Tundral Flughafen


Snow Covered Road
The tundra sets in…

First Published on the Audio Undone blog in December 2010

Guten Tag Focalites, from the tundra, otherwise known as Basel airport.

I trust you are well, and hope the snow (if you have any) isn’t causing you as many problems as it is me. I’m flying home today, but had to go via London which appears to be closed, so had to reschedule my flight to later on in the day. But that means I have a direct flight back to Amsterdam. So I’m sitting here, brushing up on a little bad German and having a spot of lunch. I’ve just spent the last week with a new artiste called Lauren Pritchard, watch out for her, she has the most wonderful voice.

This last month has been quite exciting for me, with the actual publication of my first book extremely imminent, and getting my first physical copy was very exciting. And to go on top of all of that, my first monthly column came out in Audio Pro International magazine. I’ve had a couple of interviews in the past with Audio Pro, and when they asked me to fill the void in their ‘From the Front’ section, I felt most flattered, it’s normally the people I work with that get all the attention so I still feel like someone has got it wrong and I’ll be found out to be some sort of fraud. But, until that point I’ll be writing once a month about my thoughts, ideas, techniques and other things that go with life on the road.

A lot of people have asked me how I find the time to write on the road. The answer is very easy, when there is a lot of travel involved then there is usually a lot of time wasted either sitting in a plane, train, automobile, or other such modes of transportation that get you from A to B. Or, desperately trying to kill the boredom in your hotel room without going out and spending all the money you have earned from that tour. Writing was something that I evolved to quite naturally, my mum writes, and I’ve always had a love of writing. So I put my computer and my phone to good use when I’m travelling. I have an application on my phone that lets me write whenever I feel the need to, and it uploads it to my cloud folder somewhere in the internether-world, so the actual writing is the easy part.

The hardest part is coming up with things that people want to read. I have my own opinions on how things should be and sound, but why is that going to be relevant to other people? I think that if you can take yourself away from a situation and try to look at it from another angle, everything always looks different. If I don’t like something, I’ll rant about it on paper, then put it to one side for a couple of days. When I re-address the issue I had whilst being calmer, it is much easier to see it from the other side. I like to be honest, and like to think properly about the things I’m writing about, and I understand most of all that when I commit my words to paper I have opened myself up for comment and criticism but ultimately what I like to think is, if I do write this am I opening my own eyes further, or opening someone else’s eyes. If I can’t make people think, it’s not worth writing about.

How Loud is too Loud, Part 1

First Published on the Audio Undone Website, November 2010

I was fortunate enough last month to be asked to head out to Berlin to meet up with the chaps from Underworld. We were to play Berlin’s newly erected O2 World arena. It’s a big old place (a capacity of 17,000), but actually the sound of the room wasn’t too bad considering it’s a bloody great airline hanger with a bit of decoration. The show was called ‘We Are One’, which has something to do with Paul Van Dyk who I thought was Dutch but turns out he is actually from Berlin.

The PA was a Nexo GeoD system, which some of you may know is a line array type of system. I,am not the worlds biggest fan of line array, but I’m there to do a job so I’ll always do it the best I can. On the other hand, we did have an XL3 at FOH, and some nice little toys in the outboard rack that really did set us up for a good show.

Initially, we ran the sound up and it appeared to be what can only be described as rubbish. The typical bite you get from these PAs that I was expecting, just wasn’t there. For a big hall like that, with a full dance floor, the system would really need to have that harshness to cut though later, but would be softened when the audience was there. The sound was very flat and uninspiring, no real clarity in the mids, and basically no low mids which meant that the drive of the sound wasn’t really there. On the bright side there was, loads of sub. Well, when I say loads of sub, it was all in the middle and not a lot at the sides.

Where do you start at getting this right?  We played around with the graphic for a while to see what exactly we were missing, then went to ask what EQ they had over the whole system. Now, when I saw the EQ for the whole system I was horrified. There was a massive scoop over the entire top-end, and another scoop over the top of the other one at about 4-5kHz, reducing it to next to nothing. This is where all the harshness had gone.

The reason behind this was that the audience was going to be in the venue for about 10 hours. Which is an awfully long time to be exposed to a constant noise level. The engineers needed to decrease the exposure to high frequencies for the length of time, but in doing so sacrificed the sound of the whole system. The noise limit had been set at 99dBA over 30 mins, which is ok, but in the world of dance music is fairly quiet. You could take a stroll down the road to any of the other Berliner clubs and find systems pushing 110-115dBA for exactly the same period of time.

So my question is, how loud is too loud?