PSNEurope Genius 2016

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Contents 5





5 Pat Quilter

19 Dave Gunness/Bill Putnam Sr.

6 Colin Sanders

20 Bruce Jackson

7 Jeff Bloom

21 Wilfried Van Baelen

8 Alan Dower Blumlein

22 Greg Mackie

9 Penny & Giles/Chrys Lindop

23 David Royer/Brüel and Kjaer

10 Glenn Roggeman

24 Christian Heil

11 Bob Orban

25 Rein Narma

12 Toshifumi ‘Dr.K’ Kunimoto

26 Robert Adams/Peter Lawo

13 Cliff Maag Sr./Dave Harrison

27 NUGEN Audio/David Hafler

14 Ari Varla

28 MLA development team

15 Claudio Lastrucci

29 Mark Dodd

18 Rich Zwiebel

30 Dave Swallow’s favourite inventions

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elcome to the second Genius! We predicted at the beginning of 2015, when we published the first edition, we’d be back for another round of boffin-related reading. And here we are again, courtesy of QSC Audio, who, while sponsoring the supplement, in no-way restricted our choice of the inventors we wished to celebrate. Hats off to the Costa Mesa crew who made it happen! What’s Genius!2 all about then? It’s a record of the people behind the scenes, the innovators and game-changers who experienced an ‘A-ha!’ moment and went on to influence, and perhaps alter, the world of pro audio as we know it. The tales that follow in the next 30 pages recall where our heroes were when the brain-illuminating lightbulb got switched on; how that moment of realisation became a physical reality; and the effect that inspirational event had on their business and the wider industry. There are some fascinating stories out there: I particularly like Bob Orban’s desire to remove sibilance from Grace Slick’s vocals…

Cover image: DJs Axwell and Ingrosso and their amazing machines at V Festival, 2014. All images: DR

Dave Robinson, editor


Genius!2 Editor Dave Robinson Deputy Editor Sarah Sharples Content Director James McKeown Advertising Manager Ryan O’Donnell Sales Executive Rian Zoll-Khan Design Kelly Sambridge (Real genius!) Production Executive Jason Dowie

NewBay The Emerson Building, 4-8 Emerson street, London, SE1 9DU © NewBay, 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the copyright owners. The contents of Genuis are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. NewBay is now the Data Controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 in respect of your personal data. NewBay Media will only use your data for the purposes originally notified and your rights under the Data Protection Act 1998 are not affected by this change. Printing by Pensord Press, Tram Road, Pontlanfraith, Blackwood NP12 2YA

Our writers and their selection of the WORST inventions ever, in pro audio and beyond…

David Davies

Simon Duff

Kevin Hilton

Mel Lambert

Marc Maes

Phil Ward

WORST invention in audio: This is a very middleaged moan, but I have to nominate correction technologies that allow singers and players to mask their inadequacies. The result has been a generation of curiously soulless recordings – and an overall lowering of standards in performance. Worst invention in the everyday: After events earlier this year, I am tempted to say ‘referenda’…!

WORST pro-audio invention? Recall Sheets used in recording studios for large audio consoles. Before the advent of fully recallable digital consoles studio engineers and assistants were required to write settings down at the end of a session. The alternative was a Polaroid Instamatic camera. Much quicker! The worst everyday contraption has to be the Sinclair C5 from 1985. Low battery life and slow speed. A comedy garden device was the best it could hope to be.

THE microwave omelette maker. Awful. And then the turn potentiometer, the precursor of the linear fader and still used on small mixing decks. I have one of those; it’s awkward and not the most efficient.

I STILL wonder what genius thought the Sony OXF-R3 “Oxford” digital console had any chance of success. My highly unfavorable review for MIX in the US was nixed by its editorial collective; the user interface was so bizarre that I never felt the slightest part comfortable at the control surface. My silliest personal purchase was an Apple Newton, which was both slow and amazingly clunky.

THE tricky thing about inventions, good or bad, is that they inspire people to keep on inventing… I truly hope that the manufacturer who decided to build a DJ console where adjusting the music’s bass and treble levels also meant that the DJ’s microphone sounded like a guy yelling from under his pillow, has gone bankrupt. And I do hate the inventor of the cigarette.

10CC’S Gizmotron – the name itself a hugely selfconscious extrapolation of the epithet ‘gizmo’ rather than ‘gizmo’ being a genuine nickname for the product, which tells you everything you need to know about the indulgence behind its provenance, matched only by the painfully contrived artifice of three-quarters of 10cc’s music – made the electric guitar sound like a hurdy-gurdy in a bin lorry. If it worked, it seldom did. Then, the Kenwood electric tin opener. Pitiful.

Also contributing: Mike Hillier | A massive thank you to the marvellous Margaret Sekelsky!

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xxx and xxxxHow hard could it be? Pat Quilter and power amps PAT QUILTER:

I grew up as a pretty classic nerd, a skinny kid who was mostly interested in mechanical contraption. It was not however until college that I got interested in audio experimentation. I discovered you could play around with these nifty little parts and end up with something that could play music, without even getting your hands dirty. So in 1965, I set myself to the task of re-inventing basic audio technology, occasionally “looking in the back of the book” for more hints when I would get stuck. Within several years I had built a 5W transistor audio amp and speaker that could run off a 12V battery and play back music from a tiny portable tape recorder I had. Essentially, I made a crude but effective “boom box” well before these were commercially available. In 1967, the bass player in my brother’s band needed a highpowered amp, but he had no money. I figured I could scale up my 5W amp to 100W. “How hard could it be?” I did everything over twice to get results, which doubled my parts cost, but I still made about three cents an hour on the project. So in 1968 I started Quilter Sound Company and decided to make a few

more amps, this time only oncethrough, and thereby make a reasonable profit. But the high-power germanium transistors used on amp ‘Old #1’ became unavailable, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to silicon devices. Once again: “How hard could it be?” As it happened, it took years to develop a somewhat reliable design, during which time I gained the partners who would form the key management at QSC Audio Products. By the mid-Seventies, it was obvious we had missed the opportunity to be a guitar-amp leader, and so we re-focused on pro audio, a decision which proved to be far more rewarding over the succeeding decades. We also made the conscious decision to focus on power amps, since this had been the most difficult part to get right, and we wanted to capitalise on this hard-won knowledge. Power amplifiers embody every difficult challenge in audio electronics. Ultimately, they must combine a great deal of refinement and precision, along with brute-force power delivery and protection from getting hot and power spikes – and they must be price competitive if one expects them to be commercially successful. In terms of design, this obsession with ‘minimum active stages’ got me to a certain point, but a critical driver stage still had

Quilter at his workbench in 2008. Below left, in 1979; below right, testing kit in 1983

too much voltage across it at all times, which would not be reliable. Also, the final high-power output transistors needed to be insulated from the heat sink, which is a fussy production detail and results in additional temperature rise. So, in one of my few genuine “lightbulb moments” it occurred to me to float the power supply, ground the output devices, and let the power supply voltage swing instead. We could then mount the power transistors straight to the metal heat sinks using simple screws, and this also solved the excess voltage on the driver stage. The only drawback was the need for a separate power supply section for each channel, but one of our salesmen turned this into another key benefit by noting that if one channel failed, you could still use the other. This was a major selling point in the days when amp failures were still common.

So: our small shop of handassembled products was now competing with the ‘big boys’, and establishing a reputation for sincere, reliable products that just kept working. And it also resulted in our first truly well-protected amplifier, which would withstand all the usual hazards, yet continue playing well for as long as possible. Many ‘QSC Series One’ amplifiers we produced in the 1980s are still in daily service in cinemas and clubs nationwide. Although we eventually outgrew this exact design, which was somewhat limited in the power it could reach, it gave QSC enough volume to invest in more automated assembly, and I continued to exploit key production elements such as metal-to-metal power device mounting for decades to come, even as we developed more sophisticated, higher-power amp designs.

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Colin Sanders OBE and the logic-controlled console


ecessity is often considered to be the mother of invention. In the late Colin Sanders’ case, the decision to add sophisticated computer control to recording consoles started in 1976, when he realised that nothing he could find on the market was appropriate for his personal-use Acorn Studios in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire. They all lacked the routing flexibility and settings recall he felt would dramatically increase his studio’s creative efficiency. At the time, Sanders owned Solid State Logic, a company he founded in 1969 to develop advanced remotecontrol systems for large pipe organs using FET-based switching and multiplexed communication, between the organ keyboard and electro-mechanical elements.

“I thought: Why not add that type of programmable control to the various [cross point] switches used to route audio within a recording mixer?” he explained to Mel Lambert during a visit to Oxford in early October 1978 and a tour of the fledgling consolemanufacturing operation. Sanders’ “lightbulb moment” resulted in the A-Series inline console, with one-button switching between recording, tracking and mixdown mode with fader automation. The subsequent addition of Total Recall allowed all rotary controls to be scanned and then reset to their previous settings using a color-coded video screen. “It just seemed the obvious thing to do,” Sanders commented with typical candor. Acorn Studios’ first prototype

was of a split design, with separate input/routing and monitor sections. A more compact in-line custom version soon followed with computer-controlled switching; two of the resultant SL-4000 A-Series consoles were sold to Millstream Recording Studio, a local private studio in nearby Cheltenham owned by musician Dik Cadbury, and the Tocano Studio, Norway. SSL’s timecodereferenced fader-automation system was based on a Computer Automation 4/10 16-bit industrial computer, using custom software developed by Sanders’ partner, Paul Bamborough. Positive reactions to this initial design encouraged Sanders to develop the B-Series which, with feedback from Town House Studios in West London and

Above: SL 4000 A console from 1977 Below: Total Recall is go!

