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Fast, Loud and in Control

The Scooter

Check this sexy machine out! My favorite tour necessity.

As innocent as it looks, this baby cruises at 17 miles per hour has two 21 cell, 25 volt 5000 mAh NiMh battery packs hidden in the belly, each good for 10 miles on flat ground and the brushless motor offers almost zero rolling resistance, folds up and weighs in a mere 28 pounds! The Xootr EX3. Heck, back before 9/11 I used to ride to the airport from old house and carry it and a backpack on the plane for short trips. Unfortunately I am sad to say these are long discontinued. But if you ever can get your hands on one, you will not regret it.

Like everything though, things break. Especially if they are my things.

The most recent repair was a battery issue where a connection between calls broke. It's a bit of a pain to fix but at $175 bucks a pack, it is well worth the effort. By poking small holes in the shrink wrap I located where the bad connection was. Then cut away the shrink and carefully bend out the cell. The issue is trying to resolder the cell back in without dissembling the whole pack. But, since NiMh cells use the outer can as the negative, there is a workaround. If you solder a thin metal tab to the positive of the cell in the pack then slide the cell you bent out, back place:

You can cut away the shrink wrap and solder the tab to the outside of the can. It is a bit hard to see but if you look carefully, its there.

And back on track! And hey, look what I found!

An honor indeed! Thank you Travis, Mark and Tom for inviting me on this incredible adventure.

My Office!

Ok and on to:

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ok, so one of the wonderful realities of our world as traveling sound humans is that everyday is a new adventure. So now that the Vortex (Orgasmatrons), Slotfire and V-Fire setups are running smooth and predictable, we can now start upping the anti a bit. We learned from Jones Beach shows that the Diagonal Vortex was effective for venues that require a narrower coverage. Remember that Vortex was designed to cover up to 135 degrees off axis but in a field or shed that is too wide. So rotating them 45 degrees does well for narrower coverage patterns.

But as anyone who has toured knows, we have to deal with a wide variety of setup spaces, restrictions and issues. So here are a few more setup variations for y'all to ponder.

Vortex two dimensional control. Offers rejection behind the subs and on stage. Needs space around them. Offers very wide coverage. Steerable. Occupies an 8 by 8 footprint.

Slotfire single dimension control. Coverage is symmetrical in front and behind. Works best when against a wall to block rear energy. Steerable width. Offers rejection center stage and somewhat behind. Controllable front compression alters sub tuning/tonality. Requires 13 by 4 footprint.

V-Fire single dimension control. Coverage is focused forward and reduced behind. Does nor require a rear wall. Steerable width. Offers rejection center stage and somewhat behind. The V is less than optimum and slightly downgrades the tonality. Requires 13 by 4 footprint.

But what to do in this venue in Birmingham? We had a fairly open space. The barrier to the right in the photo is audience side and just a blow through scrim. Unfortunately there was not enough room for a vortex without jamming up monitor world . Plus the vortex would have to be diagonal to be aimed right and there was no way. So here is a Smooshed Vortex setup.

The math works well and coverage should be good with excellent rejection behind and on stage. But wait? Really? Am I going to point a 3 stack of double 18"s at our monitor guy?

Well, it made me nervous enough that we setup one side with the middle speakers pointing toward the audience but the math was not a good.

and the other side as the calculations told me would be superior

And we fired it up and sure enough, we spun the other side and ran with double 18"s pointed right at a happy Steve!

And how about one more setup that may com in handy and is super easy. This is basically the setup we used at coachella and works on the same principle as the Slotfire

Two stacks of 6 subs per side. Space at 8.5 feet center to center. Lay in a 3ms delay to the outside stacks and bingo. Simple clean 180 degree 45 hz-ish center frequency cancellation towards center stage and focal points like 20 or 30 degrees off center. Longer delay widens and shorter will narrow. Though the side effect of other delay times is that your cancellation area moves around.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Two of these belong to me!

And off to watch Fall Out Boy!

Dave Rat

Lost and Broken

So for the past week or so, I have not been doing so hot and hence my bloggery silence. Neck moved wrong and arm went numb followed by crazy painful muscles in my shoulders and arms plaguing my every movement and sleepless nights.

4 Chiropractors, first Chris in San Fran who came out and stayed for the show. Even rocked a third adjustment in the tour bus after the gig.

