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In this episode of Sound Design Live I’m joined by Advanced Systems Specialist at d&b audiotechnik, Nick Malgieri. We discuss the self-aware PA system and the future of live sound, cardioid subs, and why there’s no polarity switch in d&b amps.
I would like our d&b users to be thinking more about the artistic goal and making adjustments based on what they’re hearing and not getting lost in the science and the measurement and the verification. We’re trying to build a platform that doesn’t require that. And we can just focus on mixing or show.Nick Malgieri
- What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making who are new to sound system design?
- The self-aware PA system and the future of live sound
- If the most destructive part of the signal chain is between the loudspeaker and the listener, then what is the most powerful tool we have to deal with this destruction?What are some specific ways that d&b helps us with directivity?
- Array processing reduces or eliminates the need to measure the PA on site.
- Chris Medders : I’d be curious to hear how accurate he feels the phase prediction feature is when measurement values are precise in the field, and how effective that is for eliminating the need for TF measurements in varying sized rooms.
- From FB
- Chris Tsanjoures What is the best theme for a bar, and why is it Tiki?you seem to do a lot of traveling and consulting. If you think going a different direction than a clients current plan would be best for their situation, what are some of the things that you are able to identify a client needs, without them realizing they need it?
- Christopher Patrick Pou What does a “typical,” mix bus section on any given mixing desk look like in an object mixing-based environment?
- Gabriel Figueroa I’d also like to know why some deployments are not using the desk as the control of the objects and what the pros and cons are of this approach.
- Peter Jørgensen whats the behavior in a endfire sub array with internal cardioid subs, like SL-sub.edit: What happens when you build an end-fire array with a cardioid subwoofer like the SL Sub?
- Johannes Hofmann Whats the minimum distance of a cardioid sub to reflecting surfaces behind the sub to avoid cancellation in the lowend?
- Istvan Kroki KrokaveczWhen will games be available on D40 amps?
- Tomasz Mularczykhighest scores in D80 games
- Benjamin Tan “How does engaging Array Processing change your tuning approach?”
- Michel Harruch: Is there any plan to incorporate polarity inversion for the design of complex subwoofer arrays like gradient or end fire on ArrayCalc?
- alexdanielewicz Why can’t you flip polarity in the d&b ecosystem?
- Robert Kozyra How to identify the problem speaker(s) in a large array hang.
- Daniel Brchrt How do I combine speakers from different series with unmatched phase response, like the T10 and Y7P?
- Sunny Side Up Why have external amplification rather than built in amps?
- Steve Knots what do you think about renting cranes to hang PAs rather than rigging them from truss?Well, I’ve seen photos of big festivals where it’s being done already so I’m curious about the whole thing — safety, rigging for crane lift, stabilizing / aiming the array, and of course security around the crane base to make an un-climbable fence wall type deal. I guess. Seems innovative
- Wessley Stern What is their philosophy with sub/main crossover? It seem to me that they let there subs LPF be much higher than other companies, well above where the main cabs HPF is in most cases, resulting in a lot of LM summation. I really enjoy their systems and the perception this results in.
- Vladimir Jovanovic Subwoofer driver sizes and uses. Is there a trend of releasing 21″ subs? Not just from d&b, but other brands too. Did the needs of events changed to drive this trend? (Pun intended, I know where the doors are) If there is a trend at all.
- Nothing in an audio analyzer tells you how good it sounds.
- I have never found a discrepancy in what the alignment says in ArrayCalc versus what I found on-site.
- Our whole design ethos is little, light, and loud.
- If you’ve done all the alignment in ArrayCalc, we don’t need Smaart.
- We’re trying to do as much of the science as possible for you ahead of time, so that when you get onsite, you can focus on your show and for the vast majority of applications, there’s absolutely no need for a polarity button because we already have cardioid subs.
This transcript was automatically generated. Please let me know if you discover any errors.
I’m Nathan Lively. And today IEM joined by Advanced System specialist at DB Audio Technician. Welcome to Sound Design Live.
How’s it going, Nathan?
Going good. Just for you. I see that there are some special tools here that I have that would really welcome you. That’s the last time I’m going to do that.
Do we need a director to call sound effects on the show or what?
Stage manager. All right, Nick, I definitely want to talk to you about object based mixing and firearmies and combining speakers from different families. But before I do that, after you get a sound system set up, what’s one of your favorite pieces of music to play through? It to get familiar with it.
Actually, the first thing I usually play isn’t music at all. It’s a very simple recording, a very dry recording of a simple snare drum. For me, that’s a great way to check system timing. And when we play with soundscape systems, with emulated room acoustics, it’s a good way to hear the nuances of Reverb tales and stuff like that.
Cool. I would actually like to add that to my list of things. I’ll send you a link near Drum Sounds.
There’s a couple of things. I’ll send you a couple of things. Great.
Okay, so we had a lot of questions come in, so we’ve got a lot of technical topics that people want us to hit. But before we do that, we should talk about career and business stuff for a minute. I wondered if you could take a look at your career so far, Nick, and pull out some lessons that you’ve learned and that have helped you find more of the work that you really love. So what are some of the ideas that you can share with people that might help them look beyond maybe some of the typical front of house, mixed positions that people think of and just maybe some career advice that you have found over the years?
I think probably the first thing I like to tell people is never in my career did I get hired off of a resume submission.
You’re saying that my plan to just make a beautiful looking resume and send it out to everyone and then do no follow up is not a great correct.
Yeah. Not recommended. Every single job offer I got was like a verbal offer off of someone that I knew or met or we knew someone in common and I came as a reference or something. So I’d say as general career advice, just be around people, make friends with people, make connections, find an excuse to visit a company, find an excuse to visit a show site. Maybe you have a friend with an Inn or something, shake hands, make your smiling face known, and just be the person who is on the forefront of their mind when they’re in a last minute scramble and need somebody.
Yeah, that’s a great point. If the audio is based on personal referral, that’s such a great point about staying top of mind. How can you do that in sort of non manipulative and fun way, showing up, being places? Yeah, that’s great. It’s not a recipe, but it is something that is probably the opposite of just me sitting here at home waiting for the phone to ring.
Yeah, absolutely. And don’t forget, there’s a lot of markets in audio other than like, touring front of house engineers.
Tell me about it. What are some things I may have forgotten?
