AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - May 17, 2021

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PNW Section held its May 2021 meeting on Zoom and featured Jamie Anderson and Michael Lawrence of Rational Acoustics, whose Smaart dual-channel FFT audio analysis program is widely used in the sound industry. Rather than a tutorial on how to operate the program, Jamie gave a history of audio FFT use and Smaart through the years, Michael gave an essay on creativity in audio measurements, and several users gave curious case studies. Statistics indicated about 114 participants from around the globe, with about 71 being AES members. PNW Chair Greg Dixon and Committee Dan Mortensen opened the meeting with introductory remarks.

Jamie spoke about the history of touring-style sound systems, from the technology of the sixties, to the Grateful Dead "Wall of Sound" to Showco Prism. Practical FFT analyzers were just being developed, but were expensive and had a host of shortcomings for concert audio use. However, by 1995, laptop computers became powerful enough to do FFTs, and the original Smaart was born. Jamie covered the history of various owners and distributors through the years, and the evolution of the program. Today, Smaart is at version 8, and on track for an upgrade soon. Arcana: the acronym stands for System Measurement Acoustic Analysis Real-time Tool.

During some Q&A, Jamie told about using Smaart for an industrial welding process. A company wanted to automate a process where a large piece of metal was heated for about 8 minutes, until the experienced welders heard a change in the sound. Rational built a power comparator function into Smaart that could acoustically find the right time to process the piece.

After the Q&A, Michael Lawrence presented an essay on curiosity in audio. His message was that it is not always necessary to run your audio tests traceable to NIST. Plenty of valid answers can be had by clear thinking and isolating variables without expensive test setups.

For some real-life usage examples, Wes Stark (with advice from Michael), related how he needed to measure train noises (whistles) near a potential residential area by doing long-term (24/7 for a week) monitoring. Then he needed to crunch the data into useful facts that a potential developer could understand, using Smaart.

Next, Bob Smith of Stryker Emergency Care showed how his company uses Smaart for acoustic analysis to build medical devices such as defibrillators. The defibrillator's voice prompts are designed to be clear and audible, even under noisy conditions. Inside the company test lab, they can even simulate the acoustic field of a helicopter nearby or a roaring stadium for their tests.

After much Q&A, the floor was open for everyone to introduce themselves and chat.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society