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The Mighty Headphone Quest Part 3

The listening test. Since the goal here is to find some headphones that are flat and accurate for live engineers to use as a reference point, lets consider a few factors.

1) Most sound live sound consoles have fairly generic headphone amps so for me to test with some fancy headphone amp would not make much sense.

2) These headphones should not be biased toward any particular music type so the type of music should not be relevant other than purely to highlight issues.

3) Hopefully the only aspect that involves my opinion really is the decision to use the CD3000 and the assumption that the CD3000's are a flat and accurate reference. Though with all the testing I have done on speakers over the years and listening and EQ'ing systems to flat, I am quite confident that the CD3000's are a fairly accurate reference point. Or at least the most accurate I have found yet.

So, what I am doing for the listening phase is is purely comparative. Just out of ease and familiarity I am primarily using a record player as the music source and lackluster stereo receiver. I will shoot a pic for next blog post. This allows me to easily replay the same part of a song and the clicks an pops of my old records allows me to hear how the headphones deal with those sharp spike dynamics. I started out with various tracks from Pink Floyd The Wall and Wish You Were Here albums. Today I am using Van Halen's first record. Did ya know that Jamie's crying, you can't have any pudding and you are gonna make it if you try they're gonna love you. I also give them a listen on an iPod where I have been using Ween, Butthole Surfers (good sub lows) and Why Don't You Do Right from the Roger Rabbit soundtrack (Amy Irving vocals). All that said, what I am really finding is that it makes very little difference what I use for music. The boomy headphones are boomy everywhere on everything. The dull phones are dull on everything and so on. Their was one helpful thing I found for sorting them though. I have a few different phono cartridges for my turntable. One is quite dull sounding and another is very crisp and bright. I find that if I use the dull sounding cartridge it really helps me hear variations in the high mid and higher frequencies between various headphones. Whereas with the tonally bright cartridge it is more difficult to discern, as the variations are masked a bit.

So all I do is play a song, put on the CD3000's, then swap to the headphones I am comparing, go back and forth a few times and take some notes. Really simple and the differences are tending to be so readily noticeable and clear cut that it is really a no brainer. As soon as I put them on, boom, these lack lows, boom, these suck the vocals out, boom highs are dull and so on.

Below is the current list of what is on the headphone test plate. Most of these I already have started evaluating while some are still on their way to me. I am not against adding more but having started, I can tell you that unless the headphones that get recommended are extraordinary and sound bright and clear and they have have super smooth low end without boominess, they will not make it very far. So far my testing is showing that many highly regarded favorites have response curves that make them less than optimum as reference headphones. Yes, many of them do sound quite good but I am finding that the pleasing sound comes from either a gently sloping response, a bass boost and/or a notch in the 1K to 5K region. All of which make those headphones non-ideal reference points.

Model Disqualifier Listening notes Comments Status
AKG 271 MKII None yet In transit
Allen & Heath XONE XD-53 None yet In transit
Apple iPod ear buds Ear buds ULF---, LF--,
Audio Technica ATH W5000 None yet ULF-, HF-, UHF-
Audio Technica ATH AD700 Open Ear H-, UHF- Clear
Audio Technica PRO700 None yet LF++, HM-, H- Rotating ear cups, powerful
Beyer DT770M None yet In transit
Denon AH-D2000 None yet In transit
Equation Audio RP-21 None yet Smooth, HM-, UHF+ Removable straight cable
Equation Audio RP-22X None yet Smooth, LF++ Removable coily cable
Grado SR60i Open ear In transit
Koss ESP-950 Open ear ULF- Tonally Close
Koss MV1 None yet MID++ Cool no tangle coily cable
Koss Portapro Open Ear LF+
Koss Pro4AAT None yet ULF-, HF-, UHF-- Cool no tangle coily cable
Pickering OA-3 vintage low-fi Yuck!
Sennheiser HD 25-1 II On ear In transit
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro None yet HF- Tonally close
Sennheiser HD 380 Pro None yet HM--, HI- Very smooth, LF clear
Shure SRH-840 None yet LF++, UHF- Removable cable
Sony MDR-7506 None yet ULF-, UHF- Tonally close
Sony MDR-7509HD None yet ULF-, M+, H-, UHF-
Sony MDR-90 On ear ULF- Tonally close
Sony MDR-CD3000 Discontinued Ref Ref
Sony MDR-V6 None yet ULF-, UHF- Tonally close
Sony MDR-V600 None yet ULF-, UHF- Tonally close, harsh
Sony MDR-XB700 None yet ULF++, LM+, UHF- Too much LF
Ultrasone HFI-450 None yet In transit
Ultrasone HFI-780 None yet In transit
Ultrasone PRO 900 None yet In transit


  • ULF - Ultra low Frequencies, like 20 to 40 or so.
  • LF - Low frequencies, like 60 to 150 or so.
  • LM - Low mid, like 150 to 400 or so
  • M - Mids, like 400 to 1000 or so
  • HM - High mid, like 1000 to 3000 or so
  • H - Highs, like 3000 to 6000 or so
  • UHF - Ultra High Frequencies, like 8000 to 20,000
  • The more "+" means the more there is. he more "-" means the less there is.

So that is where listening has taken me so far. I also have devised a stupid simple way to get a rough frequency response measurement for comparative purposes that seems to work surprisingly well! I was thinking, how can I measure what my ear hears? I could:

A) Build a dummy head with a fake ear, an ear canal and then spend endless hours refining and testing to see if it is accurate and try and eliminate any issues. I then could go into depth trying to prove the credibility of my measurement method.