Let’s not forget about the in house gigs, right? In your hometown. There’s a lot of performing art centers, clubs, all that kind of stuff. And there’s a whole other world of audio called installation, which, by the way, was largely unaffected by Kofi. And a lot of people from the touring world just segue right over to installation, and only some of them are going back out on the road now that they’ve gotten used to spending the evenings at home with their families.
Now, is installation a place where I could continue working as a freelancer, or is it mostly employees? And so should I be going and looking at job boards or looking at their websites for openings? How do you recommend I get started with that?
The installation companies are probably more likely to accept, like, a cold call resume if they have an opening, but knowing someone there is still going to be the inside track. And in my perception, there are two kinds of audio installation companies. You have ones that maybe also have a touring division and really specialize in performance audio, and they have staff on hand that are audio ninjas to be able to really do high end systems. Then there’s a lot of installation companies that are really just responding to bid requests, and they’ve got the labor for the physical installation, the rigging and the wire termination and all of that stuff. But they might not do performance audio systems frequently enough to have an audio Ninja on staff. And a lot of those companies are either leaning on manufacturer people like me to come help Commission it, or a freelancer to come in and be their Ninja for that one off gig because the other five gigs are going to be like low voltage alarm systems and camera systems and stuff like that.
Maybe doing a little bit of research could help or at least knowing gain in. Oh, this is a place that focuses on performance, audio or this is not. And then coming into that conversation intelligently. Hey, I know that you guys don’t focus on this, and so I could really bring that to the table and be helpful in that way.
Yeah, that’s right. You can’t just ask for a job. You have to propose your value to somebody. So figure out what they’re missing and what you can provide for that.
Now, when you proposed to your wife, was it similar you’re here is the value. I bring this cow. I have a car.
No, something like that. Right.
Okay, let’s talk about technical stuff. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making who are new to sound system design?
I think the most common mistake always happens on show site, and it’s just poor prioritization on how to manage your day.
Like spending too much time thinking about what’s happening on a Smart trace and not enough time thinking about just having a good physical layout of speakers. Or maybe this isn’t a great time to make noise because I’m pissing off other people who are working in the room. Hey, I’ve got a rigor in the air. I probably shouldn’t be blasting a speaker next to them or just spending too much time tuning a PA and not actually getting to a sound checkpoint, which ultimately is just as important as tuning the PA. Let’s just get it most of the way there. And if we find some time later, we go back and do some touch up.
What is the bad thing that’s going to happen if I don’t prioritize my time correctly?
Yeah. First of all, if you can’t prioritize your time and manage it, you’re going to end up missing meals or something. Then that makes a long day extra hard and unhealthy. So let’s take care of ourselves at some point during the day. Also, you need to be thinking about what’s the content for the show. How am I going to mix it? How am I going to route it all with this kind of stuff? What is the artistic priority as opposed to trying to make a PA perform quote perfectly on a screen?
Now I’m remembering back. I remember you have a pretty good story about prioritization and its relationship with smart. Do you know what story I’m referring to?
Can you tell us about that?
Yeah. I love this story. We’re good friends with the folks over rational acoustics that make the Smart software. And I had a really fun experience when they got a d&bA, and I was going to come out and help them tune it. And first of all, is a little bit of pressure because I use Smart sometimes for tuning. And the last thing I want to do is get caught using it wrong from the people that make the software. And I’m like you guys are going to provide the Smart rigorous. And it showed up. And we had two days allocated for commissioning and training and all of this kind of stuff. And because of scheduling and travel conflicts, day one, I was working with Jamie Anderson from Rational, and on day two was Chris Andrews from Rational. And so two days we got to tune a PA with two separate people that work for the company that makes the tuning software. And I showed up to a very well installed PA. First thing I did is make noise, come out of all the right places, and verify that it’s wired correctly and stuff. And then we had the standoff moment with each other where it was like, So how do you want to do this?
And they looked at me, how do you normally approach this PA? So we started to get into it. We walk in the room making some changes by ear, showing them how rate processing works and this kind of stuff. And after the end of day one, they were like, this is great. Let’s go to dinner. And I realized never once had we looked at Smart. Well, it was sitting there running the mic was there. We just never placed the mic. We never did anything. We never heard something that we needed visual feedback to correct. And so then Jamie leaves. In day two, Chris shows up, and Chris is like, I don’t care what you did with Jamie yesterday. Let’s reset it and do it again. And so we tune the whole PA differently, but in a similar style, using our ear, walking the room, and never once looked at Smart. And it was a really good reaffirming moment to me that even the people that design it, they like to say there’s no such thing as Smarting up here. It’s a tool. Use your judgment, be influenced by the artistic goals of the show and the logistic constraints of your venue.
And Smart is there if you need it.
Yeah, that makes me think that the audio Analyzer. Maybe I should be thinking about it more as a verification tool, as a problem solving tool, unless as a qualitative tool that says, IEM going to tell you what’s good. Nathan, I’m like, okay, all right. Audio Analyzer. You tell me what’s up and I’ll do it.
Yeah. I’ve heard really well measuring Pas that I don’t like the way they sound. And I’ve heard very poorly measuring Pas where the second I push up some channels on my mixer, like, this is great. I love this. So, yeah, nothing in an Analyzer tells you how good it sounds.
Okay. During the last Lifetime Summit, you gave a great presentation called the selfaware PA System and the Future of Live Sound. And if people want to listen to that, they can go to Livesonsum at 2021 Soundslive.com. But a couple of follow up questions about that presentation. If you say that the most destructive part of the signal chain is between the loudspeaker and the listener, then what is the most powerful tool we have to deal with this destruction?
Yeah. And just to clarify that these days, year 2022, we have these pristine signal chains of all digital, high bit rate, low noise floor, virtually zero cross talk. And then the sound leaves the speaker, and we’re still subject to the same pesky physics that we’ve always been subject to, and we can only control so much of that. And that is what is turning into feedback. That’s what turning into intelligibility, lack of impact, all of that stuff. The best tool for us to avoid this primary source of degradation is directivity. The more that our loudspeaker can focus on where we want it and avoid all other directions, reflective surfaces and open microphones, the better the PA is going to sound before we’ve touched an adjustment at all.
And so what are some of the specific ways that d&b helps us with directivity?