Then Regan Jung in Irvine who I went to two days in a row

And I found a Chiro in Albuquerque on a sunday!

And though the pain reduced from extreme to tolerable, still not sleeping.

Massages helped as well.

X-rays and a finally a doctor visit that left me with a bag full full of drugs.

Not much into taking pain killers and such but oh if only I could sleep! Hence my bloggery absence as no position was compatible with computing. Ahh, but today I finally am doing well again and have good stretch and home made traction system that is working great. So happy to feel lack of exhaustion and pain! Sooo, Ha! game back on and sorry about the vanish!

So far this tour I have left my Pointy Hat and 'HLBM' shirt in a hotel in Indiana,

my Black Felt Cowboy Hat and shades in a car in Kansas,

my replacement Black Straw Cowboy Hat and new shades in a town car in Oxnard

and my Black Felt Cowboy hat again in a runner car in Dallas! I have been reunited with two of the three via Fedex,

the third awaits me back home and got the felt hat back a second time in Florida. As much as I mourn the loss of each cherished item, the heartwarming offset of refinding and arranging a successful return, more than balances. I am no slouch when it comes to separating myself from my belongings and have developed quite the skill at retrieval of the ones that matter. But playing lost and found is not all that I am good at as I am extremely well versed at breaking things as well. Cell phones, cameras and laptops are so easy to destroy that I won't even bother tying to list the multitudes of successful destructions.

Sound systems, cars and other material items are also no match for my skills, but perhaps one of things I am best a breaking is my own humanly self. So today as I am finally in the upswing of healing from relapses of yet another old injury flaring up, I thought I might share a brief run down of some of the top Drat bash contenders. Now as far as humanly injuries that skateboarders, machinists and competitive motor sport humans receive, I realize all mine add up to barely a scratch, but hey, I am just sound guy! So in no particular order of time:

1) Left hand thumb - While sound proofing a rehearsal space in the Sun Valley Rat Shop, standing on the top rung of a step ladder firing 2 1/2 inch staples overhead with a pneumatic staple gun, I found my thumb somehow became firmly attached to the 2x4 ceiling. Alone, hand overhead, unable to dismount the ladder I had no option but to pause for a ponder. Hmmm the possible results of dropping the safety-bypassed staplgun, knowing my luck would leave me with a second staple through my body. Aha! I lowered the gun via air hose and proceeded to use my other now free hand to pry thumb and staple from the ceiling which was no easy feat. Wandering around the shop I found pliers useless and it was not till I located a small pair of Vice Grips and firmly clipped them onto the thump piercing staple that I felt I could pull the ting out. So I pull and the thumb just bends so I used a speaker box to stop my thumb from moving and pulled the staple out from. my thumb bone. I then went on to finish sound proofing.

2) Right Hand pointer finger - Sun Valley Rat Shop, no coffee, living in the Rat Shop and the 6 am 'good morning' is the sound of the table saw. Time to make some Rat Subs! All is going well, I have the plans in my head and while cutting some port supports, I feel a strange vibration in my finger. Ooooh, this cant be good. No pain but the look of a saw blade width 1/2" deep notch in my pointer is a bit disturbing. Toilet paper and gaff tape bandages sure do leak a lot! There are some rat subs somewhere that looked like a slaughterhouse before they got carpeted. That one really hurt, sleeping was a bummer that night. Never did get around to visiting a doc on that one either.

3) Left Elbow - Big Bear, CA Flying down the hill and up the side wall on my snowboard, spinning right in the air I attempt a blind side aerial 270 (I am goofy foot) and lost some traction. Half way through, mid air, elbow meet tree, tree meet elbow. I am not sure how far around the wrong way it went but I instantly became mush ball sliding. I did go to a doc for this one where he put some electrical wires on me, told me to come back 3 times a week, charged the insurance a bunch of cash, sold me some drugs and said the hyper extension was so severe I would never have full extension again. Never went back, spent the next few months painfully sleeping with my arm under me twisted in such a way as to straighten it out and it healed up just fine, full extension and all.

