With apologies to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Let me put in the disclaimer first, this blog post as well as everything on this site are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or anyone else.

One of the interesting things that has been occurring recently has been people around me talking about CTS certifications from InfoComm. It has ranged from ribbing from people who have certifications to people questioning my knowledge base in Audio & Video. I appeared on a Tech Chaos Podcast to discuss this topic during March 2016. During the InfoComm trade-show in June of 2016, I had heard enough. The breaking point was one of my colleagues when I did not know something off the top of my head, said well if you had a CTS maybe you would know.

With me being the sarcastic and acerbic person I am, responded by saying there is only so much RAM to hold information and that question at hand can be looked up as I pulled out my handheld device. The question was how does one calculate the viewing distance from a display. I then asked a question that is just as relevant in today’s AV world, were two IP addresses on the same subnet mask? Yes, I was being petulant, as I said I am sarcastic and acerbic. Basically someone questioning my knowledge base because they had a CTS certification and I didn’t rubbed me the wrong way. As the ribbing continued, I brought out the fact that I teach classes that qualify for Renewal Units (RU). (To maintain a certification, one must acquire 30 Renewal Units every three years.) The volley want back and forth, until I finally pulled out the sledgehammer and asked how many projects that they had designed, fabricated, installed, configured, and commissioned that were the lead story on the national news. It got very quiet.

I was able to formalize my thought after that discussion, many certifications simply indicate that someone can take a standardized test effectively or has sat through a class with not testing. I will give credit to InfoComm for pointing out that certification doesn’t guarantee competency. From the webpage Certified Professionals Directory:

Certification is not a guarantee for performance by certified individuals. Certified Technology Specialist™ (CTS®) holders at all levels of certification have demonstrated audiovisual knowledge and/or skills. Certified individuals adhere to the CTS Code of Ethics and Conduct and maintain their status through continued education. Certification demonstrates commitment to professional growth in the audiovisual industry and is strongly supported by InfoComm.

Chuck Espinoza and I had a discussion about the certification and the process during InfoComm 2016. He made some interesting points, so I decided I was going to sit for the certification.  It would not be equitable for me to have an opinion without having a better sense of the process. Perhaps the other way to look at it, if you want to defeat your enemy learn to sing their songs.

I showed up at the appointed time and was shown to my test computer. The multiple choice test is administered via computer interface at an independent testing center. That makes good sense allowing the test to be taken easily by many people throughout the world. Any test is a combination of testing an applicant’s knowledge as well as their acumen at test taking. During my career I have taught classes for certifications and have also been the creator of the content and testing process. One of the things that I always stress to my students is select the most correct answer if they are not sure. I will follow the non-disclosure agreement I accepted as part of the testing process (yes, I am one of the people that reads the agreements before clicking accept) and be somewhat vague in my discussions.

As one can probably ascertain, I passed the test on the first attempt. However I learned quite a few things that I did not know. I did not know the standard symbols used in a Gannt Chart, despite having read them for over 20 years. I was not sure of the proper time to deliver a bid document package, but most of the projects I have been involved with had documented bid dates and processes. I could deduce what connector was a video connector, despite the fact I would not be able to identify it in the field. I also realized that the test is not solely about certification in technology  but includes other items that are deemed good practices by the committee. To me that is where the certification started to diverge and I saw how this testing process might not be the best evaluative tool. I also realized at that point having the CTS certification be a prerequisite to attaining a CTS-I (Installation) or CTS-D (Design) is not appropriate.

A great installer might know nothing about the sales process, she knows that when there is a question about new additions or pricing to bring in the sales person or project manager. She could be capable of determining how much to derated an wire rope based on the angle of pull in her head. She might pass the CTS-I test with flying colors on the first try, but stumble during the CTS certification process. A Designer might not know how to read a Gantt Chart, but if the project manager keeps the team informed of the deadlines, it is not an issue. The Designer might not be aware of the procedure for service calls, but that is not his skill set. As a specialist, one should not have to take the generalist test first.

My opinion though is a little mixed now about the CTS process itself. I took the test without studying. I did not even open a book, I simply took a practice exam, paid my money, and took the test. I passed. That is reassuring as I have had a career in the AV industry for over 20 years. I was also surprised about the content itself and how much in my opinion it has to do with the full industry. The fact that the testing agency I took the test at said that they have about a 66% failure rate, also told me that I need to reevaluate the measure of the test. I am not hiding the fact that I hold a CTS certification.