On the subwoofer side, it’s all about cardioid subs, not just to cancel sound on the rear at some frequencies, but equally across all frequencies, so that even if you are on the back side of the sub, you’re still getting a proper representation of the frequency response, just quieter. Then we have the SL series line array cabinets, which have side firing low frequency drivers that not only add more energy to the front, but cancel on the back, which is great as you walk off axis one of those rays, all frequencies get attenuated evenly. And then even on point source cabinets, we rely a lot on what we refer to as a dipole, which is two smaller low frequency drivers instead of one larger low frequency driver. And those two smaller low frequency drivers are spaced out in the cabinet so that they create summation directly on access, but cancellation in other directions. Not only do we get good directivity out of the frequencies coming out of the Horn, but we get added directivity of lower frequencies as cool.
Okay, so another thing that you said during that presentation is that array processing reduces or eliminates the need to measure the PA on site. And that connects with one of the questions that came in from Chris Meters, who says, I’d be curious to hear how accurate he feels the phase prediction feature is when measurement values are precise in the field, and how effective it is for eliminating the need for TF measurements in varying size rooms. Funny way to say that. And the subject he didn’t mention there is I think he’s referring to a Ray Calc. Would you agree?
Yes. So it sounds like there’s two questions there. One is about a rate processing, and let’s put a pin in that for a moment. The other one is about the ability to tune your PA quickly and accurately within the software before you’re on site. And to answer the question simply, I have never found a discrepancy in what the alignment says in a Ray calc versus what I found on site. Even when I put up a mic to verify it’s within ten degrees of phase wrap between the subs and the tops and anything there couldn’t be much more perfect. And why would I want it to be more perfect at a specific location anyways? The idea of alignment is to make it work for a larger portion of the audience as possible. And one of the main benefits of using the software to do this is you can very quickly with a couple of mouse clicks, pick multiple points for your measurement microphone, and verify if the timing decision you’ve made translates not only to the 100 level, but also to the 200 level and the 300 level. Whereas if you’re on site with a microphone that just turned into a 45 minutes process just to get the mic from the 100 level to the 200 level to the 300 level, and who’s got time to do that?
When tuning, you load in at eight and sound checks at noon or something. So it allows you to be more informed from the comfort of your home. And as long as your file is accurate to the way the PA is deployed on site, you just push those settings to the amps and then bust out smart if you find yourself with some extra time and energy that day. Now, rate processing is very similar for anybody who doesn’t know. Rate processing is our technology, where each cabinet within the array requires its own DSP, path and amp channel. But this allows every cabinet within the line array to have a different signal sent to it, so that the behavior of the array as a whole matches the geometry of our venue better than we could with just mechanical splay. So this means we need to have an accurately represented array, proper height, proper spray angles, all that kind of stuff. And within the array calculation, we need to make sure we have accurate venue geometry. Then the software can say, okay, now I know the relationship between the PA and your audience areas. Let me optimize myself for perfect spectral response from the front row to the back row.
This does a couple of things. One, it corrects for weird HF peaks and dips and all this stuff. It fixes Farfield HF reduction because of air absorption, and it makes the PA hit a target curve at the listener positions, so it will hit the same target curve in the front row as it does at front of house and at the back row. And if you have a rate processing enabled on other parts of your PA, like delays and sides and 270, all of those parts of the PA are now hitting the same target curve at their respective audience positions. So this way now you don’t have to worry about level matching and spectral matching different parts of your PA, which is the biggest part of measuring the PA. Now you can just say, oh, the whole thing is too much lowmade. I’m going to pull out some 250 Hz and apply it to all parts of the PA. And they’re all going to respond much more similarly than they would without a rate processing.
That’s so cool. And I’ll just add that it is really fun and so powerful to be able to check all those different alignment positions really quickly. If you’re like me and you want to try to calculate the best alignment position ahead of time, and then you do that, and however you do that, then you just have to accept, okay, this is going to work. It’s really nice in a Ray calculator. You can then verify, oh, yeah, this is the right one. Okay, great. And so I like that tool a lot.
Yeah. There’s only one gig I’ve ever had where I really cared about making the whole system align in one specific mic position. And in a previous lifetime, I worked for a rental company out in California that Myers Sound used to hire for their internal events, like their parties and stuff like that. And then my question was always like, Where does John Myers sit? He’s the one whose name is on the check. He’s the one that can hear the difference. Let me make it a line there, and everybody else can just deal with it.
Tell us about the biggest or maybe most painful mistake you’ve made on the job and what happened afterwards.
What’s the old joke? In our business, I’ve screwed up bigger gigs in this one. Expertise. What is it saying? Wisdom comes from expertise, and expertise comes from failure. We can do these one liners all day long, but it’s true. Making the mistake is the way to learn and be a better person. And we’ve all done them. I was working a show. We’re Loading it in. I was working in the doghouse of an analog console, if anybody remembers what those are. And I was pretty pissy. It was a rough day. It was a gig at a winery where we loaded it on grass, and I was trying to figure out how to make this console sit level on a grass embankment next to the stage. It was hot. There’s mosquitoes. I’m just pissy. And the voice behind me, someone on the stage, it’s empty. They’re like, no audience. There’s no artist yet or anything, but his voice is like, how are you? And I was like, this is fucked up. And I just totally went off and just, like, verbal diarrhea on how I was feeling and turned around. And it was the main headliner artist singer of the show, and was like, oh, God, what have I done?
And he ended up being really cool. I hear your brother. This is a hard work environment. Just keep going. I really appreciate it. That was when I turned around who would say something so nice.
He could have been like, who is this guy? Get him out of here.
Totally. And that’s all it takes. Just rub someone the wrong way and he’s thinking about his pressures of performing, and he doesn’t want my negativity involved. And I’m the monitor engineer. So if I’m going to be like that during rehearsal, it’s gain to ruin his vibe. So he could have just said, yeah, get them out of here. And then that’s it. I’m fired. And once that happens, you never get that gig back.
I don’t know if this is great career advice, but a friend and student of mine got a new job once, and it was a really important one for a big, well known company. And I said, hey, I think one of the best things you can do from my experience is to figure out as quickly as possible what things are going to push your buttons and then figure out how to deal with that. Because the worst thing is that it becomes a surprise that’s when it’s really painful is. Yes. All these circumstances. Yes. All this pressure and stress, and then also a surprise, like something falls on your foot or something is late or whatever, things go wrong. And so if you can sort of get ahead of that somehow, man, it can really help because that’s the difference between saying something you really regret to a manager or something, and then you have a whole thing to deal with.
