Calibration & Design Techniques for Modern Sound Systems

Within minutes of walking into the Soulsound seminar on Calibration and Design Techniques for Modern Sound Systems I was totally relaxed and engaged. I attribute this entirely to Merlijn van Veen who is an excellent teacher, pitching everything just about right so that even the most abstract concepts become clear.

I am not a Sound Engineer, my maths is terrible and I was not entirely supposed to be there. Yet as Merlijn spoke eloquently about oblique modes and energy time curves, it became apparent to me that every gig I have ever been to has been a carefully built piece of invisible theatre. What is more- I could begin to see how the calculations added up.

With the help of the participants, Merlijn worked out that the room we were in took 90 reflections to constitute the 0.8 seconds of reverberation. He used this exercise to demonstrate the importance of the relationship between reverberation time and reflections. This and ‘Expectations, expectations, expectations’ were the most important messages of the morning-
his explanations peppered with the inimitable van Veen sound effects.

These were particularly entertaining as he talked about crtitcal distance, demonstrating audibly (or inaudibly- depending on how you look at it) how it is the loss of consonants that causes a lack of intelligibility. Shakespearean actors for example, in order to limit the loss to 15%, benefit from a reverberation time of 1.6 seconds at most and a signal to noise ratio of 25 dB or more up to the furthest seats. The latter is the reason why they need to speak up! It is this precision that creates an absolutely immersive experience for the audience.

Merlijn mixes more than 150 performances a year in all kinds of environments- some more challenging than others. He has an intrinsic understanding of the physics behind sound and explains it in a light-hearted, accessible way. As the engineer sitting next to me said ‘Merlijn shines a light on things that before seemed impossible’.

Looking around the class it was evident that everyone felt privileged to be there, the excitement was palpable. Soulsound’s mission is to inspire excellence in audio and this seminar embodied that idea entirely.

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