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Day 242 - Jan 20 - Cincinnati Show Day

Good Morning Sunshine's! For the last two days I have been deeply involved in doing whole bunch of not much at all. Decided to turn the TV on got bombarded with puzzling stories of people losing kids and finding them again, the racially polarizing quagmire of Lacrosse players and strippers and our bumblefuck of a president stumbling though his job much the same way he does with his words. I did enjoy the unexpected news that oil consumption by the industrialized world has dropped a smidge and is the first decrease in 20 years. High prices being the most likely cause. The bad news is that now the price will drop again and the natural human trait of self serving recklessness will most likely once again take over the decision process of the bulk masses and oil demand will rise again. Though all is not for naught as the price spike has triggered an irreversible trend of awareness and for the first time, low emission vehicle are hip and cool rather than tree hugger extremist. I want an electric car that is super quite, smooth and does not make a poison gas that will kill me if I leave my car running while parked in the garage.

**** Ponderings ****

While I am on the subject of tree hugging extremists, I am not one but I do try to be a human that makes an effort to minimize negative ecological impact. One of my quirky projects that I have been following for many years is that I do not purchase anything that utilizes non-rechargeable batteries. I make very few exceptions with smoke detectors and things that keep time and require a battery once every several years. I hate throw away batteries, poisonous chemical cylinders that sometimes last just a few days in the item intended combined with no organized global or national strategy whatsoever to recycle or minimize use. For the few legacy items I own that do take regular batteries, I use rechargeable's and there are a few things that I just have to make the concession. I had an interesting realization as well and that was that most things that I really use and depend on like my cell phone, laptop and camera, all come with rechargeable's and stuff that utilizes throw away batteries is usually the junk that ends up in the trash not long after the first 5 packs of batteries anyway. With toys and stuff for the kids it is a bit tougher but I explained it to them and they get it and they see the parallel between the items that are short lived and dependence on throw away batteries.

**** End Ponderings ****

Wandering around the hotel I heard voices. Not an unusual thing to hear except these were coming from inside the elevator shaft. Being the investigative and curious person I am I followed them pressing buttons to various floors until,way at the top, look what I found

There were humans putting metal wire ropes inside the elevator shaft. Plus the elevator was hanging from a big hook. Yikes! I ride them 'vators but it is a lot lees comforting seeing the guts. I just hope they put all them wires in the right spots. I actually was once in an elevator that 'fell' once. Luckily it was only a 6 foot drop before it slammed into the ground and stopped but it scared the shit out me as I was truly expecting it to go upwards slowly rather than downwards super fast. It was quite a while ago and we had loaded what I now believe to be "too much sound equipment" into it. Pressed the button, doors close and blam, this big spring comes down though the roof my body aches from smashing into a speaker box. I climbed on top of the elevator roof, opened the doors and we actually unloaded all the gear through the elevator roof. I do not recall if the elevator started working or if we just carried everything up the stairs after that.

Indian food with Scott, a trip to the pool

Some wanderings earlier

It is still a bit rough and need some clarifying but here is a draft

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Line Arrays - Fad or Future

I get asked a lot of sound questions. Some are aimed at unraveling an understanding of a particular function, feature or concept while others are directed toward distilling my opinion on certain pieces of gear, methods or industry trends. The difference between the two query types is that there are relatively 'correct' answers to the former and the answers to the latter are just opinions that tend to be un provable. The answer to the question I was recently asked "Are line arrays truly better and here to stay or just the latest fad?" lays somewhere in between the two. Just in case you have been sleeping for a decade or are not a sound industry human, line arrays have taken the pro-touring industry over by storm. Nearly every manufacturer offers several line array choices and of the two manufacturers that I know of that do not offer them in their product line, both have been forced to take defensive vocal positions justifying why they do not. So, what is it about line arrays anyway that has positioned them to so completely dominate our industry? Stepping back and taking look, I see that there are several aspects that are quite clear and a one in particular that is not so apparent but the most important of all.

The method or design implemented by the various modern large scale sound systems can be subdivided into two primary approaches. First and quite common are systems that I will call cellular or zonal in the way they cover the audience. Zonal coverage refers to forming a cluster of directional speakers and dividing the audience area into many smaller zones or cells and then dedicating a speaker to providing sound for each particular cell. Each speaker box then can be EQ' ed and volume adjusted to provide proper sound for the humans in it's coverage pattern. With this type of system setup, the overlaps between the box to box coverage patterns is crucial and of much concern. The goal and challenge of the system designer and tech setting up the system is to achieve seamless sonic transitions between the cells, which is no easy task. Another challenge with a cellular coverage sound systems is attempting to adequately cover areas at extended distances.

