The Company That “Photoshops” Sound

The things you can do with acoustics and computers these days.  This story on Meyer Sound comes from The New Yorker.

In a small in-house theatre, the Meyers showed how Constellation works. Its principal purpose is to enable flexibility, so that halls can adapt to the needs of different kinds of event. Cinema needs a dry, echo-free environment, so that words can be understood. Chamber music benefits from crisp sound with resonant warmth. Orchestras are at home in halls with a longer reverberation time—more than two seconds, at the Musikverein. And choruses thrive on the booming acoustic of a cathedral. Constellation replicates this range of reverb times, which vary with the size of the space. One can choose from among different settings: cinema or lecture hall (0.4 seconds); chamber (one second); theatre (1.4 seconds); concert hall (two seconds); and “sacred space” (2.8 seconds). Thus, the system can give bloom to a somewhat dry acoustic, as at Zellerbach Hall, in Berkeley, and it can supply a cleaner sound for amplified jazz and pop, as at Svetlanov Hall, in Moscow.

“We couldn’t do this until we had a really high-powered computer,” John told me. “It’s calculating twenty thousand echoes a second, and that information has to stay in the memory for four or five seconds—a huge amount of data. Only a few years ago could we pull off the sacred-space setting, which is the most complex of all.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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