar this year actually happened the week after. Matt G came to me with his slightly re-vamped design for BBAJ. Clearly the lessons hit home. As we learn in the seminar, first part of tuning the system, is picking the right speakers, and putting them in the right places. That way, you aren't wasting time in the space when you actually get to tuning the room. After the SIM Seminar, Matt had a much better understanding of how speakers interact with each other. And I hope, the front fill system will be the better for it!

Thanks again to everyone at Meyer Sound Labs! For the SIM Seminar, for the R&D that went into the development of SIM, for helping to make us better Sound Professionals. Special kudos to Gavin Canaan and Tom Cavnar for all their help. Obviously, to Bob McCarthy, for sharing his knowledge with us. And to John & Helen Meyer, for having an educational branch. And thanks to our UCI folks, who help make it happen as well: Keith Bangs, Ron Cargile, Toby Weiner. And of course, our fabulous Sound Professors, Mike Hooker & Vinnie Olivieri! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Field Trip to QSC Amplifier headquarters

Every fall, I teach a class in the graduate program called 'Trends in Modern Sound Design.' The class is primarily a rotating technical topics class, and one of the things that I try to do every year is take at least one field trip.  Today, we took a short drive into Costa Mesa to visit the QSC headquarters and factory.

Siobhan Lamb, Project Manager for Strategic Programs, met us and gave us a tour of the factory floor. This particular location builds amplifiers and loudspeakers, and Siobhan talked us through the process, precision, quality assurance, inspection, and fabrication details of the amps. We were impressed with the attention to detail that QSC puts into their amplifier lines.  After leaving the amplifier floor, we walked to the next building to visit the loudspeaker manufacturing floor, where the cabinets are built, electronics are installed, and units are tested all in two large rooms.

Siobhan then passed us off to Dale Sandberg, a Senior Project Manager, who gave us a little presentation on the functional design of amplifiers. He talked to us about the different classes of amplifiers (new information for some of us, a review for others) and the advantages/disadvantages of each of them.  Then, in a brief q-and-a session, we got him to open up about QSC's approach to audio-over-ethernet (which is quite different than what some of our other contact have been saying).  

It was a very rewarding day - big thanks go to Siobhan and Dale for putting the visit together, and for everyone at QSC who made time for us!

Josh, Mark, Kelsi, Matt G, Brian, Dale, and Matt E. at the QSC headquarters.