Totally. I feel like one of the best professional advances I’ve made came as a byproduct of moving to the Southern US, where I just had to learn how to keep my mouth shut more than I’m used to. I think people in the south tend to be a little bit more cordial, a little more polite, and they complain in a different way. And that’s been a good career and life skill for me.
Christian Giroud says, what is the best theme for a bar and why is it Tiki?
What are you talking about?
Yeah, one of the things I missed most during the COVID era is hanging out in some town where there’s some trade show like Info.com or name or something, and ending up at Tiki bars with rational acoustics guys. Okay, they love a Tiki bar. I love a Tiki bar. And we need to get back to this trade shows just for the Tiki bar. I couldn’t care less about the trade show. As soon as 05:00 hits and we’re all looking at each other, am I going to get a blue drink or a green drink? That’s what that week is all about.
So Chris says that you seem to do a lot of traveling and consulting, and this question that I’m going to paraphrase, which is basically, how do you handle these situations? Or have you been in a situation where it seems like the client wants something and they’re saying, this is the result that I want, and so here’s how I want to do it. But you know, that’s not going to get them the result.
Yeah, that’s the hardest thing about audio, right? Human beings are visual thinkers and audio is invisible. So everybody has an idea of how to do it, and there’s no real way to prove it. And even your average person might not know how to listen to the PA to know if it was achieved or not. So it’s all about being a bartender and playing psychology and just having good verbal interactions. And there’s a way to advocate for what you think is the right decision without knocking down a client’s request. I think there’s a way to verbalize that there’s a certain approach. Just don’t be the annoying it guy who’s just no, that’s not how it works. You don’t know what you’re talking about. No one wants that kind of audio person. Just speak normally with them and say, So what I’m hearing is repeat what they’re saying. It makes them feel heard and say, how about this? What if we tried an approach to do this and explain in simple terms why you want that approach? And I find it’s really hard for a client to argue with that. It almost makes it feel like it was their idea to approach it the way you want to approach it.
And you’ve told me in the past that a rake out can be a tool to facilitate these discussions. Sometimes it really helps to have a visual element. This is what you want. Here’s how we can do it. What about this? What about that?
Small churches and clubs and venues that want a line array, but it’s too small of a room for a line array? Let’s look at it in a Ray calc. Let’s show you how a line array performs versus a point source, and it will be immediately apparent that there’s a really good discussion there. And if in the end you want to win array whatever it’s your PA, you can buy whatever you want. But at least I advocate for what I think is best.
There’s a bad movie podcast called How Did This Get Made? And I don’t listen to it that often, but it comes to mind in this moment because we’ve all been in music venues all over the world, but even here in Minneapolis, I’ve been into several music venues where the PA does not fit the room. And you’re like, how did this get made? These two big arrays, half of it’s just playing into a balcony and a wall, and it doesn’t seem to fit it’s.
Funny, this is the number one theme of being a support person for d&b Audio Technic, because our whole goal, our whole design ethos is little light and loud. How do we get very high directivity, high bandwidth and high output out of the smallest cabinet possible? And our clever Germans do a pretty good job. Meanwhile, we have people coming and saying, I don’t want that speaker because I don’t think a pair of tens are big enough. Woofers, which used to be the simplest method of evaluating loudspeaker. You have to explain to people, no, you don’t understand. This pair of tens has more low frequency extension than our old speaker that had a 15.
So you’re finding some preconceptions about just things people think about the size of related to power quality. Okay. Christopher Post says what does a typical mix of section on any given mixing does look like when in an object based mixing environment.
So let’s be clear. When you’re using soundscape and object based mixing, there is no master bus in your console. We need different performers, different types of signals to hit that process. Or the processor works is like a summing matrix with the spatialization data and renders that to the PA using delay and level distribution. So then this is a great question. How do you feed the processor from the console? The short answer is there’s no one way, there’s no one way to sound scape. But I could give you a very kind of simple anecdote that represents a lot of projects that I work on. Let’s say it’s a typical band. So maybe Kick, Snare, hat come out of a mono bus and send it to a processor where we can place Kick, Snare, and hat within our mix using a sound object. Then maybe a stereo mix that has all of the Toms and other drums. Those come in as two sound objects, and we can make those Toms big and wide or accurate and sound like they’re coming from the drum set. And then maybe another stereo bus for overheads and chimes and percussion stuff that maybe wants to go wider than the Toms.
Then maybe you have a bass player who has an electric and an acoustic and a Di and a mic, and I don’t know, a foot pedal organ thing or something. All those inputs can come down to a mono bus called Bob the bass player, and then Bob the bass player’s bus comes into a sound object that we control in our one called Bob the bass player, and we can place that where Bob is located might do the same thing for guitars, keyboards, bust them down, but then send them to the processor in a way that represents an individual performer. And then as you get to your money channels, your lead vocals, your pastor Mike, your CEO for the corporate event, those might be post Fader direct out of the console. All your channel strip processing works. Your Fader affects the level of that, but it immediately leaves the console and gets summed in the processor where each singer can have their own sound object. That way, when people sing together, they’re not stepping on each other in the mix. You want to listen to the Alto or the tenor you can DeMask it binaurally just like we do in an acoustic world and retain clarity headroom and require less processing on the channel strip to get it.
Related to this, Gabriel says, I’d also like to know why some deployments are not using the desk as the control of the objects and what the pros and cons are of this approach.
Yeah. So if you have a soundscape system and you’re using an Avid S Six series console or digital SD series console, you can control soundscape natively from within the console. And I know it sounds awesome and it can be your object parameters are being saved within your scenes of a console, and that’s really nice. But for a large venue and we have 100ft of travel where the sound object could be through the mains and maybe sides if you have them. And that 100ft is now represented by a three inch by three inch quad panner on your screen, it’s not as meaningful as you would think.
The scale is off, right?
And we can scale the stuff separately from what the console sends into what the processor receives. But yeah, three inches to represent 100ft is pretty coarse no matter what. So I always tell people, let’s think of it as like a wave control computer. Let’s just have our one running on a touchscreen, hovering right over your console like your wave screen does, and you can just touch the object to move it. You get a full size screen, you can visualize the room better, you can put in a seating chart. So you really know when you’re placing a sound object exactly where it is instead of just placing it in this vague square on the console.