B) I could put the headphones on my own humanly head, shove a measurement mic so it pick up the sound right where is goes in my ear and take some actual readings of what is my ear hears.

Hmmm, I am going to roll with the "B" method and see what happens. Plus, plan B is easily repeatable by anyone who has Smaart, and RTA or any other audio measurement system thus allowing anyone to easily check the results of what I measure on their own gear. Cool! So I am going to run this whole deal old school and simple, the way I like it.

But before we move on, in my e-wanderings I found this cool web site:[0]=1513&graphID[1]=533&graphID[2]=913&graphID[3]=&graphType=0&buttonSelection=Compare+Headphones

They have already done frequency response curves on quite a few of the headphones I am looking at and the graphs results somewhat match what I am actually hearing. You can actually pull up and overlay graphs. I spent a while there and compared every headphone they have graphs for to the V6. Cool.

Burn In. A few people have brought up burn-in. Burn-in refers to a phenomenon where the sound of a speaker changes over time and that the stable response characteristic is not reached until a transducer is used for some or many hours. I have no doubt the burn-in effects the response of headphones and speakers. We see it all the time with subwoofers where they become floppy and tune at a lower frequency over time. That said, the typical and logical result of burn-in is a slight lowering of the low end tuning frequency as the mechanical compliance loosens. I can tell you right now, there is nothing slight about the differences between the various headphones I am evaluating. The variations are drastic, huge, monumental and tremendous. Giant 5db multi-octave wide holes and peaks. If a pair of headphones is going to have a shift of octave wide 5 db hole or peak due to burn-in, it deserves to be eliminated anyway. Any cans that are doing well, will keep getting tested and naturally burn-in through testing. So say bye bye to burn-in concerns as a relevant factor in this testing.

So I turn on some pink noise, run it through the CD3000 headphones and slide the measurement mic close to where sound enters my ear and...

This is set on 2db scale so the horizontal lines represent 8 db. So here is the response of the reference CD3000 pair of headphones on my humanly head. Looks like + or - 5 db from 25 to 12.5K. Note, I do not think my mic or other gear is grabbing the frequencies above 12k very well, but that is the least of our worries. And after years and years of using these headphones to finally see their response and have them come up relatively flat was quite exciting. Wait till you see what the other cans look like!

Here are the Sony XB 700's and check out that nearly 3 octave, 12 db deep hole from 315 to 1.6K followed by a 6db/octave roll off. That looks like it will sound like standing outside a car cranking stereo with the doors closed, and it does!

Here is how the iPod earbuds showed up. I could not get the mic between my ear and the bud so I just balanced the bud on the mic. These actually should get more low end when in your ear.

Ooooh, look, fairly flat with a gradual roll off below 100 Hz and a smooth hole centered at 2K. That actually looks like it would sound pretty good.

As far as the accuracy of the measurements? Well, first of all, as I move the mic around it really does not change that much. Secondly, I do spend a bit of time trying to get the best reading I can for each headphones. Thirdly, the variations between the differing headphones are so drastic, that a bit of error in the measurement is a low concern. Finally, it is reassuring to my measurements have some parallels to measurements done by but more importantly, the RTA readout really does look like what I am hearing so my confidence is quite high.

OK, enough for now, I have lots more and many surprises to come as I will save the good stuff for later!

Dave Rat

PS, I found this while wandering Ebay looking to buy a pair of Grado headphones to test

OMFG! $1100 for a pair of 3 foot long phono cables! This is a real auction seeking a real moron.

The Mighty Headphone Quest Part 2

The Mighty Headphone Quest Well this is really turning into a research project, fun stuff! Ok so here is the plan, not unlike how I design the Orgasmatron's (Vortex), Double Hung PA, processor settings for MicroWedge and most things I do, I will start with trying to form a logical plan, make human observations and get as far as I can without diving into test gear, then try and create a way to measure by using electronics and finally go back and see if the technical measurements align with the human observations . I will do my best to be objective. There are many diverse applications that headphones can be used for ranging from casual listening, utilitarian, striving for perfection, max volume, max low frequency, max isolation and on and on. I even found:

where headphones must be completely non magnetic and are optimised to be used to mask the noise and provide music to humans while getting an MRI scan. So like with so many things in life, it is about finding and using the right tool for the job. The primary focus of this evaluation to locate headphones that are optimised to act as a quality reference point for live sound engineers. So my plan is:

#1 - Listen wit my ears. I have big pile of cans and I am listening to music and switching between the various pairs while taking some notes of things I notice. Meanwhile I keep referring back the Sony CD3000's to keep my bearings straight.

#2 - Sort them by ear. I am sorting the headphones based on how close they sound to the reference pair..

#3 - Check credibility with test gear. Then I will try and figure out a way to measure the headphone using and see if what I heard and sorted has correlations with what I measure.

#4 Summarize. I will hopefully have a recommendation for one or more pairs.

So far there I am dealing with steps #1 and #2 and just begriming to plan out step #3. What I am finding is really interesting. The sound of headphones varies so vastly that it is truly incredible that they can even be listed with remotely similar specifications as there is almost no similarity in the way they sound.

As I listen I am sorting into some categories

A) DJ Sound. These all have some sort of big bass boost going on for listeners and DJ's that seek lots of extra low end.

B) Sloping Response. The lows are louder with a gradual slope downward towards the highs. This is actually a very listenable and common response and I like to tune sound systems this way. For example, with the EAW MicroWedge's, the Grey and Red processor settings are sloping responses.