I do however standby the point as InfoComm has pointed out, just because one passed the certification test it does not mean that they are qualified. I also know that there are challenges in the continuing education or renewal units (RU) process. Many of the RU classes are simply attend and get the units, it does not prove that anything is being retained. However that is for another blog post.

Here is my certificate, since I don’t have a digital badge yet. Listen to AVWeek, Episode 258: Throwin’ Shade for clarification about that reference.

Bradford Benn's CTS Certification from InfoComm

I recently purchased a pair of high performance headphones. Not high performance by brand but by specifications. Yes, I know how to read them. They are rated for 10Hz to 30kHz and they are relatively flat, with variable tuning plugs to change their response curve acoustically. I decided to give them a little test run using various material in my home system. I was surprised by the results. Now first allow me to explain and indicate that this is by no means a double blind test. Yes, there are lots of things I could have done to improve it but I was still surprised with the results.  I am purposely trying to leave product and brand names out of this post as the desire is to talk about the signal flow and process. It is very easy to get into the debate of is Brand A or Brand B the better product. Instead I am just talking about the signal chain and process. I am also going to not share the number thresholds I found, each person’s needs and opinions will be different. The entire point of this is to not let the bigger number be the better number, just because it is bigger.

The basic signal flow was the following:

  • Source – 44.1kHz 16bit WAV files (1411kbps), MP3 153kbps (VBR) files, MP3 320kbps files
  • Playback Engine – iMac based, Digital Audio Workstation Software (Adobe Audition CC 2014 & Audacity)
  • Output Device – USB connected Digital to Analog converter running at 44.1kHz locked to computer sample clock. (D/A (24 Bit) 106 dB typical, A-weighted, 20Hz – 20kHz via headphone output
  • Headphone Output – 1/4″ TRS for stereo converted to 3.5mm TRS via passive adapter
  • Headphones – 10Hz to 30kHz passive devices in ear style with acoustic tuning plug at flat

So I tried a few different sample tracks. Ones that I had extracted as WAV files, same file extracted as MP3, original WAV files purchased directly from the artists, MP3 encoded by the artists. They were all well produced tracks ranging from full band rock and roll  to acoustic pieces. The artists ranged for well established musicians (Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, and Robert Fripp) to less well known musicians (Jonathan CoultonMarian Call, and California Guitar Trio). These were all tracks I am familiar with. What I would do was import the files into the audio editing software as stereo tracks, both the WAV files and MP3 files. I would place them on adjacent tracks that I could exclusively solo (screen captures at end of post). The sample rate of the project was set at 44.1kHz and 16bit to minimize coloring by the audio software resampling. This configuration allowed me to play both the MP3 and WAV track simultaneously and switch between them easily. The switches were typically very fast and with little artifacts. I found that the numbers of bits flowing had less of an impact than I expected at higher rates. I really like that many musicians are providing uncompressed formats, but Marian Call gets a gold star for providing me WAV files. (If you listen to her stuff, the typewriters are not sound effects they record them as part of the process.)

I was able to tell that there were differences between the compressed and uncompressed formats, no matter what the bit rates were for the MP3’s. However what I was more surprised was how subtle the differences were between each step or file in the process. I then took it a step further, I took the same WAV file I extracted from a CD as well as a purchased WAV file and created different MP3 streams. ranging from 320kbps to 32kbps. I used a batch converter, I did not go in and tweak each encoding as can be done with better audio editing software. I then loaded up all the files into both editing software packages and once again went through and used the exclusive or simple solo feature. I saw surprised at how far down the sample rate could be set before I found the music quality objectionable. This value changed based on the material I used. Let me say that again, the minimum bit rate value I found acceptable changed based on the material being used. Multiple points of diminishing returns were found. Yes, I understand what the numbers mean and how more data is typically better. But at the higher bit rates with good converters the differences were smaller than expected. As soon as I crossed a threshold, it was a point of no return. The number was lower than I expected as I had been applying my knowledge of the encoding processes previously, now I was just listening as objectively as possible. it also varied by the material as I indicated.