The second concept of coverage I will refer to as summed or combined. Summed coverage is the attempt to get multiple speakers to add together and act as a single larger speaker. The coverage pattern of this giant speaker would then be adjusted to cover the room by varying the angles between the boxes much the same way as the cellular approach. The big challenge with the summed approach is getting perfect cooperation between the various speakers, typically by getting them the speakers close enough together in order to minimize them acting as separate sources. Sub woofer arrays are almost always implemented in a summed array.

The key difference between the two methods is that cellular approach is based on minimizing the overlap between the coverage patterns and the summed approach relies on overlapping so well that they act as single large source. Well designed versions of both approaches try to avoid having a listener hear two acoustically separate sources that are in close proximity to each other that are also not equidistant from the listener. Why, you ask? Well, mainly because non-equidistant sound sources tend to sound bad and creates comb-filtering that reduces output levels and screws up the frequency response.

Sound, like everything else in life, is never black and white and exists only in varying levels of gray and the reality is that all real world concert sound systems exhibit varying degrees of both approaches. High frequencies are naturally beamy and lean toward zonal coverage and the low frequencies inherently tend toward combined coverage. The techniques that sound system designers implement to push the various sound systems toward zonal or or summed coverage patterns is quite interesting and ultimately a key factor in the clarity and sonic consistency of the system created. Just for good measure, I will give a few examples of common systems and my perception of the design approach behind their creation. Nexo's Alpha system, ElectroVoice's X-Array and Turbosound's Flashlight and Aspect systems are all excellent examples of zonal systems. Much effort was put into those designs in order to achieve distinct and consistent vertical and horizontal coverage projected from each individual box. The building block for these zonal systems is usually a relatively few speakers in each box that are mounted on some sort of horn to assist with pattern control. The boxes are then aimed to optimizes covering the acoustic space while minimizing sonic overlaps.

The summed-output system approach, until recently was considerably less wide spread with the Clair Bros S-4 system, the Rat Trap 5 and to some degree perhaps the Showco Prism systems being recognizable examples* . These systems tended to rely on boxes with quite a few speakers in each box that are in relatively close proximity to each other allowing them to unify their outputs and allow multiple boxes to begin to act as a single giant speaker. These systems inherently by design have overlapping coverage from multiple drivers even within each individual box. An issue with these systems is created by the physical spaces between the speakers themselves that cause the components to act like multiple sources creating box to box overlaps and comb filtering and inconsistencies in coverage patterns.

Then in the mid 90's along comes the V-Dosc line array, a fully summed-output approach sound system that for the first time on a major scale, incorporated the high frequency component in the summing. Line arrays are not new, the old Shure Vocal master with a stack of 10" speakers inside is a old example. Take a close look at a Clair S-4 and you can see that the 18"s and 10"s form vertical line arrays when stacked and check out the Grateful Dead's Wall of Sound which had vertical line arrays for nearly every instrument.

So getting back to the original question of "Are line arrays truly better and here to stay or just the latest fad?" Let's take a look at couple of things that make line arrays an interesting and useful implementation of the summed approach. Though I have heard it described different ways and even read various manufactures' press releases arguing about 'who describes it correctly,' for all practical purposes they are all saying that a well designed line array system offers improved volume level consistency vs distance when compared to a zonal type coverage system. Now whether you prefer to envision it in the 'cylindrical waveform' description offered by the folks at L'Acoustics or you just think of it of "as you get farther away the sound naturally gets quieter but since there are a higher quantity of equidistant speakers pointed at you so the volume drop with distance is somewhat counteracted." The fact that a line array system can be set up to project sound over short or long distances merely by altering the angles between the boxes is quite useful.

Another feature that the slender line array systems offer is their narrow profile is quite easily intermingled with the exceedingly growing stage sets. People want to see what people want to see and it tends not to be the sound system, except for a few of us, and having the ability to slide a large scale system into the small gap between a few video walls or set pieces is a strong asset. Plus, the relatively simple two dimensional rigging that only deals with vertical adjustments not only allows for a high degree of predictability, it also is fairly easy to get motor points for hanging in most venues. The fact that line arrays are simple, practical and predictable gives them a real world implementation advantage over systems the require multiple precisely spaced motor points to provide proper venue coverage.