C) Flat Sound. This is what I consider the CD3000's to exhibit though I have yet to test them on an analyzer. By comparison the sound is a bit bright but not lacking in low end. This would be the equivalent of the MicroWedge 'White' processor setting.

**** The Goal ****

The goal of this quest is to find the optimum live sound reference headphone. A portable accurate head worn sound system to act as a constant reference point. More specifically, a headphone that sounds as flat as possible.

Having a perfectly flat audible reference point allows the sound engineer to make informed auditory decisions by comparative reference. Additionally it reduces dependence on test equipment. By using comparative reference you can factor out the natural hearing fluctuations caused by plane flights, illness, age or long term exposure to high volume sound. Studio engineers have finely tuned and calibrated studio monitors in an optimum acoustic environment as a reference point, for us live engineers, a pair of headphones is our best bet.

Ideally you should be able to put on the headphones, listen to a CD, take them off, turn the CD up in the sound system and equalize the sound system to sound exactly like the headphones, therefore the sound system would be equalized to flat. I.E. - copy the sound of the headphones to the PA and have the CD sound as close as possible to the way it sounded in the recording studio.

Same thing with pink noise. Ideally you should be able to listen to pink noise in the headphones, take them off, listen to pink noise in the sound system, EQ the sound system by ear to sound like the headphones and the system should be flat. Then you ideally should be able to use an RTA or other measurement device, measure the pink noise coming from the sound system and confirm the system is truly eq'ed flat.

So that means that any aberration from flat the headphones exhibit will result in system EQ errors. For example: If you use headphones with extra bass, then the CD or pink noise in the headphones would sound low-end heavy. You would then be inspired to add extra low end to the sound system when matching the headphone sound to the PA sound. The low end heavy PA EQ would now cause several issues. When you EQ your mic channels you will tend to cut low end to compensate for the bass heavy PA. Any stereo recordings pulled pre system EQ will now be overly bright sounding. Imagine if recording studio monitors had a huge bass boost. Every recording coming out of that place would be super thin sounding. The goal is to have the console mix be flat before entering the system EQ's.


The console channel EQ's should make the mic/instrument combo sound correct.

The house system EQ should make the system/venue combo sound correct.

The system processor EQ should make the loudspeaker/enclosure combo sound correct.

Hence we seek a highly specific headphone. Flat flat and flat. Loud is good, wide response is good,low end is good, isolation is good, but first and foremost, flat. There are many amazing headphones out there that have numerous very desirable assets and people that swear by them. I have already begun testing and I am already finding that many of the popular live headphones are not ideal reference points. And also, at least one set of popular headphones make a quite good reference point.

So lets get some of the easier stuff out of the way and thin the herd a bit by starting with some I was considering that are marketed as DJ headphones:

Say Bye Bye to potential contenders:

Stanton DJ Pro-3000 - 50mm, 30 ohms, 106 db/mw, 20-20K

Pioneer HDJ-2000 - $349 List, $250 Street, 50mm, 36 ohms, 107 db/mw, 3500mw, 5-30K

But do not be sad as I am adding some that have been recommended to the list as well:

And due to requests, research and stuff laying around my house, say hello to:

Sennheiser HD 25-1 II - Yes they are 'over the ear' but popularity with sound engineers and numerous requests have inspired me to include them.

Denon AH-D2000 - Another requested headphone and with the over the ear design and large drivers it seemed worth testing

Pickering OA-3 - These are 1975 era open ear phones that I had laying around the house. I will toss them in the test mix just to give an idea of what people used to consider listenable. Oh, you really should check out the Pickering link I used and browse around.

Apple iPod ear buds - These are the standard ear buds that come with iPods. I figure that since these are most likely the most listened to things out there, may as well include them as a reference as well,

Sony MDR-90 - (I think) - I can not read the model # as it has worn off but these are some over the ear headphones that were my favourites before I found the CD3000's. They sounded great and though the mount broke, I still have them so why not add them to the test? I will shoot a epic and maybe someone will recognize them.

Beyer DT770M - Demo requested and it looks like they are coming.

AKG 271 MKII - Demo on it's way.

Equation Audio RP-22X - These are bass boost versions of the RP-21. Though I am not looking for bass boost, I may as well listen as they were kind enough to send me demo's.

Allen & Heath XONE XD-53 - $249 List, $199 Street, 53mm drivers, 36 ohms, 105 db/mw (1K), 350 mw, 5-33K. Very cool. I guess the blog gets around and Allen & Heath are sending me a pair to evaluate.

Ultrasone - HFI-780 - A third pair of ultrasone's have been added.

And finally there are two more on the potential list now

Ultraphones - These are high isolation headphones with Sony 7506 drivers.

David Clark Model 10S-DC - Which are also high isolation headphones.

Lastly for today's installment I want to thank the people and manufacturers that are helping me make this happen. Thank you Daniella and John Karr from Rat for putting up with my endless requests for more product!

Thank you Darlene from Audio Technica for going out of your way to expedite the request.

Thank you to all at Sennheiser as you always take care of us Rats.

Thank you Cynthia, Haley and Phil for spending time chatting with me and arranging the Koss headphones. Oh, check out

Thank you Brian and Randy for rocking together the Ultrasone cans.

Thank you Equation Sound for hooking me up.

Thank you Beyer and AKG for sending out the phones.

Thank you Shure for the 840 demo unit.

Some of these companies Rat does quite a bit of business with while others do not know me or Rat well but were gracious warm and more than happy to assist.

Oh and can I tell you how cool it is to be knee deep in a pile awesome headphones! I am so a kid in a candy store!