If I am listening to a podcast, does it need to be 44.1kHz, 16 bit, stereo for the human voice? I don’t believe so. Especially as most podcasts are just the human voice. Voice over IP studies have found most vocal information is in the 3,500Hz and under range. Transmitting at the higher sample rate is just wasting bandwidth and storage for the listener typically. But that is a discussion for a different time.

I still find and believe uncompressed audio files to be the best. Especially if one is tuning and adjusting an audio system. There were definitely shifts in the tonal and temporal qualities of the music. However for listening while traveling or as background sound, perhaps the lower data rates are the proper solutions. I do know that for my travel selection, encoding down to a more reasonable file size makes sense. I can place lots of music on the portable player. I am listening in an environment, especially when on an airplane, that is less than ideal. Yes, I am still keeping my music library as WAV files, yes those are my preferred format. However when I want to load up 8,561 songs for a ten day business trip onto my music player or laptop I am sated (not satiated – yes, there is a difference) with downconverting to MP3’s. I will still travel with WAV files for critical listening as well, often on an optical media.

So I encourage you to try this yourself. There is open source software such as Audacity that I used so that you can do your own tests. However like me, I believe that you will find that picking quality by the numbers of bits flowing is not always providing a full or simple answer.

This image shows the way multiple tracks were stacked and then individually soloed in Audition
Adobe Screen Capture
This image shows the way multiple tracks were stacked and then individually soloed in Audacity
Audacity Screen Capture

As some of you might know in my previous life, I was an audio technician touring with various groups – some known and unknown. I also happen to have eclectic musical tastes. In the past few years I have stumbled upon some musicians through the Interwebs. I have supported some through Kickstarter, Bandcamp, buying direct, and most recently Patreon. I also have had some interesting conversations with artists on Twitter.

The most recent interaction I had got me thinking and created this post. But first the recap of the conversation with Marian Call (@mariancall http://mariancall.com) and Kim Boekbinder [Impossible Girl] (@KimBoekbiner http://theimpossiblegirl.com). There were branches in the conversation so I tried to make it as understandable as a Twitter stream from an iPhone can be.

Me: @KimBoekbinder @mariancall i am curious why go to cities where sales are strong and not go to uncharted areas to increase audience base?

Marian: @BradfordBenn @KimBoekbinder I try to alternate. You can’t eat if you play too many uncharted areas. Strong strong weak, strong strong weak.

@BradfordBenn @mariancall Oh yeah – that’s what labels pay for. Those of us without labels can only afford to go where we are wanted.

@BradfordBenn @KimBoekbinder Touring is incredibly expensive, on the order of hundreds per day. If you don’t recover that you sink.

@KimBoekbinder @BradfordBenn My exception was the 50 states tour. I carefully planned strong and weak cities for months.

@KimBoekbinder @BradfordBenn It was a great experience and made lots of new fans, but after 9 months I wound up with $0 in the bank.

@BradfordBenn What @mariancall said. Only I have so few strong cities I can’t get far enough to increase my presence.

@mariancall @BradfordBenn Not only is tour expensive – it is exhausting. So you can’t just work another job to make ends meet.

Me: @mariancall @KimBoekbinder understand the costs of touring. Thanks for clarifications, new world since i was touring as an audio tech. Marian:
@BradfordBenn @KimBoekbinder Audio techs rule. Me:

@KimBoekbinder @mariancall still support both of you & your work and would like to see you both play live. How can i help?

@BradfordBenn @mariancall So cool. I love touring, wish I could just go and go and go.

@BradfordBenn @mariancall Where is Wonderment?

@BradfordBenn @KimBoekbinder Where are you, first of all?

Me: Wonderment is a state of mind, learning and seeing things that are interesting. I travel quite a lot for work, my home is South Bend, IN but have spent time in So Cal the past 3 months. Yes, i listen to you on planes

Marian: Sometimes it takes a couple years but we get there!
@BradfordBenn Folks who get really excited about planning a concert near them, and who can bring 30-50 people, mostly get their way.

@bradfordbenn Not to pile on you! It’s a good question. It’s a funny business, far less profit and far more risk than most folks think.

Me: @mariancall didn’t think piling on. Thanks for concern. Think having good conversation. Might even become a blog post.

Marian: @BradfordBenn Being on my email list is the first best step: http://mariancall.fanbridge.com  this year I won’t tour much, but I will a little.

