I have posted the entire 3 hour video here:
BAS_Zoom_5-16-21_with Barry.mp4 834 MB (!)
You don't have to actually download it; you can simply watch it in your default player.
Just in case you
want to jump to the beginning of my part,
it starts at exactly 50 minutes in.
This page accompanies the Boston Audio Society live online Zoom meeting to be held on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 7PM (eastern of course)
The information page / login info is here: www.BostonAudioSociety.org
(Note: all links on THIS page open into a new page or tab.)
I was born at a very
young age. Here I am at perhaps 5
But I'm going to try to condense 65 years of audio into a couple of hours.
In 1957 my dad and I got our Ham Radio licenses (I still have my fabulous NAVPERS Basic Electronics book with the smiling electrons) and I met a fine gentleman who ran the ham radio station at the Albany Veteran's Hospital. I soon started visiting him, and as he was regalling tales of wartime activity and electronics, I learned a lot.
Then I started volunteering at the hospital radio station, where I had a DJ program daily after school until 7PM. The Armed Forces Radio Television Service, AFRTS (invent your own pronunciation) service sent in piles of 16" LP transcription vinyls every week or so, so I was continually immersed in new musical worlds. They apparently copied to the records whatever it seemed would fit - so one side of one record would have Elvis and Brubeck and a Chopin etude. Eventually I volunteered at the hospital over 5000 hours, assisting the servicemen who had served their country.
The room had an RCA console with REAL 600 ohm balanced stepped attenuators. Everything was balanced 600 ohm transformer coupled: a room with lots of 6L6 power amps feeding 900 sets of headphones and about 125 speakers. I devoured those schematics!
In 1958 they became linked up with WAMC at Albany Medical College, which my ham friend Chuck Schaefer initially setup and ran. These were the burgeoning exciting years in FM broadcasting! So for awhile I was the youngest DJ in the country. Chuck also taught me about low noise EEG and EKG front end circuitry, which I loved.
I also met engineers from other Radio and TV stations who were hams, from the Schenectady General Electric stations WGY / WRGB to smaller 5kw locals - and they would all teach me electronics! And phase. Always phase.
THE REAL BEGINNING
But here is really how all this started: One day I was at a radio station watching the setup of a piano in the studio room, and the announcer and others in the control room. In my youthful ignorance / exuberance, I pointed to the speaker on the wall in the control room, and said, "Why doesn't that sound like the piano?" And there has been no looking back ever since...
In 1964 my dad decided to send me off to 73 Magazine, the Ham Radio Journal, in New Hampshire. Not unlike Rodney Dangerfield, my family moved 5 times before I was 15 years old and I found them each time. But I did learn publishing, product photography, (done right!!!) line and halftone photography, color separations, stripping (go figure), printing press operations, MANUAL retyping justification on an IBM Executive typewriter (!) and pet feeding, and foolishly how to climb a 60 foot antenna tower without a safety belt.
|And I bounced around high schools. I am sure 10th grade was the best 5 years of my life. I went to Albany High, Cass Tech in Detroit, The General Electric sponsored Mont Pleasant HS in Schenectady, and Binghamton HS, where I would hang around the Mcintosh factory sometimes (they never hired me...) and worked at Stack Electronics selling them parts.|
But some photographer I am: I don't have ANY pix from when I was a kid, a ham radio operator, a DJ, working at 73 Magazine... none of it... nor working at Moog or ARP. Nor teaching classes at Intermedia in Boston.
So in '69 I moved from Boston to Ithaca to work at MOOG Synthesizer and hang out at Cornell, and miss Woodstock because we didn't really have any money for gas or food on the way. But then in '71 I moved back to Boston to work at ARP synthesizer - I believe I was the only person to work at both companies.
Once back in Boston, I placed an ad for myself in the [underground paper] The Phoenix, (read Norman Mailer's book... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertisements_for_Myself ) and met the people who were going to build Dimension Sound Studios. They also owned a Xerox Copy Center in Kenmore Square, which is where I first met Alvin Foster.
Dave Hill and his partners Jeff Gold and Thom Foley had bought an Ampex AG-440 2-track machine, took one channel apart and completely both mechanically and electrically reverse engineered it (not unlike what Jeep did at MCI...) and his military shop "team" built 22 more channels of chassis hardware; then I literally from scratch built by hand and soldered a 16 track and 4 track tape recorder. We used the best 1% CGW metal film glass resistors and WAY more... It took almost 2 years to build the place.