Dave Rat

The Mighty Headphone Quest

For over a decade now I have sworn by my now discontinued Sony MDR-CD3000 headphones as my trusty live sound reference point. When I wrote an article stressing the importance of having high quality live sound cans I failed to mention viable options for the sound engineer readers to acquire.

When Hearing Starts to Drift

So, the plan is to get my hands on a nice collection of top brand headphones, give them a listen while using the CD3000's as a reference and find something similar or hopefully superior. So the rules of the game at this point are:

Closed Back- The headphones I seek should be closed back. Seems simple enough but the fact is that many of the high end headphones are currently open back. This is because the smallish headphone sound chambers tends to choke off the lows and cause some negative sonic artifacts. Porting the chamber to the outside world reduces isolation and porting to the inside the muff area can add low and low mid resonance. Regardless, for us live humans, we need the sound isolation though I am not holding high levels of isolation to be imperative as that would overly narrow the options and also eliminate my CD3000 reference phone. So as long as the headphones get fairly loud, preferably rock concert levels and offer a reasonable attenuation of the outside world, I will include them.

Around the Ear - Theoretically, on-the-ear designs could work but the added isolation of an around-the-ear (circumaural) design plus the typically larger sizes of the transducers in over-the-ear headphones, inspired me to narrow the field and a bit. The in-ear designs can offer excellent isolation and possibly are capable of enough fidelity and volume, though I have never heard any that sound amazing, but for a sound engineer's reference point, we do not have the time to be shoving things in and out of our ears mid rock show.

No Internal Electronics - I have so far bypassed all the noise canceling, electrostatic and other pre amplified headphones because I am skeptical of the added layer of complexity, dead battery issues and other artifacts. The last thing we live sound humans need is the noise canceling circuit overloading from the rock show or some strange sound added. That said, I am not against considering electrostatics if I am able to get my hands on some.

Size does not Matter - Or more specifically, bigger is better. I am really looking for a 'Head PA.' A cranial sound reinforcement system capable of accurately reproducing dynamics, wide bandwidth and high level sound. It is not like we will be jogging with these things.

High Power/Volume - In my experience headphones blow out fairly often when used for live sound, mainly because I inevitably forget to turn down the headphone volume when I set them down. I am looking for a pair that handles some juice. I have found several models that are rated at 3000 mw.

Hard Clean Sound - There are two differing approaches to loudspeaker and headphone design. The home hi-fi approach where the goal is to gloss the musical flaws and present the listener with a pleasing and enjoyable sound. The other is the studio monitor approach where the goal is to expose all the flaws in a harsh and accurate light so they can be addressed. I am looking for a pair of cans that just sounds like the damn instrument I am trying to listen to.

Cost is Irrelevant - Well, it's not irrelevant, but I did not put a cost restriction on the units I am testing.

Minimize my Opinion - Since sound quality is highly subjective I will try an reduce the effect of my opinion on the selection process. All the headphones will be tested in comparison to the Sony MDR-CD3000 pair I have. My goal is to try and match or beat the sound quality, volume and frequency response of the 3000's.

So lets take a look at the reference pair and growing list of contenders. I have listed a few specs. The street prices are just a quick low mid estimate and I tried to be realistic and avoided the super cheap questionable vendors. The list price is the same as MSRP, I just used what ever I found. It is quite an endeavour getting my hands on all these cans. Fortunately several manufacturers have been so kind as to send me demo's plus I was able to raid Rat Sound's headphone stock. A few I actually purchased and some I am still on the fence about whether to to try and get them in the mix. So I listed in parenthesis the source/status.

The Contenders (so far)

Sony MDR-CD3000 - $699 List, Discontinued, 32 ohms, 104 db/mw, 500mw, 20-20K (Dave Rat, reference)

Sony MDR-V6 - $109.99 List, $80 Street, 63 ohms, 40mm drivers, 106 db/mw, 1000mw, 5-30K (Rat)

Sony MDR-7506 - $130 List, $99 Street, 63 ohms, 40mm drivers, 106 db/mw, 1000mw, 10-20K (Rat)

Sony MDR-7509HD - $265 List, $189 Street, 50mm drivers, 24 ohms, 107 db/mw, 3000mw, 5-80K (purchased)

Sony MDR-XB700 - $130 List, $80 Street50mm drivers, 24 ohms, 107 db/mw, 3000mw, 3-28K (purchased because they look so cool!)

Sony MDR-V600 - $99 List, $70 Street, 40mm drivers, 45 ohms, 106 db/mw, 1000mw, 5-30K (Rat)

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro - $149 List, $99 Street, 64 ohms, 102 dB (IEC 268-7), 500mw, 8-25K (Rat)

Sennheiser HD 380 Pro - $299 List, $199 Street, 54 ohms, 110 db (1Khz 1 Vrms), 500mw, 8-27K (demo)

Shure SRH-840 $250 List, $199 Street, 40mm drivers, 44 ohms, 102 db/mw, 1000mw, 5-25K (demo)

Audio Technica PRO700 - $279, $115 Street, 53mm drivers, 36 ohms, 105 dB/mW at 1 kHz, 3500mw, 5-33K (demo)

Audio Technica ATH W5000 - $1699 List, $699, Street, 53mm drivers, 40 ohms, 102 db/mw, 2000mw, 5-45K (demo)

Ultrasone HFI-450 - $119 List, $99 Street, 40mm, 32 ohms, 96 db, (unspecified), 20-20K (demo)

Ultrasone PRO 900 - $599 List, $549 Street, 40mm, 40 ohms, 96 (unspecified), 6-42K (demo)

Koss ESP-950 - $999 List, $699 Street, electrostatic, 100K ohms, 104 db/mw, 8-35K (demo)

Koss Pro4AAT $99 List, $69 Street, 250 ohms, 95 db/mw, 10-25K (demo)

Koss MV1 - $179 List, $119 Street, 250 ohms, 98 db/mw, 10-25K (demo)

And there are few more headphones I may get into the mix.