 @mariancall yup am on the list and have already bought Sketchbook. Will get CD also cause i prefer WAV to FLAC and MP3

I know much of the things that they were talking about from my past experiences, but the scale was very different. Understanding this different economy and music sales process in this century is interesting and different from other businesses. When I travel for work and make sales calls, I often ask to go see the potential customers that are not familiar with my company. When I travel on sales calls, I can interweave existing customers with new customers because there are multiples of each in one city. For a musician that is not always possible, as there are only so many customers (fans) in each city. However the costs remain high for each city, hotel, transport, equipment rental, venue costs… etc.

You may ask, why am I sharing this post and conversation. There are a couple of reasons.

The first was that I found it interesting so I thought my reader would also. As someone involved in the professional audio industry it is very good to hear from other people involved in the process.

It reminds me why it is important to purchase music and not just stream it or download. Pay or support someone for their effort. I am not saying you have to support everyone, but support the artists that you like.

Go out and try new music, search the interwebs, branch out, you might find something you like. Go to concerts that friends have recommended. I think you get the idea.

There are more music outlets than iTunes, Amazon, and Google.

A few suggestions of some of the artists I have been supporting:

As my faithful readers know, I had a less than stellar production experience while attending the Supernatural Convention. For those of you who are not familiar, Supernatural is a television series on the CW network. The lovely wife was lucky enough to win free admission to the convention. I went along to take pictures, they can be found at http://photos.bradfordbenn.com/Events/Supernatural-Convention-Nov-2013. (At the moment the images are very raw and still need some adjustments, so do not be surprised if there are some changes

The first thing I want to clearly indicate is that the volunteers, the people who barter their services as facilitators in exchange for tickets to various events, were great. They were all very helpful. They provided information as best they had it. Much of the disappointment is about the choices made for the audio, video and lighting equipment. I am not singling out an equipment manufacturer or brand, it is a result of using equipment incorrectly. Let me stay that again, I am not saying that any of the equipment used was inferior, I am saying that the use of the equipment was not appropriate.

First lets talk about the room to get an idea of the room. The ballroom that was used is over 15,000 square feet, it can seat up to 1,900 people for theater style use. It is 105 feet long x143 feet wide x18 feet tall, it is a large room. I do not think that the room was full to 1,900 but more likely to 1,700 based on the need for video and back stage areas.

At the front of the room was a stage about 18 inches off the floor and probably 24 feet by 12 feet. Each side was flanked by a 12 foot wide by 9 foot tall rear projection video screen. Next to each screen was a powered speaker. 1/3rd of the way back against each of these wall was another speaker. Notice that the picture I took is in focus…


I did not get backstage to see the video system but I can tell you it was standard definition at best. It was not very bright or sharp.  There was also a constant ground loop bar scrolling on the video screen. Since the speakers were out front I will say they are a 12 inch 2 way powered speaker rated at 131 dB peak with a 75 degree conical coverage pattern. The brand does not matter as it was a quality product just being asked to perform a task it was not designed for. There was also a powered 300W floor monitor on the stage for the talent and a duplicate on the front of the stage as a “fill” speaker.

There were two Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights against the wall on each side for fill lighting. They were basically even with the heads of the talent and were not very bright. It was low enough that they were simply plugged into a standard 15A outlet. They were not very effective at all, to the point that most times it was simply the house lights being on all the time to see the stage.

I did not see a front of house position, so I did not see how the lights, audio, and video were controlled. However I would not be surprised to see the system used in a set and forget mode as there were often problems.

The production problems started from the beginning, the video was out of focus from the beginning. It was definitely Standard Definition and then was not clear on top of that. It was just from a camera from the back of the room. I do know that there was some video processing as a few times there was text overlaid on the video image. The best way I can describe it is saying it was like 1990’s high school video. Also about once a session someone could be seen walking through the projection cone, so the backstage area did not have any clear indication of the cone.

The audio problems started very soon after the event itself. I figured the system was just having some teething pains as the show had just started. The first problem with the audio system was the entire system sounding boomy and not as clear as the equipment could provide. Much of it I think due to system trying to cover a space that is too large.

Two and a half hours in to the event and my first questioning of the system approach started. There were wireless drop outs, a dead microphone, and audience/question microphones at the edge of the room. The problem with the audience microphones being were three items in my opinion. The first was they were not loud enough in the talent foldback monitor, they were wireless when they could have been wired, and they were located so that the talent was always looking away from the main audience.