During the process of building it, as we were deciding what equipment to get, I got to visit console manufacturers, from Neve to Audio Designs in Detroit, to Olive in Canada, a wonderful educational cross section of operational ergonomics and signal flow theory. Hard to believe that was 50 years ago!!!
The new owners of Dimension Sound have a nice page here www.dimensionsoundstudios.com/
Notice the floor is a checkerboard grid of 12" floor tiles. I got SO TIRED of telling gittar players to move to the left 3 feet that I gave them a floor layout where they could count the squares.
a short yootoob video of me during a recording session at Dimension
Sound, from 1973 !
INTERMEDIA and the RIA
Then Dimension Sound was built and I moved over sideways to Intermedia Studios on Newbury St. In Boston.
Now Intermedia itself - both on Newbury St. in Boston and their main office in Cambridge, was no small historical potatoes: check out the USCO story on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCO
The studios' initial claim to fame was Aerosmith ! See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_On_(Aerosmith_song)
It should be noted that in those magic early days of recording technology, (that means real tape and razor blades, kidz) Intermedia had Ampex MM1000 16 track recorder serial # 003 - numbers 1 and 2 belonging to Electric Lady in New York. PS: MM stands for Master Maker, and Ampex stands for Alexander M. Poniatoff, EXcellent!
Bob Runstein was an engineer at Intermedia and he had finished his book Modern Recording Techniques, published by SAMS. Soon it was decided that they would start a school, and because Bob didn't want to stand there and lecture, it fell in my lap, (well, I volunteered...) and since the control room wasn't very big, and there was a 16 track tape machine, we would have 16 students and me in the room. Cozy! Each student was to be "in charge" of one entire channel of signal flow, from the mic setup through the electronics to the recording to the mixdown. The prize at the end of the class was the finished Cassette of the class' project. (1974 was ~8 years before CD's!)
The classes wers supposed to go like from 7-10PM. But because it was SO much fun, often we went all night - even to 9 the next morning! We would meet at either Charlie's on Newbury St., or the now defunct and fabulous Newbury Steak House, and eat a bazillion calories, and then burn it off.
So the RIA (Recording Institute of America) was set up, with the premise that after a while, the course would be licensed to other studios. At the time, only Al Grundy at the Institute of Audio Research in New York was starting to pursue the educational angle. Before then, it was all seat-of-the-pants engineering and paying dues to get in the industry. Lots of dues, some of what you know, and some of whom you know...
In the years to come, some studios licensed the classes, while some other facilities simply invented their own classes or stole the ideas outright. Imitation is the sincerest form of... you know...
We had put an ad on WBCN late in the evening for a few nights. We had NO IDEA how many people would show up. The evening of the open house, there were SO MANY people that the Boston Police had to send a detail to Newbury St. and Mass Ave to direct traffic. I literally got to interview all the prospective students, and I tried to include/assemble a balanced class of people who really were interested and had a good coherent focus.
In almost 4 years of the classes, some incredible 300+ students went through the fun ordeal and besides being honored to help them in their careers, I have remained friends with quite a few. Many have gone on to prominent positions in every corner of the audio universe: music recording and playing and producing, broadcasting, sound for film and TV, technical services, other studios, manufacturing, and more. Also among them they have won every industry award I can find! A real honor and joy.
On to La La Land - Crystal
After teaching the classes at Intermedia in Boston, I moved to La La Land where I hoped it would be 20 dB warmer. Joe Chiccarelli and I were roommates in those early dayz. I landed first at Cherokee then at Crystal Studios. The joke is a bunch of Boston friends chipped in and bought me a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. The real story is HERE !
It occurs to me that some of you might like to see my resume. (or "CV" as you closet academics like to call it.) Here you go.
In La La Land I worked at many studios besides Crystal, after all, this was THE golden age of the recording scene, and since half the equipment needed "maintenance" the colloquial word for "fixing" I made a business card which said:
Usually you would have to FIX before you could MIX. A studio owner would call me up and say, "Hey, as long as you're coming over, the channel 2 fader is crackling and there's no VU meter on 12 and 15 is humming and there's no EQ on 22.... so bring your tools first, okay?"
