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Serving the Acoustics Community Since 1994

Cross-Spectrum Acoustics Inc. offers Sound & Vibration Consulting Services

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Aug 19, 2009

Before you read this entry, I would ask that you take a page from Carly Simon and please realize that this post is not about you. This post is based on 15 years of field experience and I’m not trying to denigrate or call out any particular client, I’m just trying to give a little perspective of one of the difficulties of being in the field that may not be readily apparent to non-acousticians. Thanks for your understanding and patronage!

Dear Valued Clients:

I have been truly blessed to work for great clients. You hire me to solve your problems (thanks!), you give me support, you listen to me, you pay me well, you may me promptly (most of the time); at times you’ve even fed me, housed me, and helped lug my equipment up stairs and across fields. I truly appreciate the opportunities you’ve given me and in return I do my best to solve your problems.

I do have a small nit to pick with some of you. Again, you pay me well to address your concerns and I can certainly understand that you (as the client) might want to observe my field work to ensure that I am properly addressing your concerns. That’s perfectly fine - when the cable guy comes to my home or the mechanic is working on my car, I also want to watch over their shoulders to make sure I get what I’m paying for. I get that, I really do.

However, when I am working in the field, it is often to collect sound and vibration data using various instruments (sound level meter, digital recorders, accelerometers, etc). You need to understand is that my equipment does not have the ability to discriminate between sounds that I want to measure, and accidental sounds that you may make the course of your observations. If I’m trying to make a background noise measurement per MassDEP requirements and you’re talking on your cellphone right next to the microphone, the noise-level data I’m collecting will not have anything to do with actual background levels. Instead, I will have accurate data about the sound levels from your half of the cellphone conversation. I can’t make sound insulation measurements while you’re moving furniture. Same goes for sneezing, asking me questions, walking on dried leaves, etc. In the same vein, if I’m trying to measure ambient vibration levels and you are walking around, all I’m measuring is the floor vibration caused by your footfalls.

If your activity contaminates my measurements, I am forced to either redo the measurement or (in cases when I can’t make new measurements) attempt to salvage what I can from the fouled data. This increases the time and effort required for the analysis. It also reduces the accuracy and usability of the data. In other words, it makes it harder for me to do what you’re paying me to do, and if may negatively affect the case I’m trying to build for you.

If you must observe my work, you are welcome to, as long as you do it quietly and peacefully. If you just have to take that important call, please go back to your office and let me do what I do best. I will be grateful, and you will be one step closer to getting your desired outcome.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely, Your Friendly Neighborhood Acoustical Consultant

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