Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, March 30, 2004

other meeting reports

3/30/04 Meeting Highlights
by Tom Miller

The Chicago Section was treated to a tour of the Columbia College Audio Technical Center (ATC). The center is normally closed to visitors, but was opened during the college’s spring break for a joint meeting of the AES section and the Engineering And Recording Society of Chicago (EARS). Doug Jones, the chair of the Audio Arts And Acoustics Department, conducted the tour. He was assisted by Gary Kahn, a teacher at the ATC and a Chicago AES committee member.



The technical center was built based on a decision in 2001 by the college to consolidate its facilities into a smaller campus area. After reviewing several areas, the audio department decided on a location in the basement of 33 E. Congress. This area offered the best combination of large areas, few pillars, and high ceilings of the available spaces. The technical center contains several recording studios, classrooms, acoustics and vibration laboratories, a sound reinforcement lab, and a unique reverberation chamber. Doug Jones and other members of the Columbia faculty designed the space. Construction is mostly complete, and the center has been open for one semester.


The primary design criterion was to work well as an educational facility. The school emphasizes education in many areas of acoustics, not just recording. The equipment and layout were chosen to work best in teaching audio principles, not just to create the most impressive recording studio. Examples of this idea include creating zones in the recording studio that have highly varied acoustics, a recording console built of input modules from 12 brands of recording consoles, a control room with rows of theater seating behind the console for students, and a dual-purpose reverberation chamber.


The reverberation chamber is made from a converted bank vault that was already in the basement area. The room is equipped to function both as a audio effect for the studios and as a materials testing room. The room has steel walls, a massive round door, and has a midband reverberation time of 4 seconds when no test materials are in it.


The school also has recently received the archives of Richard Heyser. Mr. Heyser was a pioneer of the techniques of joint time-frequency acoustical measurement. The archives include both his early research equipment and his papers. The racks of his research equipment are proudly displayed in a case in the lobby. The school will be indexing the Mr. Heyser’s papers in the coming years. Mr. Jones noted that Mr. Heyser preserved early drafts of several important papers, and that these early drafts will give researchers insight to Mr. Heyser’s thought processes.