Beyer DT770M - $289 List, $289 Street, 80 ohms, 105 db ( IEC 60268-7 ), 100 mw, 5-30K (demo requested)

AKG 271 MKII - $299 List, $199 Street, 55 ohms, 91 db/mw, 200mw, 16-28K (demo requested)

Equation Audio RP-21- $149 List, $90 Street, 32 ohms, 100db ?, 10-22K (demo requested)

Allen & Heath XONE XD-53 - $249 List, $199 Street, 53mm drivers, 36 ohms, 105 db/mw (1K), 350 mw, 5-33K (undecided)

Phiaton PS-500 - $299 List. $250, Street, 50mm, 32 ohms, 102 db(?) (undecided)

Stanton DJ Pro-3000 - 50mm, 30 ohms, 106 db/mw, 20-20K (undecided)

Pioneer HDJ-2000 - $349 List, $250 Street, 50mm, 36 ohms, 107 db/mw, 3500mw, 5-30K (undecided)

Well alright. That will keep me busy for a while. Hey, if I missed any worthy headphones as contenders and you have suggestions or you feel any of the ones I am undecided about really need to be tested, let me know. Also, if you are with a company or have connections to line up some demo cans that should be included, that would be great too.

I have started listening and testing and WOW! The diversity is mind boggling! So far there is absolutely no correlation between the frequency spec's, cost and the way these things sound. It is like the old school wild west of sonic lawlessness!

Dave Rat

Hearing and C-ing

Well and wow. Home acclimation continues going fairly smoothly, much less stress than last time but this time I am tempering the speed at which I take on projects. Lets see what's new in my world.

The EAW MicroSubs are now shipping and I am pretty excited to see how well they are received.

Unlike the MicroWedge's where I brought an already established product to EAW and we then together we revamped and improved them, the MicroSubs are an all new design and not really like anything else on the market.

One of my primary focuses since I have been home has been working with the Rat Sound Sales department to streamline things and expand a bit. They have been adding lots of new dealerships and such. After blogging about Fleabass

I got a really good response so the idea "Hey, why not have Rat Sound sell the Fleabass?" It is all about working together with your friends for a common goal of happiness for all and most importantly, doing so without stepping on others along the way. So cool! We lined up Fleabass and a bunch of other musical instruments from the same distributor.

Hey, if ya ever need anything sound, video, home theater, AV cables try giving them a shout. Rat sells all kinds of gear at low margins and have no problem beating prices if we can. Daniella and John Karr are super cool and we also really take care of everyone. Here is a link to the current manufacturers Rat offers:

So one of the many benefits of having all those dealerships is it gives me access to get demo's of various bits of gear. For all you sound engineer humans out there, I have decided to do some learning and testing on sealed ear headphones in hopes of finding a a pair of live sound quality cans I can use and recommend other than the discontinued Sony MDR CD3000's I have depended on for the past 15 years or so. Here are some of the ones I have been spending the last few weeks listening to:

One of the things I highly recommend is for sound engineers to have a great sounding pair of headphones to act as a reference point. My next blog post will have a run down of what I have figured out.

Speaking of learning and figuring things out, I went back and did sound seminars at Citrus College again.

It was the most challenging speaking gig yet. A 2 1/2 hour session to one group, another 2 1/2 hours to another group on friday. Then on saturday, another 1 1/2 hours to each of the two groups followed by an hour with both groups together. Nine hours, all through an interpreter (who was awesome by the way).

Meet the B group!

Fun though, I really enjoy doing it and really try to share some viewpoints, knowledge and perspectives that is outside of what is normally taught.

That's about it for now, oh wait, I helps my shorties make Halloween costumes. They wanted to be "Flight of the Conchords" robots. Here is Sammy

Now I am not much of a TV person but if you like Tenacious D, I highly recommend you check out the series.

And as the days and nights slide by, between doing bits of this and that, the ocean keeps rolling in. So here is C Street day and night pics.

Dave Rat

Oh, PS, this made me smile:

The Beauty of Ouch

Okey dokey. Settling in with a smile. Last time tour ended, I think Sept of '07, I set out to buckle down and get to business. That I did! but not without a cost. Oh I learned a lot and it was well needed with the economic turmoil and running a small business and all. This time though, the outlook I see around me is a much rosier picture. So this time home I making sure to better balance work with fun. And what could be more fun than building a complex multi-angled custom enclosure from scratch with no drawings, designs or sketches?

The back shell had a bummer of a shallow angle so I put in a tension support

Side wall and front edge

and we have a rough assembly

Router, trim and add in the cut to fit face

Paint it black, make some custom brackets out of aluminum and old K&M mic booms. If you look carefully you can see I drilled and tapped some holes in the boom swivels

The clutch is accessible through the side handles

Add some light and a music stand screws into the boom swivels

And ha! A tiltable music stand inside a wedge to hold set lists and fits perfectly between two Rat S Wedges. And with a little bit of work on making a bracket, it easily converts to a teleprompter wedge.

I started saturday morning and finished sunday eve with a bit of help sunday and still got the shorty softball and soccer games in. Now that was fun!