SSL order book from 1977. On the list for the 4000 series: Larrabee, Ridge Farm and Peppino di Capri

Record Plant in Los Angeles – two early customers – resulted in the definitive E-Series design, which included Total Recall automation after its formal launch in 1979. Sadly, Sanders was killed in January 1998 when his twinengine helicopter crashed in a field near Souldern Manor, where he had his own hangar and landing strip. He was just 50. SSL is now owned by the musician Peter Gabriel, whose Real World Studios outside the city of Bath, UK has been a regular customer for many years. “SSL has been very lucky with its inventions,” he remarked to this writer at an AES Convention in Los Angeles during the early Eighties. “The technology we used wasn’t particularly innovative, but it was the first time that anybody had added logic control switching and reset to a recording console. Of course, other manufacturers soon played catch-up, but we were there first, an achievement of which I am particularly proud,” he confessed with a broad grin. “Although Colin might make a typically modest comment about not being innovative, others myself included – would challenge that,” considers Sean Fernback, who worked in SSL’s R&D department during those formative years. “It took a lot of balls to stick a computer in the middle of a mixing console.”

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Genius!2 I was petrified somebody would come out xxx and xxxx with something before me

Jeff Bloom and the WordFit signal matching algorithm


he breakthrough takes probably a minute. That can be followed by 30 years implementing it.” Jeff Bloom knows this from personal experience. The US-born, UK-based scientist and technologist conceived a signal processing algorithm for matching audio signals to each other inthe early 1980s. He has spent the succeeding years establishing the concept in film post-production and extending its reach into consumer electronics. After gaining his BSc in Physics and then working as a musician and teacher in Cleveland, Bloom came to the UK in 1973 to work on his PhD in Cardiff, writing his thesis on human auditory localisation and binaural phenomena. During the late ’70s, Bloom became interested in digital recording studios, contributing articles on the subject to Studio Sound. Through this he met a sound recordist involved in ADR. “I’d never

Above: WordFit system from 1984 and, right: ReVoicePro3.2 main screen

DAR SoundStation Sigma audio workstation, which incorporated WordFit

Jeff Bloom and daughter Sophie in Croatia, July 2016

heard of the process but the idea struck me about lining up signals for editing,” Bloom says. Four years’ work resulted in WordFit in 1984. “I was petrified somebody would come out with something before me,” Bloom says. “Which is why I patented the concept.” Digital Audio Research (DAR) was formed with Guy McNally, Nick Rose and Gerry Cain, to develop and produce a commercial product, which Bloom admits originally, took 20 minutes to process five-seconds of speech. DAR also produced the SoundStation DAW, which incorporated WordFit. Despite being the size of a “small refrigerator”, WordFit was used on films of the time, including David Lynch’s Dune and Spielberg’s The Goonies, with both Universal and Warner Bros buying units. Bloom left DAR in 1994 with the intellectual rights to his invention and continued to develop the concept of synching words to lip movements under the banner of SynchroArts. With VocAlign and ReVoice established for the pro market,

SynchroArts moved into consumer, developing Singtones for mobile devices. The unassuming Bloom credits his technical director John Ellwood and DSP expert Jonathan Newland for their part in the development of the pitch processing on ReVoice, describing both as being “genius level”. The implementation of his original idea continues, with research into the formance of words – the different sounds and shapes – with the aim of adding that to the timing and pitch algorithm. Bloom says this

could have applications in language teaching, allowing students to record and mimic themselves instead of teachers. “I’ve been really lucky to find questions and problems that were really interesting to me,” Bloom concludes. “Perhaps, more important, I was lucky to find environments in which to do the work and some great people who could support my research or project developments.”

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I’ve got a way to make the sound xxx and xxxx follow the person

Alan Blumlein and the invention of stereo


person’s genius can be overshadowed by that of someone else and then almost forgotten as time passes. Alan Blumlein was a key figure in the development of television but many people would still say “John Logie Baird” when asked who invented the medium. He was also behind the development of stereo sound and the moving coil microphone. But until relatively recently his name and achievements were known to only a few. Alan Dower Blumlein was born in Hampstead, north London on 29 June, 1903. His father, a former mining engineer, introduced the young Alan to electrical engineering, a discipline the boy took to enthusiastically. He graduated from City and Guilds College, London, where he worked before joining International Western Electric, a division of the Bell Corporation. During his time there Blumlein filed seven patents, including ones for alternating current bridge circuits and time division multiplexing. By 1929 Blumlein felt he had gone as far as he could where he was and joined the Columbia Gramophone Company. His arrival coincided with a project to develop a recording cutter that didn’t infringe sound recording patents held by Bell Labs. He also worked with mechanical engineer Herbert Holman on a new moving coil microphone, which was used at the new studios of EMI – formed by the merger of Columbia and the Gramophone Company – and the BBC’s TV Centre at Alexandra Palace. During this time Blumlein had been working out in his mind what would become his audio legacy. He first verbalised it in 1931 on a trip

of their work into stereo involved film, memorably documented in the short film Walking and Talking. Despite great interest in the potential of what Blumlein and his colleagues were doing EMI suspended development of binaural because it wanted to push on with development of an electronic television system to rival Logie Baird’s mechanical approach. It was decided that Blumlein’s talents would be better employed on this, which led to the 405 lines system that formed the basis of the BBC’s ‘high definition’ service, which went on air in 1936. Blumlein later became involved in the ongoing development of radar. The result was a fully working system that greatly aided the war effort. The tragic downside was that Blumlein, and others, were killed when the Halifax bomber being used for radar tests crashed in June 1942. Like many geniuses, Alan Blumlein was way ahead of his time. His friend and mentor Isaac Shoenberg later admitted that he and others were unable to fully grasp the concept of binaural sound. Blumlein was not quite 39 when he died. One can only speculate what contributions he would have made to the coming world of solid state electronics and computers. Alan Blumlein (Pic courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust)

to the cinema with his wife-to-be, Doreen. He asked her whether she was aware that the sound on screen came from only one person. When she responded, “Does it?”, he said, “Yes. And I’ve got a way to make the sound follow the person.”

His 1931 patent for what he always referred to as binaural sound put forward the concept of “conveying to the listener a true directional impression”. Blumlein and his team experimented with audio-only recordings but much

References: The Inventor of Stereo: The Life and Works of Alan Dower Blumlein by Robert Charles Alexander, Focal Press 1999 The New Stereo Soundbook by F Alton Everest and Ron Streicher, TAB Books 1992

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Genius!2 The design also helped when DJs spilled drinks into the desk

Penny & Giles and the fader


n professional audio the name Penny & Giles is forever associated with high-quality faders for mixing consoles. In a parallel existence it is known for groundbreaking development in aeronautics, significantly the Black Box recorder. Professor William Penny and the late James Giles teamed up in 1956 to produce precision wirewound potentiometers for aircraft flight tests. A year later came the research that would lead to the first aircraft accident data recorder, which recorded magnetically on to stainless steel wire. P & G diversified its research, producing an improved version of the carbon granule-based

linear fader. Its alternative ran on conductive plastic tracks, which are less susceptible to noise. First seen on top-of-the-range music recording desks such as SSL, these later made their way into radio broadcasting. Iain Elliott, co-founder of Canford Audio, which still stocks replacement P&G fader knobs, was a young engineer at commercial station Metro Radio when it went on air in 1974. The studios were opposite a coal washing plant and one of Elliott’s jobs was to take the P&G desk faders apart to clean the coal dust from them. “You couldn’t do that with the traditional carbon fader,” he says. “The design also helped when DJs spilled drinks

into the desk. P&G were the innovators and their faders became the de facto standard.” When Professor Penny received an honorary degree from Bournemouth University, he was described by University Orator Alan Hunt as someone who “led by expertise and example with much emphasis on teamwork and achievement”. Penny’s response noted that: “It requires great skill and endeavour from a whole team to convert ideas and designs into a viable industrial enterprise.” The fact that the names Penny and Giles are still associated with

Above: The linear fader in full… (unfortunately, try as we might, we couldn’t get hold of any pictures of the two inventors) Below; The old Penny & Giles logo, now discontinued

mixing faders is testament to the achievements of William Penny, James Giles and their teams.

Chrys Lindop and IEM (in ear monitoring)


cene: the Philipshalle, Düsseldorf, about 1986. Experienced sound engineer Chrys Lindop is at the FOH position… “I was mixing Jeff Beck,” he recalls. “It’s about a 12,000 seater, very full, and his manager sidled up to me and said: ‘it’s a bit loud, isn’t it Chrys?’. I said, ‘OK – press that button there’. He pressed it, and nothing happened. Same mix, same volume. ‘And…?’ he said. I said: ‘You’ve just turned the PA off’.” Basically, the PA was doing nothing at all. Used to this, Lindop reflected that most audiences were, in those days, listening to an equivalent of the bands’ monitor mixes. “I noticed that singers,

especially, much preferred listening to mixes on headphones. In loudspeakers, they don’t recognise their own voices – so as well as a noise issue, it was a psychoacoustic issue.” With a few “clever bits of wireless”, as he puts it, Garwood Communications was formed and sold IEM to a hesitant industry – until the hesitance yielded, the floodgates opened and, never the businessman, Lindop fundamentally relinquished the entire solution to corporate muscle like Sennheiser and Shure. As for IEM’s contribution, Lindop sums it up like this. “Much of what I did before was finding the tiny headroom over the background

noise where you could place a vocal,” he says, with typical modesty. “I don’t think that’s a skill that anybody needs any more.” For his own definition of genius, Lindop nominates 19th Century English physician John Snow. “There’s a pub in Soho with a plaque in his name: it’s where he traced the source of an outbreak of cholera,” explains Lindop. “Solely through logic and deduction – he had no modern chemical analysis – he figured out that cholera came from water and, therefore, how to eradicate it. It also explains why I always preferred drinking beer…”

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Genius!2 Wexxxx know how difficult it is to provide audio xxx and kit for two or more festivals simultaneously!