But you know what, even with all those useful and apparent assets, none of them truly give line arrays a hands down advantage. Zonal systems can deal with volume consistency over distance by implementing long throw boxes and utilizing volume shading to compensate and project louder sound to the far away areas. Compact high volume zonal systems can be incorporated into well thought out set designs and even be flown behind new modern video walls that allow sound to pass through. Well designed rigging systems that allow zonal PA's to be flown and rotated and adjusted are and perhaps someday even by remote control, either in existence or not far off. Finally, sonic prediction software is not unique to line arrays and the realty is that the playing field is fairly even from a technical standpoint, except for one thing and it has nothing to do with the sound system or it the cleverness of its designer.

That thing is us. We are humans and like many critters that run around this planet here we have ears and also like many critters, our ears are on the sides of head. The physical and biological placement of our hearing devices allows us an extremely astute and accurate ability to discern the precise horizontal positioning of sound sources and the approximate vertical positioning of sound sources. Does it not make sense that a two legged walker of a human would require an increased sensitivity in auditory perception in the horizontal plane where most of the food to hunt for and predators hunting us would exist? Even our necks are designed with a limited vertical range of motion and a much wider horizontal rotation and at any given moment we are turing our heads or bodies sweeping the horizontal auditory plane. We enjoy things in stereo, we place the stereo speakers spaced apart horizontally to maximize the effect, have you ever seen heard or wondered why stereo speakers are not placed vertically? In some apartments and houses it would sure make sense logistically. Have you ever tried to stack a line array on it's side? It is quite interesting as it typically does not sound very good. For those of you pondering in your mind about L'Acoustics ARC's, Kudo's and other manufacturers horizontally arrayable products, take a close look and you will find that there are strict angles between boxes when horizontally arrayed that minimizes overlaps in HF coverage and they are set to merge the coverage patterns. Hey, wait a minute, isn't that a zonal system? Exactly, and for many applications zonal systems are optimum but when you need to focus a tremendous amount of sonic energy in a particular direction, there are distinct advantages to forming a giant and controllable unified sound source vs a cluster of tiny separate and directional sound sources.

So here is the deal as I see it. With current loud speaker technology it is necessary to utilize multiple speakers in order to cover a large venues, as no one makes a single loud speaker that is loud enough, sounds great and is versatile enough to cover 10's of thousands of people in a wide range of venues. These multiple speakers need to be arranged in some sort of configuration vertically, horizontally, both or maybe someday one behind the other. Currently, we can get speakers to sum together quite well but not perfectly. Our ears are very sensitive to those imperfections in the horizontal domain and our ears are considerably less sensitive to those same imperfections in the vertical domain. Therefore, the true design advantage that line array's posses is that they take advantage of the human deficiencies in vertical hearing by keeping the currently unavoidable imperfections in the plane where we are least likely to perceive them and provide little or no component to component imperfections where our hearing is most sensitive. In other words, it is all about offering the human listening ear a single source in the horizontal domain which a line array does by design and a horizontally splayed zonal system struggles to achieve. Combine that with the fact that they hang nicely like a string of beads and I will venture to say that line arrays may just be a bit more than the latest fad and more likely a structural building block to the sonic future of large scale sound systems.

* The actual components and configuration of Showco's Prism system is kept 'secret,' so it is my opinion based on mixing on the system and it's sonic characteristics that lead me to believe that it is based on a summed-output type design.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

The done being nerdy for a bit,

Dave Rat


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Mike Benonis on :

Thanks for the thoughts on line-array speakers. With reference to batteries, do you use any battery operated devices for the tour (like wireless equipment), and do you use rechargeables for those too? If so, how reliable have the rechargeables been?

Dave Rat on :

Yes we do and we have had mixed results with rechargeables. We converted all the in ear pack over and the techs use power supplies whenever possible. Turns out that there is an issue with using rechargeables in our "In ear" belt pack. The rechargeables are a bit less voltage and so we get a bit less volume out of them with the lower voltage. Unfortunately, it was enough of a volume drop to where it was an issue. Currently the band is on throw away batteries and the techs are all on rechargeables. We do save the half dead show batteries though and re use them on other things. I would love to see more headway made in tour recycling and I try and do my part and inspire others to the same when possible.

Don on :

Overloading lifts in old buildings is a game i used to play as well when trying to be smart and speed up the loadin/out. Learned quickly to only play the overload game when there was a duplicate lift as those old TMS3 and were a bit of a handfull on the stairs :-) and lets not talk about having to remove all the modules from the desk hand them out of the lift and get back to the shop to build the spare frame, *the night the lift got stuck with the A1 control gear inside* and we had a back to back show day schedule. Now everyone has desks we could borrow and do a 48:8:2 mix on with a bit of cajoling but back then large format touring desks/sound companies were a bit of a novelty. I look forward to reading the final copy of future or fad when it reaches the doormat or is it the inbox for the destination journal ? stay well and don't lose too much stuff. D

sarah on :

dave, check out , you can offset all your carbon emissions, its pretty cool, if your environmentally concerned! hope all is good with you!