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

I want to thank Kevin Young and Jeff Mackay from Live Sound Magazine who came out to the Toronto Blink 182 show and spent the day with me. As y'all may know by now, I have spent quite a bit of time and energy working on new and hopefully usefull subwoofer configurations. Iit was so cool to see that Kevin and Jeff were not only fun to with but they really grasped the gist of what I was working on. If you do not get Live Sound Magazine and are interested, check out page 40 of this link and let me know what ya think:

And another kind of cool smile thing, the EAW MicroWedge's 12 and 15 got 'readers choice' awards on Pro Sound Web

These are things I need to remember when the inevitable life stalls occur.

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

And while we are on the subject of smiles, I may as well immerse deeply, because it is always better that way. I recieved this e-note not long ago that literally made my day!

Hi Dave,
It's for a long time that I wanted to contact you again after we met at a concert of the Red Hot Chilly Peppers in Bologna a view years ago.
Probably you don't remember about me... let me give you some indications. We met at the supermarket in front of the Palamalaguti stadium near Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna).

You were very gentile to me and gave me the possibility to see all the concert from behind the scenes. After I told you that I'm a sound technician you let me have an "all areas pass". I still have the entire ticket of the concert.

Why I'm telling you all this things? Because after I meet you I had an enormous professional grove. Call it coincidence, call it destiny... you may laugh, but after one week I worked with my first W 8 System of Martin up to 16000 Watts and an K8 console of Soundcraaft. That was amazing for me. One year later I went to Milan where I now life and work. I'm specialized in big conferences, events like Fashion, computer, medical stuff etc.

But very often I must recognize that I have to thank You for the possibility to think big. It was about the thought that even behind this big shows they are humans to do the work, not gods. To meet a great human like you changed my hole approach to this job.

Excuse me for my very limited English knowledges. I hope you''ll understand. One thing is to speak English every day during your work, one thing is to write down something that has any sense. I'm Italian after all, and i've never studied english at school.

I appreciate your fantastic and very comprehensive blog regarding sound systems. You must be a fantastic sound engineering teacher!
There must be a way to thank you ... do you still like Italian Coffee (I remember that at that time you bought some typical italian products like olive oil and of course coffee and we left saying that after the concert I would offer one to you. Do you have an original italian Moka Coffee-machine? If you let me know an address where I can send one to you, including some packets of real italian Coffee, it would be a great pleasure for me to send one to you.

Hope to see you sometimes if you are in Italy for work or for pleasure...

And thank you Stefan for sending the note! I have also recieved quite a few positive responses to the blog and I must say that that is what makes it worthwhile. There are people in my life past and present that have opened various doors of inspiration for me and to know I am passing it on and it is appreciated, rules!

Figuring out a destination and being confident that that is where you truly want to head is the hardest part.

But it it sure seems the the road is full of potholes, obsticles and worst of all is taking a wrong turn.

But when when you see it clearly, it is then easy to recognize especially when you get there

The question are "what speed to travel?" and "how much exposure and what expense am I willing to endure to get there?" Or perhaps "what amount of reckelessness can I get away with?" Either way, at least for me, no worthwhile life adventures come without a bit of bumps and trauma. Annnnnd, it seem I am not alone in this is this perspective. Perhaps out of one upmanship or just pure fearlessnes. A dear companion of mine, much to my fear and concern surfed right toward a huge rock, Closer and closer, I am think noooo, dont do it! Yet the desire to push the limits must have been overwhelming. Finally, I abandoned ship but not my companion, oh no, he heads right for the rock and ouch! That had to hurt!

Everyone, please tell Rat Surf Board to be more careful! He just wont listen to me. Oh wait, Perhaps, like me, he needs to learn the hard way. Speaking of learning the hard way, raise your hand if you think Taco should jump from a 6 foot high bunk bed. ??? Anyone?

That's what I thought. Some ideas are better than others and I am sorry to say that Taco now has a broken leg.

But I must admit, I would not trade the bumps and bruises for boredom. Boredom and death avoid at all costs, life is what is lived in between.

Dave Rat


All Saturdays

It's saturday night and I can feel from somewhere way back when, the residual desire to go out and about and not miss out. Outside my window I hear a few muscle car motors and joyous voices of my neighbors revving up to party on this warm beach evening. Yet it"s 8 pm and I am laying almost content in bed with a bottle of wine thinking about the significance of saturday nights, well content on catching up on some computing and unraveling a bloggery post. Then it dawns upon me. Tour for me is nothing other than all saturday nights! Everyday for the past 70 days has been a saturday rock show evening with new and old friends. Even the days off were just showless versions of the same. It's all good and this night is closer to a school night for me, hey did I mention that I love surfing?

Thank you Gene for the photo!

Actually surfing is just one of the clear mind adventures I crave. It is all about finding something that requires so much mind focus and energy outlay that the world slips away. Years ago traffic tickets and broken body parts inspired me to give up most motorized versions, though a laid back Harley ride remains an exception. Mixing sound for rock shows, snowboarding, sex with someone I feel a true connection with and designing/building things, all fulfill a version of the 'mental dream pause' that regrounds. Yet it is important to know our limits. For me, I crave thrill and have illusions of invincibility. Big huge owie's have learned me to at least attempt moderation but some things are less malleable, for example; sound limits in venues. The question is, how close can we get without having undesirable outcomes?