Let me explain the looking offstage comment. By placing the audience microphones at the front of the seating area and at the outer edges of the room, the talent was often looking off stage not at the main audience. The reason for the talent looking off stage was that they were being polite and having conversation and making eye contact with the question asker. The talent was doing the proper thing. The problem is that the single camera in the back of the room simply had them in profile. It kept the audience from getting to see the complete interaction.

Four hours in, the system was not sounding any better in fact it was getting more pronounced with deficiencies. I believe that part of it is the pile-on effect. The first flaw had been found so it was easier to find other ones. The use of a compressor and/or de-esser would have greatly helped the sonic performance for the guests. The audience would have had an easier time listening and there would not have been as many plosive sounds.

Fifteen minutes later the talent was literally walking off stage to listen to the guests directly as the monitor was not reinforcing the comments to the main stage. The audience comments were audible in the house system but not in the monitors. Of course there were also times that the audience microphones were not working at all.

The last presenter of the day had some audio sources with him. Now I am not going to say that I understand all of the voodoo that the talent was using with his ghost hunting audio devices. The approach was to literally have the talent hold the handheld battery powered speaker up to the microphone for the audience to hear.

One of the things I did not mention was how often there was a ground hum, it was not constant it would come and go throughout the day. It got worse during the 2nd day when the entire house left audio system was replaced by a ground hum. Yes, no audio for the left side of the house.

That night there was a Karaoke event. It was a lot of fun, but it could have easily been much better with better equipment. The same system was being used to reinforce the Karaoke event. There was no low end, the system was in full clip throughout the evening. I am not sure where the clip was occurring, it could have been the sub feed from the Karaoke system they brought in. Either way it was audibly distorted. I am very glad I had ear plugs in. Especially when the feedback started. It was not momentary feedback.

The second day started with the wireless microphone failing and needing to be replaced 10 minutes into the first session. Yes, ten minutes. Then came more feedback. It got to to the point where the presenters were making fun of the audio quality. Yes, from the stage talent was making comments about the system performance. It obviously was not the first time these problems have occurred.

The same issues occurred on the 2nd day of the event. So rather than hash through all of the issues, you can read the tweet stream at the previous blog post (Tweets against the audio machinery).

That night there was a concert with Louden Swain. There was no music audio system, it was the same system as the rest of the convention. Many times the stage volume overwhelmed the public address system. The talent was actually adjusting the aiming of the speakers to improve the sound and I think they did a decent job.

After the concert there was a limited attendance event, with a separate PA system that I believe was brought in by the DJ for the event. This system was able to keep up much better, not only was the room smaller the equipment was more suited to the use. The system was two Self powered 15, two-way system with a maximum output of 132 dB. It was much better not just for voice but for music as well.

The third day was much the same in terms of performance. However the issues with the monitors and feedback got to be so bad it was comical. One panelist asked if they were going deaf as they could not hear a single question, the audience started relaying the questions for them. During a two person panel, the talent heard so much feedback they started doing synchronized microphone movements “ringing out” the monitors to try to fix the issue. At one point during a break in the panels, feedback rang out with no talent or microphone on stage. It was so loud and painful that guests were screaming from fear and pain.

The reason I bring these up is that the audio and video system actually impacted the guest experience. No one there other than the wife knew what I do, and yet there were still conversations going on around me about the problems with the audio and video. People were talking about how bad it was, why were there so many problems, this convention happens multiple times…etc. The event became a caricature of poor audio and cheap conventions.

Many of the problems could have been avoided simply by selecting different equipment. The equipment was reputable just not the right selections for the room and use. This convention is a key example where renting a good system for the space would have greatly improved the experience. I am not naive and realize that this event is for profit and realize that by reducing the equipment costs means more profits. The fact that tickets ranged from US$650 to US$150 for all three days plus additional fees for the autographs and picture opportunities makes me feel like the frugality is unwarranted.

As some of you who follow my Twitter feed, I went to a fan convention with the wife last week. I am still gathering my thoughts and writing a blog post about the experience. However I wanted to gather all of the Tweets together in one location for those that might has missed some of the experience. So presented in chronological order and unedited are my Tweets about the event. Dates and times are Pacific Standard.