Hughes Air Craft
In those days everyone read the incredible classifieds in the Sunday L.A. Times, if only to get a barometer on the market. One Sunday I found a tiny obscure ad which said:
So of course I answered, and found myself after a few months of haggling and B-movie interview scenarios where I was in a bare light bulb room sitting in a directors' chair with a couple of goons with clipboards and pinkie rings and tight black suits circling around me asking me pointed questions like, "List all your friends..." all of which resulted in a job at Hughes Aircraft, or as many seemed to call it, Huge Air Crash.
I worked on some fantastic projects, including visiting other military vendors who were working on real space initiatives. Satellites. Rockets. Spy shit. Space suits. Training rooms. Everything analog and digital. That in itself deserves a book...
I was an outsider until I brought a cadre of engineers over to Crystal Studios on a Saturday, and once I explained everything in gruesome detail, I was the cool guy, and they took me into their fold. Some of that group went on to develop SRS, first an outboard hardware box (c ~1993) then an included part of the Windows Media Player - still fantastic and fun.
Music fun and perception
One notable set of experiences is that I would sometimes be associated with, or follow an album project through its COMPLETE path. A favorite example is the fantastic Supertramp Breakfast In America album, recorded at The Village a room designed by my late acoustician friend Vincent Van Haaff, and then mixed in Crystal B, by Kevin Beamish. And then it was mastered [for vinyl] on the Crystal Neumann Lathe by Jeff Sanders. So I followed pretty much every microscopic step of that production from the initial choosing and setting up of the drum microphones (you CANNOT imagine...) to the transfer between brands of tape machines, to the always ongoing monitoring issues, to the room EQ of the mixing room, a science project unto itself. How magnificent a project!
The wiki page is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakfast_in_America
As I have played both the vinyl and subsequent CD's of that album on hundreds of VERY differing systems, I can easily hear the inverse of the mixing room curve...
To Miami !
After moving from L.A. to Miami in 1983, (still looking for that 15 dB warmer) I went to work at Harris Audio building studios and killer discos. I was the Otari Tape Recorder Tech for the Florida area, after taking all their terrific tech classes. Can you believe NO PIX?????
We built some 40+ discos - small to huge - up and down the Florida coast, from South Beach to past Jupiter. Club Z, Façade, Biscayne Baby, OvO, Heart Of The City, Visage in New York... fantastic audio fun! And food. And drink.
Some of those systems used Meyer UPA speaker cabinets. The alignment and splay of those cabinets is where much of the work on my WHITE NOISE aiming procedures came from.
The trapezoidal cabinets
were originally intended to be mounted touching.
I have extrapolated this
WHITE NOISE aiming technique to be used with ANY speaker in ANY location.
Once you fully understand how any speaker splays (whether front firing, dipoles, omnidirectional, line array, near field, far field, etc etc) you will be amazed at the imaging precision this method gives you.
You do not need tape measures, although yes, to START, they can be useful. Then once you hone in on the REAL HF splay of your particular speaker, and this includes everything from positioning to toe-in to tilt, you will THEN get astonising 3D holographic imaging of your so-called "soundstage".
Now realize that in many recordings the "soundstage" is a bunch of panned mono sources which may EACH have been sent to a mono-in, 'stereo'-out echo/reverb device; giving you the fake news perception that you have a soundstage, instruments and soloists on it, and so on.
It is ALL fabricated.
But you must learn the
methodology and construct of ALL of it to realize how to deal with
it so you get the best results.
The ENTIRE premise of High Fidelity is to convince you that there is another acoustic space overlayed in your listening room which ALREADY HAS its own acoustic space. The net result is it almost always sounds like a recording of a piano, never a real piano. Stay tuned for my book. There is SO much more, and explanations you have NEVER heard.
Inner Ear Audio
In 1993 I opened Inner Ear Audio, a high-end salon in Safety Harbor, Florida. That is a Tannoy DMT215 studio monitor in the middle. I'm glad I got that retail thing out of my system. But it was a wonderful experience.
There are some blurbs and a magazine article about my store HERE.
I will try and insert
historical tidbits into the ongoing narrative.