I remember one show back when I was mixing Rage Against the Machine in a field and the venue told me I had a 98db A weighted limit at mix position. Bummer, especially with Rage. "Who measures, it? How is it measured?" I asked. They introduced me and and I saw the sound meter and met the human. That's the rule? No variation? 98 at mix, period? "yes, no leeway, do not go over or the band will be fined $10,000 per minute over, it is in the contract.". I pondered and looked out at the FOH setup and then asked for 6 stage hands. I had them break down mix position which was at 80 feet and moved it to 175 feet away. They had a full meltdown, but hey, it was in the contract. I was happy. The rules make it fun. I love finding the lines and seeing how far they bend.

So as far as the rules in the sheet above, ouch, they are including low end. Bummer. Getting smarter they are! "Where is the measurement mic?" Oooh on a tower to my right dead on with the main right hang. So, I just turned the right PA hang down 10 db and cranked the left PA and the side hangs up. That actually made thinings worse for noise to the neighbors but hey, I obeyed the rules. Actually everyone was really cool and they ended up letting me push it and in exchange I dropped the level of the right side hang that was the main issue with neighbors. I must admit that I enjoy the challenges. I guess my point is that it is better to embrace and navigate than throw wrenches and point fingers. Our job as soundies is to get the best we can and do the best with what we have. The whole 'bitch and moan' session is annoying at best.When people complain to me, all that comes to mind is that they want attention. Yet when someone complains, the last thing I want to do is give it to them.

But hey, it is easy to get confused. It's harder to find a simple path through complexity, so much that needs to happen, how do we connect it all?

So back in the meandering longevities. Blink at the Hollywood Palladium! The first show I ever saw the was The Clash on London Calling tour. I have done hundreds of gigs there so I know it well. Check this out, full Orgasmatron setup, K1, KUDO side hands and it was pure heaven, so fun!

And this was the closest picture I have to how it felt

But before this we did a a benefit for and it was really cool. Much respect for cool people doing cool things.

Blink played Tony's first benefit 5 years ago at a bowling alley and back again. Oh, look up Ronald Burkle if you are so inspired. Multi billionaire started as a bag boy. Well, he was the one one that donated the Beverly Hills backyard space.

Since today seems to be the day for giving props to cool people, here are a few more things high on my list of cool. Flea, as you may know has a non profit music school to help kids learn music. check it out. So all these kids show up with crap instruments as the large manufacturers have lost a bit of track in their focus to meet profit margins, the Walmart basses are just junk. Parents don't know better. Did you ever get one of those bicycles with hard tires and everything rubbed so bike riding was no fun? So Flea is now making inexpensive high quality basses so parents can buy their kids something and playable Every Bass is played before it is sold to be sure it is all good. And, to support the music school there is a Benefit every year called hullaballoo , Ben Harper is playing this year and I go nearly every year and donate my time gear. If you are in in LA it is worth the adventure.

But with every smile come a tear. And though I do well at hiding my sadness as it is often more than I can handle, like skipping stones I try and float over the things that hurt. Losing someone that has been a magic influence for nearly three decades in my life hurts more than I wish to share. If you did not know him, maybe take a look as he is a good heart well missed. Goodbye Brendon Mullen and no single web site shows his depth so I linked a Google search of his name. When I die I want to be remembered with a smile, so I swallow the sad and smile,

And on that note never forget that more than anything, safety first. Always be prepared in case something goes wrong it is wise to have a back up plan, Hence the reason I made sure I was familiar with the medical staff that travels with the Aquabats.

I feel better knowing that if something were to go awry, there are professionals ready and willing to assist.

And finally, Oh, as you may know know, though I do not hate Apple and ATT, I profoundly disagree with extortion and milking of the captives. So therefore I enjoy watching the inevitable dilution of their greedy monopolistic vectors|htmlws-sb|dl2|link7|

And feel free to disargee, but please know I practice what I preach. I share info rather that conceal, I network rather than form exclusive alliances and I strive for compatibility rather than the proprietary "must buy from me." And if I did not, you most likely would not be reading these words right now

But hey, if ya like being trapped, more power to ya.

This completes a bottle of wine and un edited bloggery post. Rock On!

Dave Rat

Critters Dreams and Machines

Finding the balance between being content with appreciation and striving to reach the new heights is an ongoing contrast. At least for me I look back and see it has been a cyclical process. I look around and find the things I wish to change, build some dreams and goals and then set out to accomplish them. Focus, hard work and consistency sooner or later finds me arriving where I was headed. The happiness of my new found achievements and surroundings inspires pause and some time to immerse with smiles till it becomes normal and so I look around and find the things I wish to change build some dreams and goals and set out to accomplish them.

Sometimes things work out to where all three become merged into something less volatile and more consistent, and that works too for a while and then over time as I find my life become a homogenous luke warm brown adventure, the cycles start again.

As the symbol to represent each phase became clear I went and got it tattooed to mark it my body so I would never forget. Those three markers are the only tattoos on my body. The first is the Rat on my left forearm which to me represent breaking free from expectations and freedom. Rats are intelligent, industrious, curious, relentless and feared. But not feared for their aggressiveness, but rather because they roam freely outside of the rules. And yet, their motives are simple and pure; to eat, sleep, sex, play and wander. I like that the rat 'weeds out the weak ones.' By that I mean, people that are so uptight or offended by it can not help but scoff and identify themselves and then they steer clear of my world. Next were the four the mechanical Hinge tattoos on my right wrist and elbow. It takes a lot more work to hack a new path than to follow a predictable one. The hinges on my arm are to remind me to work hard like a machine, no matter how tough things get, do not stop until the task is accomplished. A machine feels no pain, needs no sympathy and does not follow the 9 to 5 with breaks and lunch pattern. And finally, the Monkey on my hip and thigh. That was the missing link to happiness. For years I worked hard but failed to take adequate time to smile. Without the monkey it is easy to fall into the martyr/workaholic trap. She represents immersion in the pleasures of my accomplishments and unfolding of dreams realized.