Glenn Roggeman and material banking


he audio visual rental industry is pretty much a companydriven industry with rental companies individually over-investing in equipment. In the festival and concert season, every AV-company is on the look-out for extra gear, compatible with their own brands. The off-season sees warehouses full of unused equipment… “That was my ‘Eureka!’ moment, back in 1985,” reveals Glenn Roggeman, CEO of AED group. “I came up with the idea of combining standardisation and sharing economy, not in currency but in speakers, amplifiers, consoles and lighting. A unique model offering professional rental companies a massive inventory of standard audio, lighting and video equipment.” Between 1985 and 2003, AED made its way in providing audio and lighting solutions for all kinds of events and concerts. “We had to – the industry just wasn’t ready for the unique formula I had cooked,” underlines Roggeman. A crucial decision to introduce his new business model came in 2003 when AED group stopped taking on productions. “We had been doing big assignments ourselves since day one. We’ve been there, I tell you; we know how difficult it is to provide audio kit for two or more festivals simultaneously! And that’s where the roots of the AED Rent business model are based on the principles of sharing economy,” says Roggeman. “Although I must admit that my decision to stop doing productions met with almost unanimous resistance from our staff – but, two years later, when the new formula went live, they were all convinced.” The key technology to achieve a working business model was in fact the establishment of an interactive workflow (the first version dates

back from 1991) administering the management of AED group’s assets from within the four walls of the company headquarters. The unique elements in AED group’s material banking model are AED’s neutral position on the market, the standardisation of the assets, the fixed rental rates structure and the continuous maintenance of the equipment. “The big disadvantage is that with such a transparent business, we have become an example for numerous dry-hire copycats throughout Europe. It’s really extreme…they undercut our rates but don’t offer our quality, range of products or service.” Despite AED group’s pan-European reputation and fame, Roggeman feels that the industry still puts question marks on the company’s neutrality: people who see AED Rent as a rival eating away other’s assignments. “But today, we have over 2,000 clients, companies from small to XXL, who prefer to see AED Rent as a part of their solution rather than a competitor,” he enthuses, adding that the standardisation and the sustainable sharing economy model was completely finalised in 2015, with extra features such as second-hand and flex-lease options. Roggeman will remain faithful to his adage ‘not supplying to end-users’, he says. With an extra capital injection of 100 million euros within the next 12 months, he continues to fight pricecutting. “Either by acquiring copycat companies or by strategically entering the other segments, like with our budget model rental (Blue) list. I’m thinking of a dedicated budget-rental inventory of four-year-old (but perfect condition) gear.”

Glenn Roggeman admiring the QSC PLD 4.5 processing amp

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Left: Bob Orban (left) and John Delantoni demo Optimod-AM 9000 Engineering prototype at NAB 1977 Right: Orban in the lab in 2015

xxx and The xxxxdistortion-cancelling clipper can

be blamed on Jefferson Airplane, specifically the song White Rabbit

Bob Orban and improving radio BOB ORBAN: I believe that I invented two technologies that were equally important to the industry: The first was overshootcompensated low-pass filters that greatly reduced the peakto-average ratio of the waveform that was applied to an AM or FM transmitter’s modulator; the second was distortion-cancelled clipping. When I made a prototype of my first FM broadcast audio processor around 1973, I observed that certain audio material (like muted trumpets) caused severe peak over-modulation when applied to what was then a start-of-the-art FM stereo encoder. I brought this up with Belar founder Arno Meyer, who blamed overshooting and ringing in the encoder’s 15kHz low-pass filter. It occurred to me that if I integrated the audio processor and low-pass filter, and if I was able to develop a non-linear low-pass filter that didn’t overshoot, while still constraining the spectrum applied to the stereo coder to less than around 17kHz, this would solve the problem and would also significantly

increase in on-air loudness without additional compression or peak limiting. I showed a prototype of the combined compressor/limiter/filter to Eric Small, a broadcast consultant for whom I was doing some consulting, and he was impressed by its potential. Because of stringent (regulatory body) FCC rules regarding type acceptance of transmission equipment, I proposed integrating the stereo encoder with the processor/filter so that existing coders would not have to be modified to bypass their filters. Eric agreed that this was a good idea, and proposed taking over the marketing and promotion of what was to become the Optimod 8000. Because it increased on-air loudness by about 3dB compared to existing air chains, the product was extremely successful, selling over 3,000 units and increasing Orban’s annual sales by an order of magnitude. The distortion-cancelling clipper can be blamed on the Jefferson Airplane, specifically the song

White Rabbit, which had some intense “ess” sounds (“One pill makes you ssssmall…”) In 1977 I was developing my first AM processor (Optimod 9000A), which used a lot of high frequency boost ahead of a clipper that was the main peak controlling element. Because of clipper-induced differencefrequency IM distortion, every “ess” was distorted, sounding more like an “f.” It occurred to me that I could remove the difference frequency IM distortion in the frequency range where typical AM radios are flat (about 0 to 2kHz) by lowpass-filtering just the clipper distortion (derived by subtracting the clipper’s output from its input) and then adding it out-of-phase to the clipper’s output. Before the subtraction, the output had to be delayed to match the delay of the distortion filter. I implemented this idea, fired up Alice, and was immediately blown away by esses that were now very clean-sounding. Optimod 9000A used a bucket brigade delay line for the delay compensation. The BBD’s noise

and distortion characteristics weren’t good enough for FM, so I developed a major refinement to distortion-cancelled clipping: using the FM 15kHz low-pass filter (with group delay equalisation) as the delay element in the distortion cancellation. This invention was the heart of Optimod-FM 8100, which was in production for over 10 years, with over 10,000 units sold. The 8100 and its companion “XT2” six-band compressor accessory took Orban FM processing to the beginning of the DSP-based processor era, when our Optimod 8200 became the first commercially successful DSP-based FM transmission processor. We are now up to 8700, and still going strong! Earlier this year, Orban was acquired by DaySequerra. I continue to head the Orban engineering team within the combined company, and to actively invent and innovate with the goal of continuing our 40-plus years of technological leadership in the broadcast industry.

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Toshifumi Kunimoto (aka Dr. K) and Virtual Circuit Modelling


hen PSNEurope interviewed Toshifumi Kunimoto – known to his many friends and colleagues as Dr. K – earlier this year it noted the general overuse of the word ‘legend’ but remarked that in this instance “it seems genuinely appropriate, such is [Dr. K’s] trackrecord of involvement in historic product development projects at Yamaha’s labs in Japan.” After formative experiences as an amateur musician, Kunimoto determined that his future lay in audio engineering, rather than performance. Having concluded his studies at Hokkaido University, he joined Yamaha in the early 1980s and quickly became involved in some of the decade’s most significant electronic and music synthesizer products, including the VL1, AN1x, EX5 and Motif. Already gestating ideas about the recreation of analogue sounds in the digital domain, Kunimoto would become increasingly immersed in the concept of what came to be known as VCM (Virtual Circuit Modelling). VCM software made it possible not just to replicate effects, but also provide solutions at the component level, and has been incorporated into numerous flagship digital mixing desks – ranging from the DM1000 to the more recent likes of the CL and QL series. “There is no doubt that VCM was a huge breakthrough for us, and in fact it continues to inform the work that we undertake at Yamaha today. [One of the overriding priorities with VCM] has been to achieve the general reality of the

Dr. K in his lab and insert; Yamaha TF5: “Another landmark for Yamaha”

sound, as well as its ‘behaviours’, and that principle remains unchanged,” says Kunimoto. In one of its most recent iterations – as an integral part of the RIVAGE PM10 large format desk – VCM is used to recreate the characteristics of Rupert Neve Design transformer circuitry and SILK processing. Already in

Demonstrating the RIVAGE PM10 to a potential customer

the process of becoming a stalwart of the high-end touring market, the RIVAGE PM10’s adherents include FOH engineer Kirk ‘Eek’ Schreiner, who described the console as “the first digital desk that sounds analogue to me”. Dr. K and his team also continue to innovate for those with “small to medium scale mixing requirements”. First showcased

at Prolight + Sound 2015, the TF series comprises three compact digital mixing consoles. The TF5, TF3, and TF1 respectively offer 33, 25, or 17 motor faders, along with 32, 24, or 16 rear-panel analogue inputs featuring recallable Yamaha D-PRE preamplifiers for the first time in a digital console. Advanced live recording features include up to 34 x 34 channel recording and playback via USB 2.0. “The TF series is another landmark project for Yamaha, and we are very happy with the results of the R&D process behind it,” says Kunimoto. “All these years later we are still innovating with regard to digital mixing technology and the opportunities it offers for engineers and install clients. I am still finding the work hugely enjoyable and love being in the labs – there is always something new and exciting to be done…”

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Cliff Maag Sr. and the Air-Band

he Air Band EQ has graced a number of Cliff Maag Sr.’s designs to date, beginning with the NTI EQ3 equaliser in the early ‘90s, and now found on all of the Mäag Audio equipment (accent only on the company name). The concept of the Air Band is simple: it’s a high-frequency shelving filter. But unlike most shelves, the corner frequency stretches well beyond the audible range. “Necessity is

the mother of invention, and I have a passion for great music and recording great sound,” says Maag. “Because my studio business, at that time, would not support the purchase of a better console, it became necessary for me to update my old custom console. This is where the inventing part came in and the Air Band Mic Pre and EQs were born.” The original NTI EQ3 was a sixband EQ with fixed frequency bands. However, while each of the first five bands could be boosted or cut, the final Air Band could only be boosted. Later revisions, added additional corner frequency options for the Air Band, bringing in the option of adding a shelving boost from as low as 5kHz. “In picking the frequencies and Qs there was one goal in mind: no phase-shift. This lack of phaseshift determined the frequencies and

Ryan Maag, Cliff Maag Sr., Cliff Maag Jr., Travis Allen

Qs, which happened to create a big bottom end EQ that many users count on and have come to love; I would say almost as much as the Air Band.” In 2009, Cliff Maag returned to the Air Band EQ at the urging of his son: “Ryan was looking at comments in blogs on the internet. He said, ‘Dad everyone is talking about your equipment and they really love your gear.’ Wow, there was a lot of wonderful things being said. Soon after that, we decided to get back into the game and started

William David Harrison and inline consoles


illiam David Harrison, better known in the audio world simply as Dave Harrison, was a recording and mixing engineer, before eventually becoming studio manager in the late ’60s at King Records, Cincinnati, and eventually moving to Nashville to start a Studio Supply. At the time studio consoles were largely custom built, and would be split into two sections – one for recording, with outputs going to tape, and the other for monitoring, with inputs coming from the tape machine and the outputs summed to the master outputs. This split-desk architecture required a considerable footprint for the desk, especially as larger 24-and even 32-track tape machines were coming into use. Dave Harrison’s development was to put the return from the tape machine on the same

channel of the console as the send to the tape machine. This “inline” architecture puts a send and return fader easily within reach of the engineer on the same channel, making for a much smaller footprint and a more ergonomic experience. Dave licensed this new design to Grover “Jeep” Harned of MCI in 1971, and the MCI JH-400 series

were the first mass-produced console to use the new inline architecture, the very first of which went to Atlantic Studios. The first console to bear the Harrison name was the 3232, launched in 1975. This extremely popular console design, the world’s first 32-buss inline console, has been used on countless records, most famously by Bruce

A Harrison 3232 (version of the 32C), famously used by Bruce Swedien when he worked on Thriller

Mäag Audio with my two sons, Ryan and Cliff Jr, and Travis Allen.” Mäag Audio released a new EQ based on the EQ3, called suitably, the EQ4, and have since added additional EQ and pre-amp models. But Cliff is hoping to develop beyond this one design “We do have one particular development. It is a compressor design. I have waited a long time to develop this and it is about ready to go. Stay tuned!”