4) Right Shoulder - World Theater Chicago. You ever have those days where everything goes horribly wrong? Ever have three in a row? I had guests, issues back at home that needed dealing with, it's raining, cell batteries dying, cell service issues pressure from all directions and finally, cell gets wet and dies. Got a new cell, but Nextel could not activate outside my home area. Really? Send fedex cell home to activate and send back? So I get a new #. But now I can't check old voicemail because you put my new number on my account. Need to fly to LA to activate? Now completely isolated, no phone #'s no one can reach me and meltdowns in every direction, Rat issues, personal family issues and oh, that's right friends coming to the show. On the 3rd day, I had things under control. Got someone to get a new phone on my old # back home and auto forward to my new #, like a ton of bricks off my back relieved. Everything is a timeless blur and all I know is that tonight I will finally sleep. I take a moment, a celebration of success and hop on my Suzuki DR200SEX (yep, really, that is the model #!) that lived in a road case in the sound truck and off I go. Off I go exactly as I had when I headed into town to deal with phone nightmares earlier. Fourth loading bay down, veer right and down the loading ramp except..... Uh oh! Earlier, how much earlier? Yikes, that was yesterday and we are not where we were yesterday. And instead somehow in the spacetime continuum the ramp has vanisher. Too late and mid turn I find myself flying through the air before the motorcycle slams down on top of me. Laying slow motion in a hospital bed with a Demerol shot in my ass I am told I have a separated shoulder. I ended up bribing the doctor to release me with Peppers shirts just in time to get back and stumble with assistance to the sound board as the band walked on stage. Never miss a gig! But oh boy, was pass out avoidance an pain making a hard show to mix. Thank you Grandpa!

5) Lower Back - Why I was hanging upside down from a wire by my foot is a good question. Why I did not take off my belt pack is a better question. But regardless, when I reached up to free myself and the wire snapped and I landed flat on my back on a concrete slab with a mini-maglite between the floor and my spine, that sent an electric shock through me that I will never forget. Ow ow and super ow! The doc said he can't do much till the swelling is down, it took me damn near 1/2 hour to baby step my way from the bus to the sound board each day. I refused to relinquish my top bus bunk, which was easily another 1/2 hour adventure of pain to escape each morning.

6) Right Foot - They cut the ropes! X Games in Big Bear and they cut the ropes and let the public on the competition snowboard courses, awesome! A forty feet lip to landing jump and another jump about 25 feet but with more height both following a really cool aggressive 'S' Boardercross course. It took a few runs before I was clearing both jumps with 50-50 and tail grabs, I never did get the big air 360's wired. One more run as I feel myself getting bit worn but I am going to hit them big. Easily cleared the 40 footer and charged the 25. For big jumps I pick out a tree for a marker and go full speed from there, that way I hit the jump at the proper speed. Wait, which tree was the charge marker? Oh no! Looking down watching the landing area fall away while still rising is not a good feeling. Thankfully I did land it and came down full force onto the flatland from maybe 25 or 30 feet up easily 20 feet past the landing. Not so thankfully my knees hit my chest and the hard pack snow gave way sinking my board a foot deep, instantly stopping. That's when front knee hit the front of the board While my foot remained strapped in sideways ripping all the muscles and leaving me hobbling around for months. For the next two snowboard seasons I had to ride switch stance.

7) Face #1 - Exuberant I bolted out the front door full speed leaping off the 3 steps and headed out to meet my friends. Lifeless I lay in a pool of blood as mid air the open garage door had not allowed my head to travel at the same speed as the rest of my body laying me out horizontal mid air. Concussion, broken nose and lots o stitches.

8) Face #2 - I almost made it to her house. I was dating a girl named Beverly Hills, with whom I am still friends and it was she and I who came up with the name Rat Sound one morning while watching my pet snake feed on a rat. Anyway, just a block away and a wrong turn found my exhausted delirious self breaking the windshield of my Datsun B210 with my face as I collided with a parked Mercedes. I remember my eyebrows were still in the windshield. Broken nose, lots of stitches, whiplash and I was pulling glass from my forehead for months afterwards. My car was totaled.

9) Face #3 - C- Street , Huge day surfing, third session and double overhead plus waves saw my longest ride ever, adrenaline rush and thrill and I go to get out of the water and from behind a wave barrels up and pitches me face down into the gravel. Ha, Broken nose and more stitches, the surfboard was fine.

Cool cool, enough of that. Hey, say hey to Arne and his daughter! I met him when I was 17 years old and working at Mattel toys fixing those little football games.