All this comes to mind as this fun celebration adventure starts to wind down to it's last few weeks and I get to switch it up to home world.

Speaking of adventure and home world. On the way from the Bakersfield show to San Diego I jumped on the Production Bus, which pulled off the freeway and dropped myself and Royal, the rigger at Burbank airport at 3:45 am. The town car I had waiting dropped me off in Oxnard at 4:45am and was fast asleep in my own bed by 5. Of course I left my straw hat in the town car.

By 7:15am I had my wetsuit and surfboard in the car and by 7:30 was paddling out. Good morning sunshine!

Breakfast with the surf buddies and made it to Rat in time for our weekly meeting that I had been doing by phone, Since no one knew I was in town, I made the call to do the meeting and walked while on the phone. Ooooh, look what I found in my office!

That rules! Thank you! I did some sound proofing work and and this was thank you gift!

Next stop, go pick the shorties up from school! Oh, how beautiful to see their smiles and pace pick up as the see me. I can not wait to see and hang out with them. They came over did homework and we made dinner together, so fun!

A good night's sleep a cab to the train station and

an easy and beautiful train ride on the Surfliner to San Diego. All Good!

Oh, and thank you Phil for an awesome time in Portland. So fun, so happy!

May as well mix it up and not forget the rock show.

Ohh, check out the PA!

Gigs gigs and more gigs.

Dave Rat

Fast, Loud and in Control

The Scooter

Check this sexy machine out! My favorite tour necessity.

As innocent as it looks, this baby cruises at 17 miles per hour has two 21 cell, 25 volt 5000 mAh NiMh battery packs hidden in the belly, each good for 10 miles on flat ground and the brushless motor offers almost zero rolling resistance, folds up and weighs in a mere 28 pounds! The Xootr EX3. Heck, back before 9/11 I used to ride to the airport from old house and carry it and a backpack on the plane for short trips. Unfortunately I am sad to say these are long discontinued. But if you ever can get your hands on one, you will not regret it.

Like everything though, things break. Especially if they are my things.

The most recent repair was a battery issue where a connection between calls broke. It's a bit of a pain to fix but at $175 bucks a pack, it is well worth the effort. By poking small holes in the shrink wrap I located where the bad connection was. Then cut away the shrink and carefully bend out the cell. The issue is trying to resolder the cell back in without dissembling the whole pack. But, since NiMh cells use the outer can as the negative, there is a workaround. If you solder a thin metal tab to the positive of the cell in the pack then slide the cell you bent out, back place:

You can cut away the shrink wrap and solder the tab to the outside of the can. It is a bit hard to see but if you look carefully, its there.

And back on track! And hey, look what I found!

An honor indeed! Thank you Travis, Mark and Tom for inviting me on this incredible adventure.

My Office!

Ok and on to:

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ok, so one of the wonderful realities of our world as traveling sound humans is that everyday is a new adventure. So now that the Vortex (Orgasmatrons), Slotfire and V-Fire setups are running smooth and predictable, we can now start upping the anti a bit. We learned from Jones Beach shows that the Diagonal Vortex was effective for venues that require a narrower coverage. Remember that Vortex was designed to cover up to 135 degrees off axis but in a field or shed that is too wide. So rotating them 45 degrees does well for narrower coverage patterns.

But as anyone who has toured knows, we have to deal with a wide variety of setup spaces, restrictions and issues. So here are a few more setup variations for y'all to ponder.

Vortex two dimensional control. Offers rejection behind the subs and on stage. Needs space around them. Offers very wide coverage. Steerable. Occupies an 8 by 8 footprint.

Slotfire single dimension control. Coverage is symmetrical in front and behind. Works best when against a wall to block rear energy. Steerable width. Offers rejection center stage and somewhat behind. Controllable front compression alters sub tuning/tonality. Requires 13 by 4 footprint.

V-Fire single dimension control. Coverage is focused forward and reduced behind. Does nor require a rear wall. Steerable width. Offers rejection center stage and somewhat behind. The V is less than optimum and slightly downgrades the tonality. Requires 13 by 4 footprint.

But what to do in this venue in Birmingham? We had a fairly open space. The barrier to the right in the photo is audience side and just a blow through scrim. Unfortunately there was not enough room for a vortex without jamming up monitor world . Plus the vortex would have to be diagonal to be aimed right and there was no way. So here is a Smooshed Vortex setup.

The math works well and coverage should be good with excellent rejection behind and on stage. But wait? Really? Am I going to point a 3 stack of double 18"s at our monitor guy?

Well, it made me nervous enough that we setup one side with the middle speakers pointing toward the audience but the math was not a good.

and the other side as the calculations told me would be superior

And we fired it up and sure enough, we spun the other side and ran with double 18"s pointed right at a happy Steve!

And how about one more setup that may com in handy and is super easy. This is basically the setup we used at coachella and works on the same principle as the Slotfire

Two stacks of 6 subs per side. Space at 8.5 feet center to center. Lay in a 3ms delay to the outside stacks and bingo. Simple clean 180 degree 45 hz-ish center frequency cancellation towards center stage and focal points like 20 or 30 degrees off center. Longer delay widens and shorter will narrow. Though the side effect of other delay times is that your cancellation area moves around.

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

Two of these belong to me!

And off to watch Fall Out Boy!

Dave Rat