Swedien when working on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. David Harrison was made a fellow of the AES for his contribution to the inline console design, an architecture which is now used on nearly all large-format audio consoles. He died 17 August, 1995, in Arlington, Texas, aged 53. Harrison Consoles continue to build and develop audio equipment and software.

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I started computer modelling xxx and xxxx

of loudspeakers before there were any PCs

Ari Varla and active monitoring


apland salmon fisherman, tube guitar amp expert, stargazer and home telescope builder Ari Varla joined Ilpo Martikainen’s nascent Genelec in 1980, during his studies in electronic engineering at Tampere University, Finland. This was just two years after the company had been founded with the launch of the very first active monitoring loudspeaker: the S30. As well as the usual anechoic chamber measurements, this was a product fully acoustically tailored to the studio control room and one that ushered in a new era of almost forensic audio analysis when mixing. Immediately grasping Martikainen’s vision, Varla became one of the foundations of the Genelec brand. New measurement tools, protection circuitry and amplifier topologies were developed and by 1985 there were 12 models that also sported a completely new HF ribbon driver. So original were the designs that the

business challenge was considerable: Laila Giles was brought in as European sales manager and from her strategic position in Brussels pursuaded several national broadcasters to audition the new breed of monitors. ‘We’ve already got the amplifiers’ was the typical response, but eventually RAI (Italy), YLE (Finland), RTL (France) and RTB (Brunei) embraced the technology. For recording studio owners it was the installation into Metropolis Studios in West London that put Genelec’s powered option on the map, and the iconic 1035A became visible in control rooms from California to Japan – its ratio of high output to low distortion raising eyebrows and cochlea hair cells in equal measure. Varla’s numerous and crucial contributions to this success included his groundbreaking waveguide-loaded and direct-radiating drivers, christened by Genelec as the

Directivity Control Waveguide, as well as his detailed development of Martikainen’s patented Laminar Spiral Enclosure bass reflex subwoofer. “I started computer modelling of loudspeakers before there were

Varla with Genelec 1031 monitor, which arguably set the standard for 2-way active monitors

any PCs,” he recounted, speaking to PSNEurope editor Phil Ward in 1996. “The first ones were done on a DEC PDP11 at my university. We had to share the computer and leave the programs to run overnight, so it was hard to predict what would come out the next morning! You had to separately draw every bloody line on the pen-plotter…” Innovation continued in the ‘90s as the company became a global force with a network of distributors expertly stewarded by the familiar figure of international sales manager Lars-Olof Janflod. Arguably, the 1031A released in 1991 set the standard for smaller, 2-way active monitors as the nearfield began to displace the soffit-mounted main monitor as the priority in a deliquescing studio industry. “The basic waveguide design with the curved front baffle has remained constant since the 1022 in ‘85,” continued Varla, who passed away in 2008. “It was optimised for directivity control in free space installations, rather than half space which gives you a much more diffraction-free environment. It still measures one of the best acoustical performances of any loudspeaker, because there are no secondary sources in the front baffle.” As a logical extension of the monitors being active, Genelec has utilised sophisticated DSP and networking since 2006 and the launch of the 8200 bi-amplified monitors with 7200 subwoofers. This year the 8430 IP Smart Active Monitor has introduced AES67 compatibility to the Genelec portfolio, dramatically increasing protocol versatility and keeping the spirit of Ari Varla’s acoustic astronomy very much alive.

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Genius!2 drives a company’s success is not just xxxWhat and xxxx

about having a revolutionary idea but those who contribute to making it real

Claudio Lastrucci and the Digam amplifier


audio Lastrucci, cofounder and technical R&D director of Powersoft, has rightly earned his status among the industry ‘geniuses’ by virtue of pioneering Class D amplification. He helped change the perception of an unstable switch mode power supply – as digital amps tried valiantly in the early days to depose the linear paradigm – by developing a series of efficient, ultra-high powered and economic solutions using patented technologies. Today, this is entirely in keeping with the green credentials that pro-audio companies strive for. It was while studying for a PhD in Power Electronics at the University of Electronic Engineering in Florence that the ‘lightbulb’ really came on for the young Italian. Joining him on this empirical journey were Antonio Peruch, with whom he would later co-found Powersoft, and brother Luca. Claudio was fascinated by power conversion and liked to spend time playing on car and hi-fi systems. But with only 12 volts to play with in order to create more power he needed an effective method to step up the voltage — and this became his early obsession. During his experimentation in the hi-fi world, Claudio always believed that not only was their technology way ahead of hi-fi market requirements, but in fact the extraordinary power they could generate even exceeded the expectations of the professional world.

Over a two-year period, Claudio devised a way in which switch mode technologies could be applied to high performances audio amplification with unprecedented power-performance ratios. By 1996 the three founders were able to unveil a prototype of the patented Digam range was shown at a Milan electronics show where visitors marvelled at the technological breakthrough of a 10kW amplifier, with remote control, bearing a PFC and LED display. This was a stable Class-D product that could produce reliable, high levels of power. And Claudio and his team have been extending the envelope ever since through a series of marketleading and award-winning ranges (notably the K Series and, most recently, the X Series) in his quest to convert ever-higher percentages of raw energy into extraordinary

(Left to right): Luca, Claudio and Antonio launch Digam in the ’90s

amplifier power – all contained in an ultra-compact 19” chassis. With these series, customers were immediately able to see the advantages of switch mode amplification in all its glory, with its greatly reduced heat dissipation, back EMF (active recycling of the reactive energy coming back from the loudspeakers), easy handling of low-load impedance loads and pristine sound. These technologies have become the driving force of the company’s core business, while impacting diversified applications, such as highly effective power amplification modules for active speakers and, subsequently, merging amplification and transducer methods, as can be seen in the unique bottom-end M-System/M-Force. It was these switch mode technologies that opened the doors to active loudspeakers as we know them today. The previous huge, and heavy amplifiers of yore had been replaced by a solution that was a lot smaller and considerably more powerful.

Claudio credits the entire team for this breakthrough. “What drives a company’s success is not just about having a revolutionary idea but those who contribute to making it real. The sum is greater than the parts, and without the enthusiasm for audio and technology that Antonio, my brother Luca and I had put into developing these ideas, all that we have created would have been unattainable.”

The company celebrated 20 years of business in 2015

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Chrys Lindop

Wilfried Van Baelen

Greg Mackie

Jeff Bloom Bruce Jackson Dave Gunness Ari Varla David Royer Alan Blumlein

Glenn Roggeman

Claudio Lastrucci

Rich Zwiebel David Hafler

Robert Adams

Toshifumi Kunimoto

Rein Narma

Jeff Bloom

Pat Quilter Bill Putnam, Sr

Per Brüel & Viggo Kjær

Penny & Giles

Dave Harrison

Christian Heil

Robert Orban

Peter Lawo

Colin Sanders

Jack Wilson Cliff Maag, Sr

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QSC salutes the geniuses whose contributions continue to inspire an industry.

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Genius!2 It was a lot of fun to basically change xxx and xxxx how things are done

Rich Zwiebel and CobraNet RICH ZWIEBEL: I started installing mix-minus systems for corporate boardrooms in the 1980s. While the concept was an effective one, we set the levels for each path by – literally – soldering in resistors. This was really impractical and time consuming. We also thought long and hard before changing any levels in the matrix since it required soldering. Around 1990, I designed the audio conferencing and sound reinforcement systems for American Airlines’ corporate headquarters. This included a large, 65-seat conference room. As I did not want to do any more soldering, I came up with the idea to use a live sound monitor mixer to create the mix, including certain channels out of phase with others, and I added automixers to the console’s insert loops. This allowed me to create a mix-minus with 65 inputs and about 15 outputs. While this worked well, it took forever to set up as there were so many knobs to turn… At the same time, I was designing a new audio system for the United States Senate Chamber. The Chamber system was using outdated technology. I wanted to do a mix-minus but realised that to adjust level would take 10,000 knobs (100 inputs x 100 outputs) just to cover the Senator’s themselves. (…And of course there were all those other functions such as EQ and limiting on top of that.) So: if I could have a computer screen with a graphical layout of the Senate Chamber and a way to select any desk, all desks, or any subset of the desks, and then turn a knob, whether it is level, EQ, or any other signal processing, I would be changing the entire selected group

of desks at once. That was part of the ‘a-ha!’ moment. The other was just being in the field on a large project such as a stadium and realising that if I felt that I needed to add something such as a delay or limiter… this would result in having to deal with a complex and expensive change order process. The networked speakers idea came from laying out many large facilities large speakers and realising how inflexible, labour intensive, and expensive that was. The other idea: Configurable DSP, changing wired-together analogue equipment, to drawing pictures on a computer screen, hitting compile and having it ‘become’ that audio system. The idea also included ‘soft’ controls on a computer screen, rather than the hardware-based controls of the time. What was the disruptive thing about this ‘invention’? Configurable DSP would go on to change the way we design and build audio systems. It ended the old-fashioned method of using individual hardware products that are mounted in equipment racks and then hardwired

CobraNet was implemented in devices such as the QSC BASIS 922uz, an ‘8x8 CobraNet Enabled Control and Monitoring Signal Processor’

together. Instead, people started to use computers to design and use audio systems. This was the fundamental change. It was a lot of fun to basically change how things are done. Nobody else did this. In 1992, I was a consultant at the Joiner Rose Group, where I designed both audio systems and acoustical solutions for a wide variety of projects. The company I then created to develop technology, Peak Audio, licensed Configurable DSP to Peavey and it was sold as MediaMatrix, which was the first configurable DSP on the market; it proved to be a gamechanger.