Peter Jorgensen says, what happens when you build an infrastructure with a cardioid subwoofer like the SL sub?
Yeah, I’ve done it with the SL sub and other subs and from other manufacturers subs, because I’m not just a DB guy, I’m also just a sound guy. It works well. It’s cool. You don’t have to make an end fire out of omnidirectional subs and you can mock this up in a Ray calc. There’s this myth out there that you can’t do in fire Subaru in a Ray calc. You most surely can. It will automatically calculate your delay times for you as well. And if you want to learn more, send an email to [email protected] and we’ll show you how to do it. But to answer the question, we have some cabinets that are cardioid by themselves and then we put them into an end fire. And of course it depends on your spacing and the number of cabinets within the array and the delay times, etcetera. Etcetera. But essentially it turns it into hypercardiot. And I did it. I do a gig every year at the Monterey Jazz Festival and I run the main stage there and I do an end fire of cardioid subs. And the reason is twofold one, it’s a wooden stage that resonates.
I think it’s right at 78 Hz. Oh, wow. Yeah. And it rolls pretty slow. It used to be years ago, the stage would hear the feedback long before front of house did, and they would just hit the call button on calm. And if I was at front of house and saw that call button lighting up, I would just immediately pull the subs back because I knew it was coming. And so when we put ourselves in an NFL array, it allows me to change the delay times so that I can take that 78 Hz null and point it directly at center state, so that it’s really trying to cancel that one frequency in that one direction to stop the stage from resonating. And that feedback. And the second reason I do it on that gig is because I don’t have anywhere else to put the subwoofers. So it’s a win win in that I can’t stack them high because it blocks sight lines. I can’t do them horizontally across the front because their VIP section would be like their knees would be touching the subs and they wouldn’t be very happy about that. So they have to be up on the deck, but only one high.
And so then putting one in front of the other is the only way to make them fit.
All right. Johannes Hoffman says, what’s the minimum distance of a cardioid sub to reflecting services behind the sub to avoid cancellation in the low end?
Yeah, this is a really common question, and I totally get where it comes from, because when you have a speaker firing in the back of the subwoofer, it seems like it needs some breathing space. And it does, but not as much as you’d think you can. Actually all the d&b cardioid subs, they have the casters on the backside, so you flip it up to roll it. So then when it’s lying down, the casters point backwards and I just tell people push it all the way up to to the casters touch the wall. It only needs that four to six inches that the caster represents.
However, most people don’t realize when you have a cardioid sub, you really need to maintain 2ft of open space to either side. It actually needs more space on the sides than it does in the back. And that’s because we need the sound to wrap around the sides to interact properly between the rear driver and front drivers. So, for example, we see people all the time that might have, like, an SL sub, but they’ve decided to place it up on end so it’s higher. Maybe that’s because they want to put a front fill on top of it or something, and it works and you can do it, but it eliminates one path length around one side of that cabinet because the side is now obscured by the ground. And undoes a whole bunch of the cardioid effect and it ends up turning into kind of like a loose cardioid.
We don’t want loose, we want tight.
That’s right. In a breakout, you can select between an SL sub and an SL sub upright, and you can look at how that affects the rear rejection.
Okay, Eston says when will games be available on D 40 amp? So this is news to me. Apparently there are games on some amps, but not on other amps. Tell me about that.
Yeah, all d&b amplifiers have games built in, and you should know that if you perform a firmware update on a d&b amplifier, it will reset all the settings, as you would expect with a firmware update except for its IP settings. So it doesn’t reset the network card, which is very convenient. And it also does not reset your high scores in the games. Critical and even the really old amps had simple games. Then we came out with the fancy four channel amps with the color touchscreen and the games got way better. And now we have this brand new amp platform that I suspect will eventually get the games. But to be honest, our software team has been working really hard making all of the audio features work correctly in the brand new amps, and I would rather they prioritize that than the games at the moment.
So Thomas wants to know the highest scores in the D 80 games, and I’m guessing these amps don’t report back to you and you don’t have a list, but I think we were talking about how it would be fun to have a leaderboard so we could see self reported who has the highest scores.
Yeah, or log it within our one, since you’re already on the network with your computer so you can have your own list, you don’t have to go back to the amp to find your high score reported back to Dbau.com, so we can keep track of who’s winning the games. We also get a feature request quite often that people want to be able to play multiplayer games across the network on front panels amp so the stage right fly guy can play against the stage left fly guy during the show.
Benjamin Tan says how does engaging array processing change your tuning approach?
It’s all part of the PA performing nicely and more like each other. So even if we have a main hang of 24 GSL and a side hang of twelve V, those are voiced to the similar target curve. So I don’t really have to worry about matching curves, even though they’re different box counts, display angles and box type and all that. And it’s doing things like mostly or completely fixing the kind of HF peaks you get right down in the front row underneath the line Ray, that kind of Fresnel effect. It gets rid of that. Which, by the way, really resolves feedback issues. If you have an artist that ever goes out on a thrust in front of the PA. It fixes the HF absorption issue in the back rows, so I don’t really have to worry about tuning for that. At the end of the day, I just need to voice the PA overall for whatever my overall mix is going for. We already have controls, like a coupling filter is what we call it in our one where we can change kind of the overall voicing of lows to highs. Do you want a flat response or do you want the case stacked low end for a lot of power?
And we can just make those broad adjustments and then maybe put in an EQ filter or two, depending on what I’m feeling, what I’m hearing, and you’re done. And if you’ve done all the alignment and Raycock, we don’t need smart soundscape systems are similar. This is why I talked about the self aware PA on the soundscape. The processor knows where every loudspeaker is located and how it’s pointed, and so it times itself. You never enter a delay time into a soundscape system. It realigns itself based on where you want the sound to come from. So I would like our d&b users to be thinking more about the artistic goal and making adjustments based on what they’re hearing and not getting lost in the science and the measurement and the verification. We’re trying to build a platform that doesn’t require that, and we can just focus on mixing our show.
Yeah, that’s cool. It sounds like there’s this idea of letting the computer do what computers are good at, and let’s have the humans do the creative decisions that the humans are good at.
I love it.
