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Sound Advice

Tips from a Pro by Tom Young

This issue, PS chatted with Tom Young, Technical Sales Engineer at Meyer Sound regarding some tips for designing sound systems and recording studios.

What are some important tips to keep in mind when designing a permanently installed sound system?

Ensure that the programming for each facility has been fully developed and is understood by all parties. A performance venue that will frequently host touring pop acts requires completely different (rider acceptable) equipment than one that hosts touring Broadway musicals, dance companies, ballet and folk or jazz artists. For how the design for both FOH and stage monitor systems is impacted is determined by the worship style and direction. Contemporary worship requires systems that are similar in function to those in concert sound, although they may be scaled down. Traditional worship and architecture typically focuses on spoken word intelligibility and minimal visual impact. One other aspect of permanent system design is the greater importance to provide acoustic consulting and/or improvements.

How do you select/test products to find the best system?

Sound system consultants and contractors must do their homework when it comes to equipment selection. All contractors should have the test equipment required to fully evaluate the design and functionality of the equipment they install. Consultants are not as likely to have test facilities, but they should still be on top of this through close relationships with manufacturers, getting out to trade shows and maintaining a close relationship with sound operators. Thanks to the Internet and sound system related listservs or newsgroups, there is another avenue for keeping up with trends and evaluations. By staying on top of this, the designer and contractor should be able to offer systems at several different levels of cost.

What are the most important things to remember when designing or building a recording studio?

That it is much more complex than simply throwing egg cartons on the wall and buying some good gear. Aside from selection of your nearfield monitors, they must be positioned to minimize reflections from the console and other boundaries. The wiring infrastructure and acoustic design of recording studios will make or break the facility over a period of time. Some equipment cannot be bought at the lowest possible cost.

How do you convert a room into a recording studio?

If forced to, one can end up with a reasonably good space that has been converted from its original intent. There are numerous incredible albums recorded throughout the past 30 years that give testimony to this. But for long-term use as a commercial recording facility there needs to be substantial and painstaking design for everything from electrical power to audio wiring to acoustics to air conditioning. The acoustics design covers noise isolation as much as it does room acoustics. Building from the ground up affords the most potential for a spectacular facility as long as one is committed to budgeting enough money for design and construction. One thing you can do from scratch that is virtually impossible when converting an existing space is floating the control room and/or studio floors.

What are the most important questions to ask a client when beginning a system design? What must you know to do your job properly?

You must ask anything and everything that impacts the facility from its opening through several years into its operation. Occasionally it is necessary to ask the client to substantially reduce their expectations or to increase their budget. Whether it’s for performance facilities or recording studios, the successful system designer must be very well trained in all of the technical aspects of audio systems design. But, he or she also must have a working familiarity with documentation and drawings, experience with participating on a design team plus a decent amount of real world operating experience. A system designer who has not mixed “under fire” and has not interacted with artists in these spaces has little chance of designing a fully functional and relevant system.

Tom Young has been involved in live sound for 29 years and has held virtually every possible position from working in the trenches to international tours to designing sound systems for major-league concert halls in North and South America and Europe. He currently is Technical Sales Engineer at Meyer Sound in Berkeley CA.

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