21 November 2013 20:12

For those of you who think my twitter stream is eclectic, brace yourself.

@GentlyMad is taking me to a fan convention for Supernatural…


21 November 2013 20:15

For those of you following along the link is http://t.co/r9p51GywY3 i am looking forward to meeting @feliciaday the rest is unknown.


21 November 2013 20:24

1st tweet of #BURCON, waited in line to register and @GentlyMad’s not available yet. Could have still been drinking, watching hockey.


22 November 2013 12:27

Instead of listening to @AVNationTV live podcast @GentlyMad has taken me to #BURCON and the video is out of focus


22 November 2013 14:39

Must resist urge to go tweak audio  at this #BURCON event. I think @GentlyMad would kick me if i did. Must restrain myself….


22 November 2013 14:59

#AVtweeps how often do you change batteries at panel event? Wireless drop outs, understandable but thinking wired for question mics


22 November 2013 16:20

So at #BURCON with @GentlyMad watching video mistakes and listening to drop outs. Feel bad to be making light of other people’s problems…


22 November 2013 16:30

So this session is being brought to you  without a compressor or de-esser. Must resist the urge to go fix the mix… Hope not someone i know


22 November 2013 16:48

More guest audio in the stage monitor and perhaps less level in the house to make people talk louder #BURCON


22 November 2013 16:54

Current play back method is presenter holding speaker to microphone from  MP3 player. presenter had it, was planning to use. Line in please.


22 November 2013 19:29

#BurCon Day 1 is almost done, a karaoke dance party to go. I really hope they bring in an audio music system and not use the voice system.


22 November 2013 21:53

@cabbey yes #BURCON is using speech system for music/karaoke system. No subwoofer and no punch.


22 November 2013 22:01

Earplugs firmly in place. Much needed. Audio system: All CLIP all the time at #BURCON


22 November 2013 22:25

I really enjoy the 60Hz waterfall on the video as well. Man av at its finest


22 November 2013 23:09

If you can’t ride a fader to prevent feedback in the house system at #BURCON i can recommend some feedback suppressors.


22 November 2013 23:10

Hey #BURCON why have the stage lights so low? Photography is allowed why not allow the patrons to get good shots?


22 November 2013 23:11

Yes Snarky Mode is activated. @GentlyMad said it was allowed as long as i take pictures.


22 November 2013 23:20

Well clipping for hours has got to be good for drivers


22 November 2013 23:43

I know the purpose of reverb and autotune, it should be used on karaoke, unfortunately it is not being used at #BURCON. Ah ear plugs.


23 November 2013 10:27

Realy #BurCon the wireless mic died 10 minutes into the first session. Then feedback. Now people making fun of audio.


23 November 2013 10:39

You know the audio is a problem when @GentlyMad is looking at me knowing i want to fix it…..


23 November 2013 12:36

#AVtweeps just a friendly reminder, don’t skimp on audio monitors. Difficult to watch #BURCON talent comment on audio on stage.


23 November 2013 13:14

#BurCon audio hits continue. 60Hz hum is louder than talent. It just started…. Hmmmmmmmmmm @GentlyMad is amazed i haven’t clawed ears off.


23 November 2013 13:21

Now #BurCon talent needs to walk off stage to hand mic to audience questions. SPL keeps going up to point of ringing and slapback is louder.


23 November 2013 14:05

@brockmcginnis nope it is a live fan convention so it is the production staff. When talent makes fun of audio & video…. Well ……..


23 November 2013 14:27

@brockmcginnis yes i agree i should not slag people but the system they are using is showing its wrinkles and uncut rough edges.


23 November 2013 15:52

Best line at #burcon so far, something i swear @GentlyMad would say. “I just threw my microphone cozy at him.” By @dicksp8jr  (windscreen)


23 November 2013 16:42

there are these things called mute buttons on audio consoles. the team at #BURCON should use them as @GentlyMad is asking me questions…


23 November 2013 17:07

Literally the house left of the PA @ #burcon was no content just ground hum. Now feedback and ringing….  Sigh


23 November 2013 17:51

More audience in the monitors please #BurCon the talent can’t hear the questions. Sigh


23 November 2013 22:29

Tonight’s #BurCon question. Will @loudonswain have a PA or just the voice system. Any guesses


23 November 2013 22:49

For those of you scoring at home, and those that are alone, there is no Music PA. Just feedback, stage volume and voice PA for vocals.