Monique on :

Wow--great article. I have no knowledge of this stuff and you made it very easy to understand. I know this is a draft but great job. As a Technical Writer offering friendly advice, I want to tell you not to forget to "change your 'it's' to 'its' before you submit" ;) My favorite TW mantra :P

Some Rick on :

Environmentalism is hubris. The earth, planet, solar system doesnt care what it looks like, whether the air is just smog, whether we dump 200 tonnes of oil into the ocean. She does'nt care about baby seals, cancer, or Sars. Doesnt care if oil costs $50 a barrel or $290 a barrel... that you think "rechargable" batterys are better... We have a survival instinct, and so did the the Anchiceratops and the Amtosaurus in the salad days of dinosuars. Oh, whats the use.

Dave Rat on :

Though your comment may contain a level of correctness in that the term "care" when applied to geological entities, could be seen as frivolous, there is more to the picture than the narrow vision of the 'universal perspective' that you have taken. Your comment projects the impression that you personally are un effected by the quality and healthiness of the environment that you live. And just as the house that you live in does not care whether you choose to use the toilet or crap in your bed, it is the human(s) that occupy that space that end up being effected by carelessness and disregard for the area in which they reside. My personal feeling is that while a person can take the 'universal perspective' as their viewpoint in which to analyze the earth and that is a valid viewpoint and important component to forming a useful life opinion, I also believe that to ignore the 'global perspective' and 'personal perspective" leaves one with an incomplete perspective and there is a high probobility that failing to take the other angles in to account will leave your "life navigating toolbox" a few wrenches short. For example, one could say that human beings are irrelevant from a 'universal perspective' because we are but a useless blip in the grand universe of all things. One could also argue that humans are a terrible things from a 'global viewpoint' in that we humans destroy or alter in a selfish way just about everything we touch. Thirdly one could validly state that humans are the most wondrous and beautiful things in existence from a 'personal perspective' in that the feeling of love and interaction with other humans brings a a feeling of euphoria like no other and that from our 'personal human perspective' we are naturally the most important thing to us. I personally try to take all three perspectives into account before forming an opinion that effects how I live my life and the choices I make. My opinion on environmentalism is the same as my opinion is on using the toilet in my house and doing my best to keep the place that I and others occupy in a livable and healthy state. Hence my efforts minimize my negative impact on my home home the planet home. On the unfortunate and realist side of things, I feel that it is inevitable that we humans will breed till we overload the planet to a point of misery. I feel that is pretty much a given, and just as the fact that the house that I live in will not last forever is no excuse for me not to keep it clean and livable, the fact that humans will most likely mess this planet up to a point of severe deterioration at some point, does not change the fact that making an effort to keep it clean and healthy will make it a more livable place for us, our children and those with which we share the planet with, in the mean time.

Some Rick on :

Men say they know many things; But lo! they have taken wings -- The arts and sciences, And a thousand appliances; The winds that blows Is all that anybody knows. . .. Henry David Thoreau

Dave Rat on :

Well, Henry may have said many things with pretty words. And just like Henry's words allude to knowing, no one knows. But there are varying degrees of probability from which we can and do guide our decisions. From your post, you seem to accept that there there is a mess. Your post presents the opinion that there is little relevancy in making an effort minimize the mess. Hmmmm. For one to personally follow that theory without hypocricy could lead to a very messy life.

Some Rick on :

I do fully accept there is a mess. A beutiful mess. The folly of man is the belief that he can "manage" nature. Thats hubris. I do not take your remark "messy life" as an Ad Hominem directed at me; life is messy. I have solar panels on my roof because I love the Sun and it turns me on. I ride my bike because I love the simplicity of it and the independance and freedom of it. Just my choices. I have some friends who cant seem to have a good time without burning fuel, jetskis, motorbikes, cars, boats, rock shows, frivilous air travel etc. To each his own. What really gets me though is when people think they have the "answers" and can "manage" nature and they have a "plan" Whilst nature is a fickle master. /rant. I've got coal/oil stocks to trade.