The ‘networked speakers’ idea eventually became CobraNet, which we licensed to over 50 companies. This also changed the industry, starting the change from analogue wiring to using networks to transport audio. When we introduced CobraNet, there was another fundamental shift from huge bundles of hard-wired cables with many types of connectors to simply making use of a network to route and transport audio. These inventions changed the way our industry works. Most systems in use today use configurable sound processing. The current generation of system designers assume that is how they will set up their system. And networked audio has become the way audio transport is undertaken worldwide. It would be unusual to see a new large audio system that still depends purely upon analogue wiring. While I am often credited with these innovations, it really is the great team of engineers that did all the hard work to make these ideas happen. I still work with most of that original team at QSC. Call it my ‘Genius’ moment: in reality, it took a team of brilliant engineers to turn these ideas into reality.

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David Gunness and Gunness Focusing Lightbulb moments aren’t always immediate. Sometimes the lightbulb goes off and it takes years for the idea to be realised. That’s the way it was with Gunness Focusing and Temporal Equalization, which are suites of tools and techniques for using FIR filters to improve the performance of loudspeakers. Dave, though it took a while, what led up to your ‘breakthrough’? DG: In 1985, I was working on the HP family of horns at Electro-Voice, and I started to notice a pattern among the various HP prototypes and the HR family they were replacing. Some horns sounded more musical than others, and I was able to isolate the particular details that made the difference. Once I understood the causes of these “non-musical” artifacts, I hypothesised that those artifacts might be mitigated by using signal processing to cancel the associated reflections and resonances. So, I suppose that was the “A-ha!” moment. Unfortunately, the tools to test my theory didn’t exist at the time, and it would take nearly 20 years and a move to EAW before I had both developed the software to create the settings, and had a powerful enough

circuits (plus delay). The ability to create specialised non-minimum phase filters allowed us to eliminate the effect of non-minimum phase physical artifacts. As it turns out, those artifacts are quite audible.

Dave Gunness designing

DSP platform available to me to implement them. Even then, while I knew I could improve the impulse response in technical terms, I really didn’t know how audible the effect would be. That first time we listened to a “focused” prototype was definitely the

“Eureka!” moment. What was so ‘disruptive’ about this? Prior to that, DSP for loudspeakers had primarily been a convenient and precise way to implement minimum-phase filters that could have been created with analogue

Bill Putnam Sr. and the studio


he achievements of audio engineer, studio designer, producer and Universal Audio founder Bill Putnam Sr would be difficult to summarise in 3,000 words, let alone a mere 300. His credentials as a studio pioneer began to be cemented as early as the late 1940s when he founded one of the first independent studios in the US, Chicago’s Universal Recording, and United Recording and Western Recorders in Hollywood. United Recording was sold to business partner Allen Sides in 1983 and was renamed Ocean Way. On the R&D side, the initial tube console that Putnam designed for Western Recorders is often cited as the first modern recording console. In 1958 he founded Universal Audio, later renaming it United Recording Electronics Industries, or UREI. Also

emerging from his busy lab was the first US multi-band audio equaliser and iconic recording equipment such as the UREI 1176LN Classic Limiting Amplifier and UREI Time Align Monitor. He was the first engineer to use artificial reverberation in commercial recording and, along with his friend Les Paul, played an important role in the early development of stereophonic recording. Equally at home in the studio in artistic ‘mode’, Putnam was involved with landmark sessions by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Little Walter and Dinah Washington, among other pivotal artists. Putnam passed away in California in 1989, at the age of 69, but 10 years later Universal Audio was refounded by his sons, James Putnam and Bill Putnam

What was the consequence? It radically changed the art of loudspeaker design for me, because it increased the range of designs that could be made to sound good. I’ve been experimenting ever since, using approaches that have practical advantages but would once have been classified as “bad ideas”. Of course, I also gained some notoriety as a result of the “Gunness Focusing” branding EAW chose to use. That came in very handy when we launched Fulcrum Acoustic!



The classic photo: Putnam recording Sinatra

Jr. They had two main goals: to faithfully reproduce classic analogue recording equipment in the tradition of their father; and to design new digital recording tools with the sound and spirit of

vintage analogue technology. The company remains a vital force in the development of studio equipment.

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Bruce Jackson and Lake Contour


ruce Jackson was an innovator and pioneer in the truest sense of the word. His outlook, philosophy and vision helped change the shape of touring sound forever, an instrumental influence whose affect is still being felt, even after his untimely death in a plane crash in early 2011. Jackson was a skilled engineer, and his extensive, star-studded live mixing credits include such names as Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Johnny Cash, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Jefferson Airplane, Cat Stevens, Art Garfunkel and Lou Reed, among many others. After working with PA giant Clair Bros for many years in the 1970s, Jackson went on to establish Apogee in California and worked with fellow Australian Kim Ryrie to make the Fairlight sampling keyboard famous worldwide. His most illustrious contribution to live sound began in the early 1990s, when Jackson and DSP algorithm creator David McGrath, with the support of Clair Bros,

began development of a highperformance speaker processing system that would be both flexible and easy to operate. As a result of these efforts, the Lake Contour speaker processor and Mesa Quad EQ were announced in 2001. The Lake processor was rapidly adopted by professionals throughout the world for the outstanding quality and operational efficiency it brought to the live sound environment. In 2004, the innovations were combined with the launch of the revolutionary Dolby Lake Processor, a processor that became a standard in highend live sound applications. A collaboration with Swedish amplifier manufacturer Lab. gruppen led to the arrival of the TEC Award-winning PLM Series, an amplifier platform that came integrated with Lake as standard. Lab.gruppen purchased the Lake brand in 2009, and while they have continued to develop the original Lake Processing platform in new releases such as the PLM+ and LM Series, it all stems from the genius ideas of Bruce Jackson and his team, ideas that changed the

shape of the live sound industry as we know it. “Bruce Jackson was a true visionary,” said Miguel Hadelich, vice president of Enterprise for MUSIC (current owner of Lake), speaking in 2014. “He was someone who revolutionised user interfaces, a purist and perfectionist when it came to audio quality and a genuine guru when it came to user experience. What we see today with iPad control and so on, Bruce was envisioning this 20 years ago.”

Above: Lake Contour processors with touchscreen laptop interface Below: Lake Controller software running on a tablet

(L-R) Bruce Jackson with David McGrath, Brian Connolly and Marcus Altman, the team behind Lake

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Genius!2 We developed the missing link xxx and xxxx Wilfried Van Baelen and Auro-3D


fter 150 years of evolution in sound reproduction, Auro-3D is establishing itself as a new twist on the “listening experience” by adding a third dimension for the audiences of music, games, moveis and more. “The idea of a true 3D-sound format as a logical new step in the history of sound came when I was working in the summer of 2005 as engineer/co-producer on an album of (German artist) Sylvia Diaz which I mixed in a 7.1 format using two height channels (5.1+2),” explains Wilfried Van Baelen, founder/CEO of the renowned Galaxy Studios, in Mol, Belgium. “Despite the fact that I experienced that sound as much clearer, with more transparency and depth coming from the front, I felt something was missing. The magical moment came when I achieved a ‘vertical stereo field all around’ by adding a pair of back height speakers, resulting in a 5.1 configuration on the bottom and a quadraphonic second layer (=Auro 9.1). I was shocked, it felt suddenly like ‘being there’. That’s the moment when I first experienced the emotional power of a true ‘Immersive Sound’, like I called it when I launched the format and which was, step by step, adapted as the new generic term for ‘Surround

Mixing on a bigger scale!

Wilfried Van Baelen Auro-3D mixing on the AMS Neve 88D at Galaxy Studios Inset: the first Auro-3D installation in Chengdu, China

Sound with Height’. “While Auro 9.1 is the most efficient 3D speaker layout with full 5.1 backwards compatibility, Auro 10.1 is the most efficient 3-layered system to reproduce a natural space.” Van Baelen’s next step was to develop a 3D speaker layout for cinema theatres: the Auro 11.1 system, with a 6-channel vertical stereo-field. “But,” he continues, “I remember also how disappointed I was when I realised that there was no way to bring this totally new sound experience to consumer markets

because everything was limited to the bandwidth of 7.1 surround – HDMI, Blu-ray and Pro Tools. “That limitation inspired me to invent the Auro-3D codec: a groundbreaking solution that allows a ‘single file distribution’ containing different multiple masters (Surround and Immersive Sound) while using existing delivery formats without the need of any extra bandwidth nor any change of specs while keeping Hi Res audio in each decoded channel. This invention was key in bringing the missing third dimension in sound as first ever to all markets, a major leap in the history of sound.” After four years of development together with engineer Guido Van den Berghe, Van Baelen was ready to bring the Immersive Sound experience, as intended by its creators, to all consumers. Together with engineer Ralph Kessler, Van Baelen developed the Auro-Matic, which is part of the Auro-3D engine in the devices used for the consumer markets. “Whatever kind of legacy content you’re putting in, mono, stereo, 5.1… it will be automatically up-mixed

resulting in a natural Immersive Sound experience,” Van Baelen explains. In 2010, on the occasion of the AES Spatial Audio convention, Van Baelen presented the full-scale launch of the Auro-3D format. He got overall positive reactions, from movie directors including George Lucas, leading film mixing studios, such as Skywalker Sound, and Barco, the leading digital cinema projector manufacturer, who became Auro’s exclusive partner for Digital Cinema. Today, over 600 theatres have committed to or installed Auro 11.1 by Barco. “After we launched the first ever AV-Receiver with true 3D Audio at CES 2014, many thousands of home cinemas installed the Auro3D system,” claims Van Baelan. “Porsche have recently announced their first car ever with Immersive Sound using the Burmester Auro3D system, creating a totally new driving experience. Our success inspired our competitors to adopt Immersive Sound.”