23 November 2013 22:49

But i have @GentlyMad and a camera plus some cool @BorrowLenses glass so it is still all good.


23 November 2013 22:53

@mattcohen4real is doing a good job tweaking the speakers at #BurCon @GentlyMad says i can’t help. Really on both counts


24 November 2013 00:25

PA at #BurCon after party is much better than the main system. Amazing what happens when system matches  use. There is low end and headroom!


24 November 2013 14:37

No @feliciaday you are not deaf, the audio system @ #BurCon is not keeping up. I know it can be better….. Sigh


24 November 2013 19:53

#burcon really could use a high pass filter on the microphone. It is so boomy i am putting in ear plugs…. Things i do for @GentlyMad


24 November 2013 20:28

Appropriatte way to end #BurCon, dead microphone…. 2 minutes into panel


25 November 2013 18:57

@brockmcginnis @rAVeBlogSquad @stillbeingmolly i will be writing up a blog post about production at #BurCon & how it impacted event for all


Another airplane flight, another blog post. This one is about the “new modes” of audio delivery. As many of my readers know I work in the audio industry, I do not often blog about it as I am concerned about the impact my comments could have. Not that I would get in trouble with my employer, heck I was looking for a job when I got this one; but more that people would take my comments and opinions as if I was speaking for my employer. So let my blog, my domain, my opinions, written in my nonworking hours and me unequivocally state that these are my personal thoughts and opinions.

The new mode of delivery I am thinking of is digital distribution of audio products. I purchase music as a digital format less often than most people think. The reason is that most delivery methods are compressed. I believe that compression should be applied judiciously. Not all compression is bad, as I sit listening to music on my iPod on a plane. I decided the quality of music is the item I want for this application.

That is the key; the application is that I want to travel with a large selection of music. It does not have to be pristine as the listening environment is less than pristine. I do however want for airplane flights and time in hotels to be able to have music. I do not always know what kind of music I am going to want to listen to three days from now. I would rather have the selection at a compression ratio that I find appropriate.

I am purposefully omitting numbers, as too often when numbers are listed it becomes a contest by numbers, such as one saying that they will only listen to music at 96kHz sample rate. When I ask why, the answer is often well it is a higher number it must be better. I wonder if that person would be able to tell the difference between 48kHz and 96kHz recordings in the listening conditions I am currently in; a tin can traveling through the air at 300mph with an internal ambient noise of 70dB SPL A weighted through noise canceling ear buds. Probably not so easily, I am not going to say it is impossible; I am going to say it is improbable. I believe and can hear that there is a difference between sample rates in other environments.

At the same time, other listening environments that are acceptable applications for compressed audio for some people are not for me. In my car I have CDs loaded in the changer and a smaller election of non-compressed audio files on the attached iPod. In that environment I can hear a difference between the full quality and the compressed audio. I do not listen to satellite radio music channels in the car often as that compression annoys me and I can hear it. For other people they do not find it objectionable.

The key is that I am deciding. I can control how much compression and the amount of data that is important and acceptable to me. Often buying audio products as digital downloads that decision is someone else’s and I might not agree with it. Paying 99 cents for a compressed piece of music that is just for “fun” can make sense. Paying $15 for a digital download of a CD that is compressed as 11 separate songs versus buying the CD for $15 is something I will not do.
Why you may ask? I have done it, and I have regretted spending the money. The digital download has some audio artifacts that the CD does not. I then can also decide if I want to compress the audio to put it in another format. Not only that, I get to decide the compression protocol as MPEG3 is not always the best. If more people had uncompressed delivery methods I would buy more audio via digital distribution.

The key is to use the best test equipment that we have, our ears, to make the decision for yourself. The way I approach it, is your source should be as ideal as possible and then you have the control to decide what is acceptable compression tradeoffs.

Also please remember that one answer is not the right answer for everyone. The amount of compression that I find objectionable might be perfectly acceptable to someone else. So don’t turn your nose up and ruin other people’s enjoyment just because it doesn’t meet your standards. If people are having fun or the message is getting across isn’t the most important parts of audio being accomplished.

And yes my photographer friends the same thing can be said about JPEG compression. I start with RAW and then I decide how to impact the image as I process it to JPEG or other formats.