Michelle or Michael says, is there any plan to incorporate polarity inversion for the design of complex subwoofer arrays like Gradient or In Fire into a Ray calc? And they are expressing this sort of surprise that I remember having as well the first few times working with d&b systems and realizing, oh wait, there’s no way to insert a polarity inversion. But referencing back to the clever Germans, there must be a reason for excluding this.
Yeah, we don’t have a polarity button. The amplifiers and the filters available to you within our one do play with polarity as needed to get the behavior we want out of the cabinet. And this is a contentious issue. We’re used to having a Polarity button. And why would a high end manufacturer like d&b just take that feature away? And in general, this kind of comes back to this ethos that I just described, where we’re trying to do all of as much of the science as possible for you ahead of time so that when you get on site, you can focus on your show. And for the vast majority of applications, there’s absolutely no need for a polarity button because we already have cardioid subs, we already have full broadband connectivity. We already have all these benefits built into the PA, as is and we all know a lot of sound engineers that can dig themselves a whole pretty quick by hitting polarity buttons and not entirely knowing what they’re doing. With that being said, I do recognize there are kind of niche setups where this would be handy. And if you want this as a feature, please don’t be shy.
Send us an email [email protected] And what would be really helpful is if we could understand what you’re trying to achieve that requires you to need the polarity button because we’re really good at trying to figure out what you’re really asking for and if there’s a set up that you want that’s common. Maybe we would think about just building an amp preset or something to achieve it so that you don’t have to know how to use the priority buttons and it just works. But either way, we’d love to hear from you. The feature requests are always welcome [email protected]
Robert Kazeera says how to identify the problem speakers in a large array hang. He’s referencing a feature in DB where it has some self verification built in. And he also told me later about sometimes he had maybe trouble where he felt like maybe some of the speakers were not making true reports because maybe there’s a reflection because they were too close to the ground. But anyway, maybe you could start by just talking about this self verification feature that is built in.
Yeah. Another excuse why you might not need a measurement Mike. So when we go online with our d&b system, with our one talking to the amplifiers, or even without our one, you can do this. Through the front panel of the amplifier, there’s a function called system check, and this will send almost inaudible low tones and completely inaudible high frequency sounds to the speakers. The amplifier then measures the return impedance and will graph out the impedance measurement of low frequency and of high frequency and of a rear firing driver or a midrange of that cabinet to verify that all of the drivers are operating as a circuit correctly. So this tells us that something is plugged in. It tells us if there’s a broken wire, it tells us if there’s a blown voice coil, all this kind of stuff, and it makes it very quick and easy without making any noise to verify that every speaker is performing electronically up to speed. Now this doesn’t test for things like torn cone or a cabinet rattle or that kind of stuff, but we’re going to get there once we start making noise. So we run system check that verifies the electronic circuits.
Then with vertical line arrays and sometimes other types of arrays, we run a test called array verification, which is just about the most clever thing I’ve ever heard of because we designed the system in a way calc and opened that same project. And R one now knows what amp channel is supposed to be driving which cabinet within our line array, and it initiates a test process where the amp channels, one at a time, will make a low level kind of noise. And while this is happening, it uses all of the adjacent loudspeakers within the array of microphones.
That’s cool, right?
And so by the time it runs this whole test, which takes 1020 seconds for a large array, it will tell you if your line array is wired the same way it expected it to be wired based on how you built your file. And with technologies like array processing, if we had a pair of cables swapped within our fan out, this could have horrendous and unpredictable results. So making sure that every box in the array is actually fed by the right DSP channel is crucially important. So not only will it tell you if it’s patched wrong, it will tell you how it’s patched wrong, which cables are plugged into the wrong cabinet. But what this user is referring to is we have seen times where people run this test before the pace at trim height, which is floating right off the ground. And some of those bottom cabinets are basically firing right into the floor. And this can create reflections, which throws off the test. And in my experience, it’s only happened with J series. There’s something about the LF sensitivities of that box that make it have this issue. And as soon as you take it, like more than 6ft off the ground, then you can run the test without that reflective for being an issue.
Daniel says, how do I combine speakers from different series with unmatched phase response, like the T Ten and the Y seven P? And he sent me a couple of measurements, and I was like, I wonder if those are correct. And I looked them up on the d&b site, and they were, yeah, talk about combining speakers from different families and different series.
Yeah. There are manufacturers that when they come out with a new generation of loudspeaker, they adopt a new phase profile. And this makes it hard to incorporate newer systems and legacy systems into the same PA. Our approach is to try to keep that phase plot as consistent as possible. Over the years, even when we came out with newer apps that are more highly capable, processing wise, we didn’t take that opportunity and just change the phase response to existing speakers. We wanted it, but J series on a D 80 new fancy amp to be exactly the same as a J series on the old two channel amps. We lock in that performance and make it consistent across the world across the decades. And mixing most d&b loudspeakers works really well right out of the box with complementary phase profiles. Now, there are exceptions. The Tseries is a great one. The T series has a very unique acoustic mechanism that affects its phase profile. And here’s how this works. So the T series for everybody doesn’t know it’s a small speaker, and it’s convertible between a point source and a linear box. And it has a rotatable Horn that doesn’t just turn the dispersion on its side.
It actually changes the way the Horn interacts with a secondary acoustic lens, which you can see on the front grille. You see these kind of stripes, this different perforation hole pattern on the front grille. And behind that front grille is a multilayered grill. And these metal perforated metal grill stuff. Multilayered actually affects path length of high frequencies. So when we turn the Horn and it changes the way the HF dispersion interacts with the secondary perforated metal mechanism, it changes the path length, the high frequency, and changes the curvature of the wavefront. So a point source speaker radiates an outward rounded wavefront. And when a Tseries is in a point source mode, it’s 90 X 50, I think. And then when we turn the Horn and we turn the cabinet, it’s now 105 degrees wide by a proportional vertical directivity with a flattened wavefront appropriate for a line source. And the way this works is because of this perforated metal slowing down HF frequencies by extending their path length, which is why the HF phase profile of a Tseries changes depending on the mode it’s in as a byproduct of this mechanical system. And yes, we do have the ability to change it with fancy technology that’s in all these amplifiers apply some Fr filters, all pass filters, all this stuff.
But it would incur latency. So now we have part of our PA at a different latency than the rest of the PA. And it would make Tseries on new amps be different than T series on old amps, which is not something that we want to introduce to our users. So people ask me all the time, though, this is such a cool thing, how come you don’t do this Tseries rotating a Horn perforated metal thing on all the speakers? And now you know why there is a downside. And it works well for a small speaker like a T series.