Dave Rat on :

I am not sure whether anyone one is truly credible enough to state what "the folly of man" truly is. Nor am I convinced that the somewhat obscure statement "can not manage nature" has any meaning beyond a personal expression of a feeling of helplessness. I too prefer non motorized sports for my adventures and I combine the things I desire to do with a regard for the damage it may cause to the surroundings. I make concessions accordingly as I believe we all do. But whether we are helpless or not to an inevitable progression, that does not alter in my mind that we each make a personal choice about whether we accelerate environmental deterioration or attempt to reduce our human impact. As far as "Environmentalism is Hubris" and the definition of Hubris being Hubris or hybris (Greek ?ß???), according to its modern usage, is exaggerated self pride or self-confidence, often resulting in fatal retribution. In Ancient Greek hubris referred to actions taken in order to shame the victim, thereby making oneself seem superior. Do you truly believe that environmentalism is just something people do to shame others and it has no useful place in our existence? Whether it is reducing toxins dumped in to rivers or not leaving your trash at the beach, the difference that these environmental actions make is quite tangible, at least in the short term of the life span of a human. It is hard for me to comprehend a perspective that perceives me making an effort to reduce the toxic trash I am leave in the world as purely an effort to shame others.

Anonymous on :

I am not convinced that the credibility test be required when bringing up the "folly of man" in that history - even revisionist history - abounds with ready examples of humam folly, indeed, folly is a work in progress... The belief that man "cannot manage nature" is not a state of "helplessness" but is, more correctly, a state of awareness. I am refering to mental capacity not a general functioning level... a 1% change in element #53 in the thyroid gland could render a human a babbling idiot... Do I believe that environmentists are in the business of shaming others? Pretty much, yes. I bag them with the other crusaders... My experience has been that the best "environmentalists" are low key, by definition, in fact... Im going to continue cause my browers acts up CONT...

Some Rick on :

where was I... Im not indicating that you are shaming people in your personal campaign to use recyclable batteries but in the grand scheme of things that you retain elements 48,28,3 (Cd, Ni, Li) and "recharge" them with coal (usually) is your business. If someone buys/consumes (depletes, electrically) soem other alkali metal scheme is their business. You will argue that the disposal is "bad for the planet" but that has no foundation in science. You move some elements around. I can provide you with a compelling reason to use disposable batteries... but I will leave decisions up to you. Lets not confuse a lack of common courtesy and manners (picking up, etc) with wanton disregard for the environment. That takes place at a corporate level... /rant. Cheers Dave Rat, and thanks for your contribution to the internets. Good stuff.

Dave Rat on :

I quoted "The folly of man" not "folly of man." The statement "The folly of man is the belief that he can manage nature," feels out of focus with my experience in life. Perhaps if it was "one of many follies of man" it would be and an opinion that does not seem as off base, depending on the perspective taken. Looking at this from the rechargeable battery perspective that started this enjoyable debate and perhaps science and "bad for planet" and more in line with my intent of "throw-away batteries are perhaps not as optimum for living things like animals and humans and plants as rechargeables are" I did a quick internet search on the disposable battery subject and found this web page and it seems to align a bit with the earthy realistic down home perspective I take on reducing the mess we humans make. If I dump a quart of motor oil on my lawn, there will be a spot where no grass grows, if I dump it in the garden, I will have less area for edible food to grow. My simple point is that for every rechargeable battery, you could perhaps save 100 or 1000 throw away batteries. Both the rechargeable and throw aways need to be inintially charged so the argument of coal is the same for both whther you charge 1000 throw-away's or one rechargeable 1000 times. The diference is the residue of 1000 metal caustic cells vs one when all is said and done. Not to mention the manufaturing waste and trucking etc of a 1000 cells vs 1. Sure there are these huge external universal viewpoints that make our actions irrelevant, but that still does not make dumping oil in my garden a good idea or even an "it does not matter anyway" action. I am not a crusader, I am mearly a simple observer of intersting things and someone who avoids boredom by finding fun and what I try to be mostly non destructive adventures. And those are what I am sharing with anyone whom wishes to join me in this open blogumentary. I can't fix the world, nor do I try. But if I see something that is really dumb, funny or I think may be interesting or helpful, hey, why not point it out?

Andre' Petrus on :

Hey Rat! Dude i dont know if you remember me but i met you on 1/22/07 in Raleigh,,,,I was that kid that was hangin out with Scott......oh yea and the one that was with you and those girls! haha that was seriously one of the greatest times of my, scott, leif....all you guys are so awesome......And what you guys do is amazing......Maybe one day ill be workin along side with you guys............thanks so much for lettin me hang with you guys.....and hopefully ill see you guys again...... Andre' Petrus....

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