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Feb 24, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about classic recording microphones, but were afraid to ask: This site goes into excruciating detail about classic ribbon, dynamic, and condenser microphones used for voice recordings in years past. The site even provides voice recordings made with some of the mics listed on the site (MP3 format, which I imagine has altered the sound somewhat).


The Hartford Courant notes that some restaurants are just too darn loud. The article blames increased noise levels in part on the trend of modern restaurants to replace sound-absorbing curtains, carpets and other treatments with hard surfaces like plaster, stone and glass. Essentially these hard surfaces make the restaurant space more reverberant (“live”), which allows noise to “build up.” The article also offers some quick and dirty recommendations for applying absorption.

You have to be careful about the recommendations given in the article. An architect suggests adding materials like vinyl and egg-crate foam, but you need to make sure that the vinyl or foam you select is actually sound absorbent. In particular there are several types of egg-crate foam that are not sound absorbing.


The Boston Globe tells us that research designed to help predict tsunamis may be harming marine life. The acoustics techniques being used (apparently some sort of acoustic refraction) are generating high ‘sound’ levels (remember, this is water so the acoustics work differently). The researchers appear to be using an impulse to generate reflections for their analysis - if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years, it’s that impulse-based test methods have far too many problems. There must be a better way.


Bob Haas of Portland Oregon has posted some tips for amateur concert recording. I’m pointing out Bob’s page because he recently sent me some CD’s of classical concerts he recorded, and the music sounds gorgeous - he’s clearly doing something right.


The first surround sound Grammy was awarded a couple of weeks ago.


The American Motorcycle Association acknowledges that motorcycle noise is becoming a major issue nationwide. I’m glad to see that a motorcycle advocacy group is trying to reign in some of the excessive exhaust noise that some of its constituents insist on foisting on us.

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Feb 21, 2005

The first time I saw a Michael Jordan ‘Ballpark Hotdogs’ commercial, I remember thinking “is there anything this guy won’t put his name on for money?” Well I’m starting to feel the same way about THX: it looks like THX has started to certify DRM systems such as Macrovision’s new RipGuard technology.


The Springfield Republican ran a story last week about the search of a source of ground-borne tremors here in Western Mass that puzzled local residents 30 years ago. The source was water spilling over a dam in the Chicopee River. The vibrations produced by this movement could apparently be felt at several neighborhoods in Chicopee.


Acoustical Design Collaborative has published “Twelve Common Acoustical Myths.” The list includes “Myth: Sound absorption and sound transmission are the same,” and “Myth: Trees and bushes can block exterior noise.” Good stuff, and I wholeheartedly agree. offers advice on “How to Judge Loudspeaker Sound and Accuracy.” The article focus on the subjective evaluation of loudspeakers. I agree with a lot of the advice, especially the recommendation of a solo vocalist or choir. But definitely bring along a recording that you’re very familiar with. Most dealers will have no problem with letting you listen to your own recordings. If they do, run (don’t walk) to the exit.


Sign o’ the Times: New York’s famous His Factory Studio (used in the past by such luminaries as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Paul Simon) is shutting its door. The article partly blames the closing on technologies that have fostered the growth of home recording studios. The lesson is clear —adapt or die. asks: “Church Sound Too Loud?” It’s a good question, I’ve been to some services where the sound level was unbearable. The blog links to a Sound and Video Contractor article that goes into more depth.

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Feb 04, 2005

I was picking up some audio components for a client at a major electronics retailer when I overhead a dispute between the store and a customer. A few days prior, the customer had purchased a television that the supposedly in stock. Well, it turns out the television wasn’t in stock, but the store would deliver the television for free. Well, it turns out the delivery wasn’t free, but the store would be happy to ship the television for $40. And did I mention that the store had already charged the customer’s credit card?

The customer decided that he wanted the television shipped directly to the store, and he would pick it up — he (understandably) didn’t want to pay the $40 delivery charge, and he also couldn’t take a day off work to wait for the delivery truck. The television was delivered to the store, and instead of holding the TV for pickup, the store shipped the television to the customer’s house. This was the point where the customer came in to the store, trying to figure out what happened to his television.

Bottom line: the customer service representative and her supervisor admitted that the store screwed up, but there was nothing they could do about it. The television model in question was now in stock, so his only option would be to buy a second TV (remember, he’s already paid for the first one) and he could return the first TV for a refund when he received it. After an exasperating conversation, the customer demanded his money back. Because the television was en route, the store couldn’t refund his money until he received the unit. Since he couldn’t wait at home to receive the TV, the manager told him that he would have to wait for the delivery service to make three unsuccessful delivery attempts before they would return the TV back to the store.

I left at that point, so I’m not sure how this was resolved. But you have to wonder: the store messed up the order, and the best they can offer is “buy another television?” They have certainly lost that customer, and it’s likely that the customer’s friends and family (and me!) aren’t likely to buy any big-ticket items there in the near future. How about at least trying to appease the customer? How about “we screwed up sir, and we apologize. As a gesture of goodwill, here’s a $100 gift card.”

In another show of outstanding customer service, I enjoyed watching the salesman at another major retailer trying to convince a customer that $50 of Monster Cable would significantly improve the audio and video quality of a $30 DVD player.


Speaking of Monster cable: In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, here is a rebuttal to allegations that Monster Cable Inc. is evil.


It’s good to see that even retailers are stressing the importance of room acoustics in a decent-sounding audio system


The ABC News magazine 20/20 broadcast a segment on noise pollution this past Friday night as part of a report on “Nasty Behavior.” The NoiseOFF website has a vidcap of the report (RealMedia format unfortunately).


Take a look at Onkyo’s NR1000 home theater receiver: they have truly redefined the concept of “future proof” when it comes to consumer audio components.

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