At my store, I sold a fellow a pair of Sound Lab A1's, which are flat panel electrostatic dipoles. The customer's brother out in Washington state bought an M&K Subwoofer, and told his brother he simply HAD to get one (or two!) Well I was not a dealer (subs were a mere whisper in those days...) but I did contact Ken Kreisel at M&K which subsequently changed the course of my life and subwooferdom in no small regard.
I attempted to assist in the setup of integrating the sub with the flat dipole panels.
If you haven't, you should read my subwoofer explanation, a page which has been used (or copied, or parts sometimes stolen) on different manufacturer's sites. It's here: www.soundoctor.com/whitepapers/subs.htm
The ENTIRE PREMISE of all of this integration is what I have built my technical life upon in the last ~30+ years.
Here's my buddy, Major
Tweak, who used to help me with everything.
Oh, and here's the famous T-shirt graphic we released upon the world at the 1994 audio show at the Doral. Yikes what fun! Thank you Dove and Big John!
Then, things being what they sometimes are (sometimes life gets in the way of art and sometimes art gets in the way of life), I decided to move back to L.A. and went to work at M&K, where besides doing the websites and terrific studio surround sound setups, I initiated the premise of serious one-on-one personal tech support, wanting to really help those customers who might not have a malfunctioning problem, but just needed help with the confusion of setup and correct integration. That means almost everybody.
Here's a cool pix from the 2002 AES show. That is a lifesize PICTURE of a mixing console with real speakers on stands, and real patch cables poked into the Picture.
When M&K closed down its operations (in 2007) I was the last employee.
I subsequently went to work for JL Audio, first selling their subs internationally worldwide. Before they first set up importers / distributors / dealers in each country, there was only me. Prospective international customers would email the factory, and I would get the email, and CAREFULLY assist the customer in making the correct technical decision, then I became the international FedEx expert.
After the factory set up international dealers, I stopped selling and started the Home Products Tech Support department. (they already had a terrific car products tech support team) Between M&K and JL Audio and my Soundoctor customers, I have databases with over 13,000 people I have helped one-on-one; some end users, some dealers, some installers and reps and manufacturers, too.
Also at JL audio I developed the CR1 Crossover, a fantastic science project taking quite a few years and quite a few emails. IF you are intending to correctly integrate a subwoofer with a better system, you need this. I guarantee you it is the best crossover on the planet, with a plethora of features and options that will really surprise you. Email me directly with any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
The TEST CD
At M&K we had initially developed a Test/Setup CD to be used with the (then) new Denon and Marantz and similar Home Theater Receivers / Processors. Each manufacturer had, around the turn of the century, developed their own sometimes proprietary methodology of dealing with both the Dolby and separately, THX setup "parameters". OK, there were some mistakes. To err is human, to moo is bovine.
So we came up with a pair of filtered noise bands which, when viewed on a Radio Shlock SPL meter, (always use Slow C weighting) gave you a REASONABLE match between the sub and your mains in a home theater surround system.
Unfortunately this is only the TIP of the iceberg. It's only loudness, not phase.
In the late 90's, subs mostly had ONLY an incorrectly labelled "phase" SWITCH - (it isn't phase, it's POLARITY) and at M&K I was adamant about having a REAL variable phase knob.
Here is the ENTIRE premise: You MUST have the sub and mains signal AT THE CROSSOVER FREQ, be in phase (arrival time) AT THE LISTENING POSITION (your face). That's the entire magic. (Well, most of it...) You then get the correct imaging because you have correct impulse response, the holy grail of ALL of audio.
You feel and hear the fundamental frequencies coming out of the sub, but you localize the harmonic structure coming out of the main speakers. Therefore (and it's a lovely demo) even if you put the sub(s) behind you, you still perceive the drum kit in front of you if it's all aligned correctly.
You can't do that with a polarity switch. And because of the inherent / intrinsic group delay of the sub, it MAY be one cycle late, (~12msec) but that's OK as long as it APPEARS to be in phase at the listening position.
Other manufacturers followed suit and these days, a real variable phase knob on a sub is a common thing.
My rant. It only took ~8 years. You're welcome.
In the last 20 years or so, up until 2020 BC, (Before Covid) The Soundoctor Makes House Calls.
MANY customer tech support issues or complaints were not necessarily actual electronic problems or "failures". They were simply vague and not so vague discussions such as "...I just spent a bazillion dollars on my system, and my dealer is a nice guy, and his installer kind of made a mess, and it sounds like crap -- so... what do I do now?"