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ackie Designs’ roots date back to 1969, when Greg Mackie founded Technical Audio Products (TAPCO) with partner Martin Schneider. A musician in a Seattle band, Mackie was frustrated by the poor quality of most audio mixers. TAPCO’s first success occurred with the release of its Model 6000, the first mixer designed specifically for rockband loudness. Musicians quickly embraced TAPCO’s inexpensive, effective and durable equipment, and within a few years the company was hugely profitable. Mackie parted ways with TAPCO in 1977 (he disagreed with their cost-cutting agenda) and launched his second business venture, AudioControl, a maker of stereo equalisers and analysers, that same year. Mackie left that business in 1985 to pursue a new idea. With the rise in keyboards and high-tech music-making, the mixer market was effectively split between highend devices for professionals and cheap, mass-produced mixers for

consumers. Mackie Designs, formed in 1988, would fill this need for high-quality, reasonably priced compact mixers. Greg initially ran his business from his threebedroom apartment, stripping down mixing boards to determine which components were essential for excellent sound, and which could be eliminated.

Pic courtesy of NAMM Oral History

That console got us on the map xxx and xxxx Mackie and the CR-1604

Greg Mackie’s first TAPCO mixer from 1973

“Back then the TV sets had controls where you could adjust vertical and horizontal angles, etc,” says Mackie. “I wanted to make a high-quality compact mixer which was also affordable. I looked at 9mm controls which were popular in the TV industry and at that time

some manufacturers came out with potentiometers that were sealed. [Mackie Designs] were the first to have the guts to use those sealed controls. The broadcast mixers at that time had those parts, but MI mixers at the time had low-quality parts. And it just so happened that right when I started Mackie, they were available at a very low cost. This was a big breakthrough.” The company’s first product, the LM-1602, was an instant hit. Few in the industry realised how popular a mid-level mixing board would prove to be. Amateur musicians, wanting to better themselves, drove early sales, but churches, schools and corporate AV teams were important customers as well. In 1991, the company released Press cutting from the 1990s

Greg Mackie in 2015 and, left, the CR-1604

the CR-1604 audio mixer, which would revolutionise the industry. “When the CR-1604 was born, that console got us on the map,” says Mackie. Still a privately owned enterprise, Mackie Designs’ annual growth rate was spectacular throughout the early 1990s, averaging well over 100 per cent each year, it is reported, because it stayed focused on mixers. Over 48 per cent of sales in the mid-1990s were derived from one product – the CR-1604. The CR1604’s effect on the music business would be equated by some to the impact the desktop computer had on publishing. “The other thing is that we spent a great deal of time making the user interface very easy to understand. We were careful with verbiage, font sizes, and we were careful to consider everything in designing them to look good and be easy to use and understand.” Mackie sold its 100,000th mixer in 1995. Who knows how many Mackie mixers have been sold since then?

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David Royer and the R-121 ribbon mic


oyer Labs founder David Royer built his first professional microphone in 1986 – the same year that he also used a borrowed SPEIDEN SF-12 for the first time. He confirms that he then became determined “to pursue microphone manufacturing and sound recording”. A little over 10 years later, Royer would develop his first ribbon mic, the R-121. Designed to deliver warmth and musicality for both studio and live applications, the R-121’s likely impact first became clear when early prototypes were loaned to two groups: Earthlings? and Queens of the Stone Age. “The mics were used for guitars and the engineers were blown away by how faithfully they captured the guitar tones,” recalls Royer. “Additionally, our patented off-set ribbon enabled the mics to take on the loud amplifiers without destroying the ribbons. The second clue was more eye-opening. We loaned

Brüel & Kjær and the Constant Percentage Bandwidth analyser


ome scientists set out to explain the world around us and how it works. Others look to develop technologies that make life better. Brüel & Kjær decided to do both through what seems to be the unlikely medium of sound measurement equipment. But their meters and microphones have been used round the world to improve sound quality and deal with the problem of unwanted or potentially harmful noise. Per Brüel (1915-2015) and Viggo Kjær (1914-2013) met at the Danish Technical University and shared an interest in physics and hi-fi. The two friends planned to start an engineering company together focusing on measurement. “Even then we could see that noise is

one of the biggest problems of our time,” Brüel was quoted in Journey to Greatness: The Story of Brüel & Kjær. “Our instruments could not only measure noise but also help customers identify and eliminate noise problems.” Among the devices developed by B&K for measuring response in auditoria, homes and schools was the Constant Percentage Bandwidth (CPB) analyser, which defines the width of the filters relative to their position in the frequency range being tested, something still used in the B&K PULSE analyser platform and 2250/70 handheld units; and the Standing Wave Apparatus, a device Brüel described in his PhD thesis on material testing.”

microphones to numerous prominent engineers that were working with digital recording. Every engineer reported that the R-121 sounded more natural and realistic than other mics when recorded digitally, even without any EQ enhancement. That was a real ‘Eureka’ moment; just how well they worked within the digital domain.” Reflecting on the achievements of Royer Labs, the inventor highlights the enduring popularity of the ribbon mics: “The challenge with active mics was to get the sensitivity to a value that would be comparable to that of a good pro capacitor mic. We took a unique approach with designing a highly specialised broadband toroidal transformer to achieve the gain we desired and followed that with an active impedance converter that added very little noise. Recently, we have included a pad and roll-off filter to that basic design – to great effect.”



“We are physicists and we are not used to some of the funny phrases used in music.”

B&K produced microphones to provide sources for the meters and analysers, which eventually took the company into music recording, initially with the 4000 series. Speaking to Broadcast Systems International magazine in 1989, Brüel said the technology in both types was the

same, the only difference being the size. But he said there were communication problems between the two worlds: “We are physicists and we are not used to some of the funny phrases used in music.”

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Genius!2 I knew more about optics than acoustics back then!

Christian Heil and line array


rench inventor Christian Heil, trained in corpuscular physics, launched the V-DOSC full frequency line array in 1993 and, as the saying goes, has never looked back. Well, maybe once or twice… L-Acoustics’ patented Wavefront Sculpture Technology (WST) was the original blueprint for modern vertical line array and the heartbeat of V-DOSC: since then, the other line arrays in the portfolio have all used the same principles in the vertical domain. What’s changed more recently lies in the horizontal domain: the ability to alter the horizontal directivity pattern of a line array module. Accordingly, and setting aside several coaxial achievements, two main technological solutions were established: the Constant Curvature line source, namely the ARCS series; and the Variable Curvature line source ranges. The former is recommended for a throw of up to, typically, 35m. It’s derived from WST, but more or less emulates one large point source while increasing SPL using multiple, arrayable elements – not the same as multiplying coaxials, which wouldn’t work. Over 35m, the Variable line source arrays come into play.

While point source is considered ideal for nearfield use – up to 15m – it loses 6dB each time you double the distance, even if the full frequency range does maintain a coherent image. So Heil’s primary goal in the early days was to project intelligibility into the far field – although, for him, it was something of a leap in the dark… “When I got the idea for V-DOSC, or what became V-DOSC, it was to design a flexible system that combined drivers together – mids, highs and lows,” he recounts today. “Before V-DOSC, the first system that we tried this with was called ‘Incremental’. In my naivety I thought this combination would improve efficiency, but at one particular outdoor festival I realised it wasn’t working properly: the lows and mids were OK, but not the highs. Like in optics, multiple waves combine chaotically, not coherently. I knew more about optics than acoustics back then! “I went back to the drawing board and saw that I had to create the equivalent of a laser for acoustics, and to do that I had to make a waveform that forced coherence for every frequency. It became all about

L-ISA technology in action at the Staatsoper Hamburg earlier in 2016

how to put HF drivers on top of each other and make them work as if it was one single ribbon, and just in case it might work I applied for a patent! I didn’t know if it would, but at least I felt I was asking the right question…

Christian Heil today

“It seemed so obvious and so easy to do, I didn’t understand why no one had done it before. I had only been in the industry for three or four years, so I began to wonder why this idea had come from me and not from the bigger boys who were around and so well established. Why hadn’t they invented this? I began to

be concerned that maybe I’d missed the point, being so junior and inexperienced – maybe there was something I had overlooked. “But I continued with the tests and, for a while, I decided it wasn’t all that interesting. I let it go for a whole year. Then a good friend of mine – the mix engineer Majid Malki – asked me to show him what I’d been toying with: I did a demo and when he compared it with another system he looked at me and said, that’s fabulous! He helped and encouraged me to re-launch the idea.” The first festival outings for the new concept convinced Heil that he was onto something, a feeling confirmed by the sudden appearance of interested parties from beyond France at various events at which it became clear that the old bush telegraph was chattering in earnest. “People came from Germany, from Sweden and Holland… well-known people in the industry,” Heil remembers. “At one small festival in Paris we were visited by two gentlemen by the names of Bryan Grant and Mike Lowe (of what is now UK PA hire giant Brit Row)… That’s when you realise, something

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Genius!2 is happening. After that it’s just a matter of time.” The line array application established by V-DOSC is solid enough to be completely scaleable – nowadays, in the L-Acoustics portfolio, from KIVA to K1. The pertinent differences between one end of the scale and the other are just SPL capability and bandwidth capability. Although L-Acoustics made its name internationally through touring, the fixed installation market has always been significant – especially in continental Europe. V-DOSC and its successors raised the profile of the brand on the road and literally, passing through, increased the demand for the products to be kept in one place. Most performing arts centres have broadly the same needs as the touring industry, and many new customers had witnessed an L-Acoustics system in transit and wanted to hang on to it. The differences maybe cosmetic, and a little more cost-effective being installed only once, but the acoustic

performance target is the same. The spirit of genius is restless, though. Heil is now working on a new concept of immersive sound called L-ISA, a DSP engine that effectively creates a 23.1 – as opposed to 5.1 or 7.1 – mix of programme material distributed dynamically between multiple speakers. It’s part of the new structure at L-Acoustics for which, despite much creative delegation, Heil remains the chief architect. “Word of mouth works well in our industry,” he reflects, “because the engineers are touring, and talking, all the time. Trends appear suddenly in Europe, as with V-DOSC, and then you have the challenge of the US. Luckily, we had Buford Jones supporting us over there, after he’d done the Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour with Pink Floyd and had met us when mixing a festival in Paris. You can spend a lot of money on marketing, or you can be patient and let it speak for itself. It may happen again with L-ISA – who knows?”