But that’s not something we want in our Stadium PA. And I remember you saying that in the rare occasion that you would need to combine these two speakers, you just need to make a choice, right?
Yeah. So what part of the frequency bandwidth do you want to have it be aligned? Do you want it for good LF steering and the kind of low, mid and lows want to be perfectly aligned? Or is the T there? For Intelligibility, people commonly use a single T series in the line array mode as a high powered front fill. And in that case, we really care about the HF. So let’s make the HF part of the frequency response align better for alignment with our main system. So, yeah, you make a choice. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and audio. And if you want, like a cool feature like point source to line array, which is highly valuable for small, mid sized rental companies. Then you got to give something else up on the other end. In this case, it’s a non complimentary phase profile.
Yeah, and I’m sure there were conversations on the production side before anything ever happened where they’re like, okay, if we do this, then we’ll have this consequence. And they said it’ll be worth it.
And that’s just another reason why d&b makes 100 different models about speakers, so that you can pick and choose these trade offs as needed for your application, Sunny says.
Why have external amplification rather than built in amps?
Sure. The timeless debate. I see strengths both ways. I used to work for a rental company, a couple, actually, that only had self powered speakers. And from an inventory management point of view, it’s perfect because you never have to think about I’m sending this many speakers, and so how many amps do I need? And every speaker is an amp. So problem solved. Send them out. Don’t have to think about it. On the other hand, if you’re a rental company, it’s a lot more expensive to have an amplifier for every speaker, whereas a lot of rental companies have enough amps to run the A system or the B system, but they never have to run them at the same time so they can buy half as many amps. So there’s that stuff from the commercial side. Then from the technical side, of course, having an amp and a speaker makes it way more. And the question is, do you want that weight in the air? Do you want it on the ground? And amps do fail from time to time. When that failure happens, do you want it in the air? Do you want it on the ground?
Being able to hot swap an amp without having to bring in a rigor or lift is pretty valuable. So there are positives and negatives both ways. I like having one type of cable go up to the array instead of signal amp power. I like having the electronics down on the ground where I can monitor them more easily and troubleshoot them more easily. I like having a lighter array so I can get away with using less rigging and all of that stuff. The roof can only support so much or whatever. So having a light array allows me to use the array I want, not the array I can hang. So that’s easy for me to say. I work for d&b.
And one interesting point I hadn’t thought of before that I remember you telling me about is that if the amp weighs more than the rigging also is going to weigh more because it has to be higher rated to be able to carry heavier weight. And so it’s not just this increase in the weight, but also then the whole thing goes up.
Let’s say we have a really big line array, a maximum hang of 24 boxes. And Germany decided actually for this crossover, we have to use this coil of wire instead of this coil of wire. And the coil wire they want to use is £2 heavier. Not only is the box £2 heavier, but the array is now £48 heavier. And because the array is £48 heavier, the rigging has to be upsized to hold 48 more pounds. But not just the rigging at the top box where the extra £48 happens. But every box has the same rigging, so every box has to have Upsized rigging to hold 48 more pounds. That Upsize rigging now also added 48 more pounds, which means the rigging has to be upsized again to hold an additional 40. Everything is interconnected. So literally every ounce we can shave off of a speaker means £100 in the end or something. Maybe that’s exaggerated, but it’s not just an individual box. It’s quite a lot in the amp. Then at an additional £20 per box is a pretty massive hurdle.
So my friend Steve Knott says, what do you think about renting cranes to hang PA rather than rigging them from Truss? And I said, what specifically do you want to know about? And he said, I’ve seen photos of big festivals where it’s being done already. So I’m curious about the whole thing. Safety rigging for crane lift, stabilizing, aiming the array, and of course, security around the crane base. To make an unclimable sense, wall type deal seems innovative.
I love it. It’s not new either. Doing this for years before line of rays. Even like all rigging, as long as it’s done safely by a qualified and experienced professional, I think it’s wonderful. Personally, I think cranes are a little ugly, so the aesthetic of a giant yellow tractor isn’t my favorite show business aesthetic, but it certainly has logistical benefits. It’s a lot cheaper than paying a crew to come build a tower. I’ve done a lot of outdoor shows where the PA really needed to be in a place that was not conducive to rigging, like on a slope. And with a crane, you can rig it and then drive the crane into position or turn the crane into position. So that’s a huge benefit and it can be totally safe. I strongly suggest at night, between days on site, you bring it in and touch the PA to the ground just in case there was a hydraulic failure. At some point when you’re not there. A lot of times these hydraulic systems, they can have a very slow week and a regular operator wouldn’t notice because a regular operator doesn’t use the crane that just holds something in the air for four days straight, but it can slowly droop.
So let’s be aware of some things like that. But yeah, have a great time. Also, driving cranes and forklifts and lifts is just super fun.
Speaking of driving forklifts, I know you have used an NSL Five, I believe. Can you talk about that for a second.
The MSL Ten.
Msl Ten. These giant Meyer sound speakers.
Yeah, I don’t know. Myers an old company, so I don’t even know if I’d call it an early Myer Speaker, but they’re long gone at this point. But they were so large, a single MSL Ten barely fits into a 53 foot truck like it clears with a couple inches on either side. That’s how large this giant array speaker is. And it was brilliant in that they built slots for Forks from a forklift into the speaker. So you drive the Forks into the speaker. It’s now rigid on the Forks. You pull it out of the truck, you drive it in a position, you take it up in the air, and you turn off the forklift. Congratulations. You’re raised Hong. From logistics point of view, it was amazing. The sound quality could probably be debated. It’s still innovative for the time.
Believe it or not, the first place that I worked for when I moved to the Bay Area had some. They got them second hand somewhere from someone else.
Right. Good times. The last time I was using them was like the amplification for NASCAR, where it’s really about vocal band blunt force SPL. It’s not exactly a nuanced show, and they want it cheap, so being able to rig it without a single hand or crew person helps that be a cheaper installation. It was a great fit for that.
Okay. Wesley Stern, what is their philosophy with main sub crossover? It seems to me that they let their subs low pass filter be much higher than other companies, well above where the main cabs high pass filter is, in most cases resulting in a lot of low midstymation. I really enjoy their systems and the perception this results in.