So over the course of some 20 years I discerned that many / most of the systems out there are set up COMPLETELY, and I mean COMPLETELY wrong. I am here to assist with those wrongs and undo them.
Interestingly enough, I find a commercial imbalance in the equipment that I come across. For example I have set up an abundance of Magnepan systems - way out of proportion to some other perhaps obvious brands. Not that there is anything WRONG with them - they are FANTASTIC and represent a superb audio value, but they are somewhat more critical in setup than almost anyone realizes.
So I go to people's houses or studios and here is a cross section of these project explanations: www.soundoctor.com/projects
For example, yours truly is standing
in front of 6 (!!!!!!) JL Audio F113 subs.
If you are new to either
these technical discussions or the Boston Audio Society, please review
the BAS website and consider joining. Besides the website, the BAS
PAPER journal (the ink smells nice) mailed to you, is priceless!
And don't forget to immerse yourself in my links section - over 2000
URL's culled over 22 years of poking around the murky depths of the
There is SO MUCH MORE to go over.
So much more to explain, understand, and correct... starting with technical standards and premises:
Measurements: what's completely wrong about THD.
What we CAN and CAN'T measure or discern.
The waste of time about everyone's OBSESSION with frequency response.
A monitor system vs a playback system.
Speaker ports (wrong!... and why, and when)
Localization of the so-called "soundstage", including height. Images in space. Panned mono vs other modes. The extrapolation into surround modes, from 2 to 5.1, 7.1 (and the theatrical differences between 7.1 systems) Dolby Atmos, others... (DTS, Hafler Dynaquad)
EQ - equalization - DOESN'T make anything "equal". If it did, you would not be able to discern the difference between, say, an A-440 note on a piano, a guitar, or a trumpet.
The lie of "room correction".
Acoustics. The calculus problem of height, width, depth, frequency, time and materials.
The teenage fallacy of "measurements".
Different brands of Merlot.
Balanced vs Unbalanced
Wiring (the pin 2 / pin 3 hot mess)
The entire recording
/ signal path from microphones to your ears.
The greed of snek earl.
The mention of "signal
to noise ratio" by manufacturers who SHOULD be saying dynamic
The insane ongoing lies about power ratings. Sorry, you can't get ~4kw into your sub from a 120V 15A outlet. Same thing for vacuum cleaners and their "horsepower rating. We'll get to that.
Don't forget if you are in a middle eastern country and you don't wire your sub properly you get hummus.
And last but the most important mess of all: Why does it always sound like a RECORDING of a piano and not a REAL piano in my room?
The amount of audio MIS-information (the vector summation of ignorance, stupidity, greed, bias, and human error) on the web is staggering. It is my life teaching project to change that; and I have HUNDREDS of kudos emails (and personal visits) where people say "This has been my hobby for 30 years and it has NEVER sounded so perfect!"
That for me, is the win. And if you need my help, I will be glad to go over it with you, at a much lower price than anyone else. And be honored!
We now return you to your originally scheduled programming, which probably includes annoying ads that you don't want to see.
Oh, and PS: I should have stayed a doctor and had audio as a hobby, not the other way around... hey thank you for joining in and listening to my audio curmudgeon rant(s).
And sure, there is a disclaimer to any and all of this; it's here: www.soundoctor.com/p/disclaimer.htm
Also my cat Tiny (officially, The Honorable Sir Squeaker Petabite Tiny Prince Ra) would be upset if I didn't mention him. It's also his birthday.
After all is said and done (and a lot more is said than done) here are links you may want to check out.
All About SUBWOOFERS www.soundoctor.com/whitepapers/subs.htm
My unique in the world WHITE NOISE critical alignment procedure www.soundoctor.com/testcd/whitenoise.htm
About break-in www.soundoctor.com/whitepapers/break-in.htm
My Test CD www.soundoctor.com/testcd/
I make beautiful and very cost effective cables www.soundoctor.com/cables.htm
Some PROJECTS with plenty of details and more to come www.soundoctor.com/projects/
This is the
nth iteration of this thing, last uploaded:
Monday, May 17, 2021 6:40 PM
probably with more coning until the last second, because if it wasn't for the last second nothing would get done.