Christian Heil in 1985

Heil’s former home in Gometz-le-Chatêl, just a few kilometres away from L-Acoustics’ current Marcoussis headquarters, 1985

Rein Narma and the Fairchild 660/670


esigned by American engineer/designer Rein Narma in 1959, the Fairchild 660 (one mono channel) and 670 (two channels, stereo linked) are widely regarded to be the first audio limiter/compressors that “sensed” the nature of the music at its input. Incorporating the ability to set multiple time constraints of both reduction and release from reduction, it was able to work at microsecond speed. The 670’s hand-wired design includes 20 vacuum tubes, 13 transformers and two inductors within its 65-pound (29kg) chassis. Narma built the first ten 660 units himself, on behalf of The Fairchild Recording Equipment Corporation. The first finished device shipped to pioneering jazz recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder; the third one went to Mary Ford, wife of Les Paul, for

whom Narma would later build a recording studio. Narma left Fairchild in the late 1960s and the 670 was discontinued shortly after. The number of units made is thought to be around 1,000 but the exact amount is not known. Narma subsequently moved to the Ampex Service company, then to electronics developer General Instrument for 20 years, serving as executive VP and advisor to the chairman from 1984 to 1990. At the TEC Awards in 2007, Narma accepted an award for inventing the 660 and 670. He died in 2011. The 670 is regarded as the “Holy Grail” of compressors due to its rarity value (around $30,000 at the time of writing). Many music engineers use it for the subtle sonic enhancement as much as they do for gain-reduction. Geoff Emerick



Rein Narma in 2002 (c/o AES Oral History/ used it on all The Beatles vocals YouTube) and, above, the Fairchild 670 he recorded. “Just the sound of

the amplifier, even if you didn’t do any limiting, just added a certain presence,” he has said. In homage to the 670, London manufacturer Analoguetube Limited builds and manufactures classic tube technology of the 1950s and ’60s using traditional electronic methods.

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Robert Adams and the 18-bit A-to-D converter


y breakthrough moment came in the late-Eighties, when I realised that everybody else was heading in the wrong direction,” recalls IC designer Robert Adams, considered by many to be the father of one-bit deltasigma converters. Such devices are based on oversampling by many times the target sampling frequency; they deliver higher precision and dramatically simplify the design of downstream decimating filters. “I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and was an electronic tinkerer from an early age.” While working as director of research at dbx, Adams decided to take an orthogonal path to the development of PCM converter systems, and innovate the world’s first noiseshaped audio converter with better than 16-bit resolution. “At that time,” he states, “existing delta-sigma converter chips were targeted at the telecommunications industry and were satisfactory

for voice applications, while high-resolution audio converters used traditional laser-trimmed, successive-approximation techniques that priced them out of the consumer audio market.” Adams extended those one-bit chips that often produced spurious idle tones to four-bit operation “and added dither to eliminate the idle tones”. Adams’ second trick was to replace the switched-capacitor elements used in telecom chips, and “utilise instead continuous-time RC circuits that enhanced the circuit’s dynamic range”. The end result, a 128-times oversampling delta-sigma converter with true 18-bit performance, was released by dbx in 1988 as a twopart chip set manufactured by NEC in Japan with digital filters from US manufacturer VLSI Technology Company, and used around that time on many Telarc recordings. As well as A-to-D and D-to-A converters, while at dbx Adams

helped develop one of the first digital recorders. Having joined Analog Devices in 1989, he continued to specialise in audio DSP theory and practice, together with DSP cores and algorithms, including asynchronous digital sample-rate conversion. “My first contribution at AD was to work on its first delta-sigma audio A-D converter, and how to predict the stability of one-bit highorder feedback systems.” In June 2016

Adams received the IEEE’s coveted Industrial Pioneer Award for his groundbreaking work on commercial delta-sigma converters.

The fabled 128-times oversampling delta-sigma A-to-D converter from dbx, designed by Robert Adams to offer true 18-bit performance – an industry first

Peter Lawo and the PTR console


reat composers have always needed collaborators to bring their work into the real world. These are usually conductors and performers but the ‘modern’, electronic-influenced classical music of the mid-20th century required a technological element. Peter Lawo was among the engineers who helped realise the strange, different and difficult compositions of the likes of Stockhausen, Boulez and Nono. Peter Lawo founded the company that bears his name in 1970 when he set up “an engineer’s office” in Rastatt, Germany to develop electronic equipment. Stockhausen was among the first to use Lawo’s services, specifying a device that became the Modul 69 B. This played a key role in the performance of Stockhausen’s 1970 composition Mantra, which

featured two ring-modulated pianos, wood blocks and Morse code pulses produced from a radio or a tape recording. Mantra was a success and led to the formation of an experimental studio at German regional broadcaster SWR in 1971. Lawo worked there with the first director of this facility, electro-acoustic pioneer Hanspeter Haller, on the Halaphon, (HAller-LAwo-PHON), a projector that could control rotational trajectories of sound in real-time. Lawo’s move into consoles began with the PTR, a hybrid desk with analogue processing and a digital, programmable controller. Designed for Stockhausen’s 1991 work Oktophonie, it provided fast fader position recall. This experimentation influenced commercial products from the ‘90s onwards, starting with the

Peter Lawo with the PTR and, inset, Karlheinz Stockhausen using Lawo’s early Modul 69 B

digital, modular mc series. Now, the Lawo AG company, driven by the founder’s son Philipp, has developed IP distribution and control systems for both audio and video. Which suggests the talent for innovation, if not genius, could be genetic.

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NUGEN Audio and VisLM

Pic credit: Chris Taylor Photography)

n early 2010, after almost a year’s internal development, software house NUGEN Audio attended a loudness summit at the EBU head quarters in Geneva in order to compare and test their solution in preparation for the introduction of (loudness standard) EBU R128 later that year. During this event it

became clear that the company had chosen a dramatically different approach to most other vendors. From the outset it had seemed obvious to the company’s two founders that loudness could present a serious workflow issue if the entire content of the programme needed to be measured

Schorah and Tapper at IBC2016

in order to produce a value. Consequently, NUGEN’s Jon Schorah and Dr. Paul Tapper began implementing a software meter that could meet two conditions: the ability to work within the NLE editing environment, and the ability to measure loudness at faster-thanreal-time. The pair believed that these two factors were critical for implementation of an acceptable post-production workflow. Their hunch turned out to be right. In the meantime, almost all of NUGEN Audio’s competitors were pursuing a traditional approach to loudness metering. “Up until that time, most serious high-end metering equipment was hardware-based, but we believed real-time hardware would soon have very limited use due to the paradigm shifts taking place with programme loudness normalisation,” explains former audio engineer-turned-NUGEN creative director Schorah.

trying to figure out the xxxAlways and xxxx shortest path to successful sound

The result of these efforts was VisLM, NUGEN Audio’s visual loudness metering software. Released in late 2010, VisLM was the industry’s first commercially available EBU R128 loudnesscompliant NLE plug-in. In only six years, VisLM has gone on to become an industry standard for loudness metering as the dramatic limitations of hardware solutions have become obvious. “We didn’t realise this was the right approach until well after that first EBU loudness summit,” says Schorah. “We simply tackled the challenge as we always do. It helped that we didn’t have a hardware bias to lead us in a different direction.” With top name clients including ESPN, Discovery and many others using NUGEN Audio products on a daily basis, the company continues to go from strength to strength.



David Hafler and the DH-200


he achievement of simplicity is as much a signifier of brilliance the complicated and esoteric. David Hafler became known for his practical applications of high-end technology in accessible packages. After coming to prominence with hi-fi amplifiers, particularly in kit form, he became a pioneer of MOSFET amplification in the pro sector and proposed a system for surround-sound based on only three loudspeakers. Born in 1919, Hafler graduated in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. He founded his first company, Acrosound, in 1950 with

business partner Herbert Keroes, producing transformers for tube amplifiers and ultra-linear output stages for amps. Hafler formed a new company, Dynaco, in 1954. This produced the Dynakit self-build power amps and pre-amps that became popular with hi-fi buffs during the 1950s and ’60s. He sold Dynaco to Tyco in 1968 and after a period as an advisor set up the David Hafler Co in 1977. This also produced kit amps but offered ready-made models as well. These included the DH-101, DH-110 and the DH-200, which had MOSFET outputs, regarded as

ahead of other amps of the time. Leaving hi-fi behind in 1995, Hafler concentrated on power amps for installation and studio applications. Peter Janis, chief executive of Radial Engineering, which now owns the Hafler brand name, says the man himself “was always trying to figure out the shortest path to successful sound”. The idea of eliminating parts for a simple design can be seen in Hafler’s proposition for surround sound from the early ’70s. His three-channel system used the difference signal of standard stereo to produce a rear-speaker

feed. Unlike quad, this did not need special recordings or playback techniques. David Hafler died in 2003 but his name – and genius for cutting through technology to produce good sound – lives on in amps for the professional and home theatre markets.

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xxx We andreasoned, xxxx wouldn’t it be logical to specify

exactly what SPL and frequency response is required at multiple points in the venue, and then use this information to produce that result?