So he likes that bump in the crossover range. It’s a bit of a misnomer out there that d&b doesn’t allow you to mess with the crossover. We do, but in limited ways. We don’t allow you to actually visualize or just the slopes, but we give you buttons that allow you to tailor the crossover point. And this user is right in that the subs generally go higher in frequency response than most users prefer. We leave it available to you if that’s your approach. But depending on the subwoofer model, it will either have a button called 100 Hz or it will have a button called Infra. Both of these, they lower that low pass filter to cut out some of the upper base. 100 Hz is approximately 100 Hz. Infra is closer to 70 Hz, but changes based on the capabilities of that subwoofer so that you can throttle down the frequency response of that sub and let it focus on the real low stuff, which is more common these days. And Conversely, all of the high mid boxes have a button called Cut, which is a low cut, and it moves up the high pass to cut out some of the well end response at the top.
And between these two buttons, we have four options on how to run this crossover. We can have summation in the crossover point for additional power. We can carve it out to have a little bit less magnitude in the crossover point because maybe we just feel like it’s muddy in that room or with that mix or any combination thereof, and we just toggle the buttons until we like how it sounds. And we have confidence that we haven’t skewed the phase response or made some kind of other compromise because the predetermined friendly buttons that are still compatible and you don’t have to think about it.
Vladimir says subwoofer drive sizes and Uses Is there a trend of releasing 21 in subs, not just from DB, but other brands, too? Did the needs of events change to drive this trend?
I don’t think the needs of the events have changed, but DB has gone to generally larger drivers’than we did in the past, and this is because I think it’s less about the needs of the act and more about the capabilities of the speakers. That’s the thing that’s changed when we had the J series, the kind of gold standard d&b large format PA the tops could go down to. I think it was like 90 Hz or something. Then we had a J sub that was 318s and a J infra that was 321s. A lot of people ran the systems without 21s because the three by 18s with enough low end. Personally, I think once you hear one of these big PA with even just a single infra, it’s hard to use it without because that extra low stuff really feels good. But the reason why there were two models of subs was because the 18 inch drivers could go fast and be high impact, but they couldn’t go very low, whereas the 21s could go really low, but they couldn’t go fast and be high impact. And what’s changed is voice coil technology, particularly with the SL series.
That whole voice coil magnet structure is really reengineered and requires a higher voltage to the voice coil, which the d&b amps are capable of providing. And all of this, in turn, allows the main speaker that goes down to 45 Hz. So we got rid of the upper base requirements out of the Subaru and allowed a 21 inch driver that now has full power even at full excursion, which means as that speaker pushes out, it still has full power to get pulled back to its neutral position as quickly as possible. So now the 21 inch driver can go faster, like an 18 with higher impact, which allows us to be like, oh, the 21 can now do the upper base and the lower base with more impact than the J series could do total. This is a huge win. Let’s go with the 21s. So now that SL sub with 321s not only has the same frequency response as a J sub and a J infra put together, but has almost identical SPL output as a JCB and a junk put together, but weighs less than a J infra by itself.
Okay, so there were some rumblings on Facebook. It seemed like there were a couple of people who are like something about they don’t like d&b phase response and they’re like something about it makes them upset. And our assessment of that is maybe this trend in the market towards flatlines magnitude response phase response. And so I just wanted to give you the floor on that for a minute to maybe address what you think are some of these preconceptions.
Yeah, I think we’ve seen a big marketing push from some manufacturers who are making their face response quote more linear. That is to be like more of a flat line without wraps in the phase response. And DB is not doing this. We’re not into it. We don’t like it. The reason there is we don’t really believe that you’re hearing much of a difference. In the end, we think it’s more of a visual improvement than a Sonic improvement. And there’s no such thing as a free lunch and audio. So just because we can preemptively mess up the signal in exactly the opposite way that the speaker is going to mess it up doesn’t mean we get that for free and doesn’t mean that we don’t incur other side effects in the process. And the main obvious one when it comes to fixing phase response is latency. I think Meyer has a really cool product called the Blue Horn that has a very flat phase response on like 50 Hz or something. And it’s very cool. But as a necessary compromise there, that speaker takes 50 milliseconds for sound to come out 50, right? Chris from Rationale says, yeah, if you want the base to come out the same as the high frequency, you need to think of it like a restaurant.
If the high frequency is your entree, the midrange is your appetizer and the base is your cocktail, you can have them all at once. You just need the kitchen to keep your cocktail and keep your appetizer until the entree is ready. And so same thing with F IR filters and fixing phase. Right? We need to make the high frequency wait, and then we need to make that mid frequency wait until the low frequency is ready to come out of that frame, and then we can align it. And then you end up with 50 milliseconds of latency, which for Bluehorn is totally fine because that is a post production studio environment product where latency isn’t an issue because it’s all playback. A concert, on the other hand, is a different story. That Snare drum already stopped by the time 50 milliseconds goes by. Maybe there’s situations where you could argue that’s, okay, and that latency is still good, but it does come back to my earlier point to the d&b amps have all the ability to make flat phase response right now as is and we could fix it. It takes one of our DSP people like 5 minutes.
It’s not hard. But then that speaker on a D 80 will sound different than the same speaker on an old D twelve and the world of change. And in the end, we don’t really think. We think if we did two versions of the same speaker and we AB them. One had flat phase response, the other one didn’t that you wouldn’t pick the right one if asked to in a blind test.
Nick, where is the best place for people to keep up with you and follow your work?
You can find me on social Nick makes it louder on Instagram, see some pictures of some d&b rigs, a whole bunch of soundscape systems. Otherwise, feel free to send me an email. You can send an email to support us at Dbaudio and just say hey Nick, I had a question about that thing you were talking about or tell me more about this. Anybody anywhere in the world can send an email to [email protected] tell them where you live. That email will get sent to your local support team in your time zone in your native language. Also we have a ton of tutorial [email protected] Everything from software use to wreaking and hey come and say Hi see me at a trade show if those ever start up in postcode come say Hi otherwise you’d be on the internet bar. Yeah. If you bring up the Tiki bar thing to me at a trade show there’s a good chance you’ll end up drinking Tiki drinks on the d&b credit card.
Well, Nick mail. Jerry, thank you so much for joining me on Sound Design Live.
Thanks, Nathan. So much fun.