Martin Audio’s development team and the MLA

THE DEVELOPMENT TEAM: To understand why we developed MLA, we need to look at the array technology prevalent at the time – the line array. Having produced our first line array in 2001, we soon found out that the physics of line arrays was much more complex in practice than had been theorised by early proponents. With line array, we effectively had a technology aimed at producing coherent wavefronts exiting the speaker grilles, with the system tech tasked with ‘managing’ whatever came out of the array using zoning and preset libraries which had largely been derived by trial-anderror. Undocumented interactions between adjacent array elements added a further layer of difficulty. Unsurprisingly, the frequency responses and SPLs at the audience

plane itself varied significantly, depending on the distance from the array. We reasoned, “Wouldn’t it be more logical to completely reverse the situation and to specify exactly what SPL and frequency response is required at multiple points in the venue and then use this information to configure and control the array to produce that result?” This inverse thinking is the simple ‘big idea’ behind MLA. The idea occurred around 2008 – partly due to R&D director Jason Baird’s operational experience of the company’s own line arrays, and partly as a result of fundamental research into array behaviour conducted by research manager Ambrose Thompson during the design of the OmniLine micro-line array. This project involved the development of a BEM (Boundary

From left to right: Ambrose Thompson, Iain Quarmby, Jason Baird, Peter Lawrence, Phil Anthony and Rod Short

Element Method) acoustic model, which enabled virtual array configurations to be accurately modelled and investigated for the first time. It is the accuracy of this model that is key to implementing the Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) concept, whereby intelligent software determines the array configuration and controls each of up to 144 individually powered cells, each with its own DSP. Development of the concept involved a multi-disciplinary team of engineers: Ambrose Thomson oversaw acoustic modelling and the software optimisation algorithms; Phil Anthony was responsible for the acoustic design and worked closely with the electronic hardware development team of Iain Quarmby and Rod Short. Mechanical design was undertaken by Peter Lawrence and the overall

project leadership and design definition fell under the auspices of R&D director Jason Baird. MLA was launched in 2010 and made an immediate impression. PSNEurope editor Dave Robinson’s “It’s not normal” comment [Yep, I’ll stand by that – Ed] at the time (referring to MLA’s ability to ‘hard-avoid’ areas beyond the audience perimeter) and the 2010 PLASA Gold Award for Innovation indicated that MLA was clearly a new kind of animal. As well as achieving commercial success worldwide, by achieving record sound levels out-front while meeting stringent off-site limits at outdoor festivals such as Hyde Park and Glastonbury, MLA technology has proved it can deliver what we intended.

Capital Sound used MLA at Hyde Park for The Who in July 2015

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Genius!2 50-year-old xxxTheand xxxx loudspeaker engineer’s paradigm of a rigid piston was no longer appropriate

Mark Dodd and the AXiPeriodic driver MARK DODD: My interest in audio started young. I remember as a four-year-old my mother trying to explain a loudspeaker and how it seemed like an incomprehensible miracle. Soon after, my parents bought a Dansette [portable mono vinyl player] and I had my first contact with reproduced music. Rather than satisfy my curiosity, it grew… and after completing my exams, I spent several months working for Theatre Projects, getting my first taste of professional audio. For my Physics dissertation at Southampton University, I devised a method of mapping wavefront shapes in an exponential horn using a microphone hooked up to a phase meter. This project led to a job at (military PA specialist) Vitavox in the early 1980s, using slide rules and log tables. By the time I progressed to working at Tannoy, where I designed a wide-dispersion coaxial driver, we were using 286PCs for CAD, and I could calculate simple horn models using 1D models. Such limited tools relied heavily on an intuitive understanding of the physics – and much experimentation. After joining Celestion in the mid ’90s, I progressed to using FEM models [Finite Element Method, a maths technique for finding approximate solutions – Ed] of compression drivers. Celestion

had pioneered scanning laser velocity meters, so we could see an animated picture of how the diaphragm moved. When I became head of group research for Celestion parent GP Acoustics, this gave me the considerable resources of working for two companies, Celestion and KEF, and someone who was prepared to invest in long-term technology.

Various takes on the Axi2050

At this time, improvements in software and hardware enabled us to create ‘virtual 3D FEM models’ of complete loudspeakers including sound, vibration, electrical and magnetic domains. Having gained these ‘key’ technological tools, and with a team writing sophisticated software, we could now explore concepts for new designs and, more importantly, try to understand the underlying physics. The power of modern computing means that we have been able to improve both our understanding and product performance. The work carried out by the research team concerned phaseplug design for compression drivers. Initially we studied conventional designs and derived a method that extended the approach from a flat piston to a more realistic

spherical ‘dome’. A similar approach was applied to radial channel phase plugs but these proved more suitable for coaxial designs. The next step resulted from a colleague’s PhD thesis on compression drivers which provided a method mapping out how badly the mechanical resonances excite the acoustic resonances. It showed how an annular diaphragm – which has movement that increases from the edges to a maximum in the centre – could avoid resonant output. At the time, I was working on a wide-band coaxial compression driver and finding unavoidable performance limitations. We needed a new type of diaphragm – the 50-year-old loudspeaker engineer’s paradigm of a rigid piston was no longer appropriate! I then realised that some kind of corrugated diaphragm could allow for this type of motion and the team analysed my various designs which allowed me to produce the current geometry…. The new ‘axiperiodic diaphragm’ not only delivered a smooth response above the first mechanical resonances but also was linear in response, resulting in low distortion, flexible in the right way for a low resonance but also light in weight. The resulting driver – the Axi2050 – uses a 5” voice coil to produce a compression driver with an extremely wide bandwidth, smooth response and low distortion. Although it is early in the life of this new type of compression driver it is already clear that there is much potential for this new approach.

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A case of invention Dave Swallow, engineer and Audio Architect Apparel entrepreneur, contemplates the inventions of the past


t must have been so much easier to be an inventor in the past: there were so many good ideas left to discover, these days I think we are pretty well stocked on good discoveries and just left with the bad ones. This is why the people on this list are utter genius. They stuck with the great ideas, pursued it beyond frustration and built on something that would turn out to be world changing, and this is also probably why the rest of us are damp flannels. World changing inventions? Let’s start with the electromagnet. Invented in 1825 by William Sturgeon, the electromagnet paved the way for speakers and microphones, without which our world would be very quiet (unless you’re in my house with a bunch of 8-year-olds). Sturgeon, the son of a Lancastrian shoesmith, spent the early 1800s in the army. He left in 1820 and taught himself mathematics and physics. In 1825, at the age of 41, he produced the electromagnet. If that is not a lesson in ‘it’s-never-too-late’, I don’t know what is. Jump to 1877: long after the party for recorded sound had started and all the cocktail sausages had vanished, Thomas Alva Edison decided to join in with his phonograph. You see, before the phonograph it was possible to record sound, but playing it back was an entirely different game. And this is exactly what the phonograph does. The first mechanical device to do so. The great, great, great, grandfather of a DAW – but distinctly analogue. Let’s FFWD to the late 1930s and the unveiling of the Unidyne Model 55 microphone. The Model 55 evolved to symbolise not just The King, or an era of music, but

the art of looking cool with a mic in your hand. It’s transcended time and become something that will now always be ‘clipart’ used to symbolise singers. The Unidyne wasn’t just classic design: it was also history in the making. It was the first microphone to use a single diaphragm and achieve a cardioid pick-up pattern. The formulation of the Nyquist Theorem came about in 1949. This is less of an invention, more of a bunch of squiggly lines. Harry Nyquist developed his theories on transmitting data at Bell back in the 1930s; during the 1940s, Claude Shannon took the work that Nyquist had developed and basically proved the theories. The basic premise of the Nyquist-Shannon Theorem is that it is the bridge between continuous-time ‘analogue’ signals and discrete-time ‘digital’ signals. It basically sets the sample rate that gives us the samples captured from the analogue signal. It’s 1952: the 8-Track tape has made it onto my list of really cool inventions! 8-Track cartridges were originally developed for radio, but were picked up by Ford Motor Company and during the


Thomas Alva Edison showed us how we could listen to sound with his phonograph

I really don’t like to use acronyms very often, by OMFG, SMPS is the best thing to ever happen to mankind. For those of you who look like you’ve just got out the bath even though you’ve been at work for hours, you’ll remember trying to make sure you were busy when the amp racks needed listing into the venue. My word they were heavy. Unfortunately, for me this was the mid 1990s and the switch-mode power supply was birthed in 1975ish… So it either took the audio industry a long time to catch up or my old guv’nor was a bit tight…

Inside the 1952-invented 8-Track cartridge

‘60s became a fundamental part of car culture. These cartridges were the children of reel-to-reel and were the first tapes to use a continuous loop, making it a far more consumerfriendly product than the bulky reel-to-reel of the past. OK, so, not an invention: in 1965, the Beatles played the biggest gig to date at New York’s Shea Stadium. Obviously, they weren’t thinking about the sound quality – and neither was anyone else – but this event paved the way for the 1970s takeover of large musical events and the development of the technology we use today. It was a turning point for live music, and one that should never be forgotten.

In 1982, Philips’ compact disc revolutionised the ‘80s. The CD has always been seen by many as a consumer product and that real audiophiles would always listen to vinyl. The CD solved a few of the problems that consumers had with vinyl, one being the excessive hiss, pops and crackles, the other being the ability to extend to lower frequencies. With vinyl, there was always a limitation with how low you are able to go because of physical space on the discs surface; with CD, this wasn’t a problem. The only problem was trying to stop the laser from jumping at high volumes. Maybe the tail of the CD isn’t just about a revolution in the consumption of music, but a pantheon of achievement between two companies. We’ve seen many times before formats fail because they didn’t have the right backer, even though they were better… We mustn’t forget that all these inventions, theorems and events, as ground-breaking as they were, were built using collective knowledge and thousands of hours of mistake-making. Working together to build a better future isn’t a journey for individuals but journeys we are all part of. We are all architects of audio.

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