Well, he was in a band called the Alcoholics (http://ratsound.com/tours/early/flyers/index.htm for more old flyers)

And I did my very first recording ever on a Teac 4 track of his band. I also met Tom Hodder at the same place I did the recording. Tom is the one who taught me to build speaker cabinets. So cool how certain people are instrumental in altering the direction my life takes! One of the best parts about touring is finding those old friends and meeting new ones.

Enough for now. Off to enjoy beautiful Birmingham Alabama. Hey, I was born in this state, my people!

Dave Rat

 

Just Because I Can

Each trade has tool set. The fundamental and most basic item around which that craft is formed. A carpenter's hammer, a logger's ax, a fisherman's rod. The older the craft the more archaic the tools tend to be.

For a chef, it is the knife, Here our head caterer Jeremy's love for these handmade Japanese folded steel knives is so deep it literally brings him to tears as explains their quality and craftsmanship

Speaking of crafts and using tools, here you can see the proper usage of an XL4 as an elevation platform while foot mixing.

Missy is our tour manager Adam's assistant and doing a fine job of making that Rat hoodie look awesome.

Ok, you are at a gig, option 1, head to your seat and watch the show, Option 2 hop into kiddie pool fully clothed with some dudes. Hmmm, tough tough decision.

Fortunately though, someone from the radio station that came up with this brilliant idea relieved us of this unsightly obstacle soon after the show ended buy dumping a torrential waterfall down the seats creating a 3" deep lake for the subs to sit in and the crew to saturate their shoes in during load out.

Check out this mirrored drum head!

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ok, link of the day comes from my good friend Jamie Anderson who heads up Rational Acoustics. While I roll with my basakwards low tech and analog ways, Jamie does Smaart training and is all up on the other approach. So when he stumbled upon this gem, he knew where to send it. The ultimate analog delay!

http://www.uaudio.com/webzine/2005/august/text/content4.html

And on to less serious stuff. When I was laying out the initial Vortex designs, I started with what seemed a good place. Take the B sub and place in a conventional manner, then build from there. I really try to break down those barriers and open up to all possibilities but looking back I realize that it had no real logic other than just clinging to something familiar. And that decision made without fully justifying meant that the design was a bit less optimized than it could be.

Below you can see a simplified drawing of what is going on with the summations and cancellations of the Vortex setup. On the left side you see a counterclockwise setup on stage left. On the right side you see a counterclockwise setup stage right. Though the setups are the same, notice how much cleaner the left side is.

Green arrows represent summation, Red represents useful cancellations in the band that we are reproducing and gray is imperfect summation with some cancellation. The arrows are drawn from box center through box center. The arrow lengths are meaningless.

One of the issues we had with the original setup was that I was getting a bit too much sub off to the sides. So I started pondering and realized, hey wait, let's reverse directions of the Vortex and it should move our primary focus to the deep corners of the arena where we want it and paper and sure enough, the real world result matched the pen and paper prediction!

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ha, meet Juan (lampi), Robert Rat (stage), Josh (carpenter), Jim Rat (foh), Derek (automation - stuff that moves during the show, like Travis), Randy (Famous Stars and Straps promo), Jeremy (food), Me (trouble coordinator), and Justin (automation)

And so ends another terrible day at the office.

Dave Rat

Doing It Wrong

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

I have had quite a few people ask me "how did you come up with the sub layouts?" So, I started thinking about the train of thoughts that is passing by here at the moment. My first experimentation into 'subs pointed the wrong way,' was the Sub Cannon stuff I did with Peppers.

Thought actually they were pointed in the right direction, the setup had one set firing into the back of the next time delayed set. While it worked well, and rear rejection was clearly achieved, cumbersome steering that was realized by adding more or less level to them, so power was wasted if I reduced side coverage. But way before that, all the work I was doing with the MicroWedge designs over a decade ago kept pointing at the assets of physical placements and the importance of versatility. Physical placements, distances and the reducing the sheer physical size of the combined sound sources continue to be a significant challenge in all loudspeaker enclosure/array designs.

For this year's Coachella we did something very similar to the Slotfire setup where it relies on two sub sources 1/3 of a wavelength spaced. But once all the subs were stacked up, what we ended up with is a big wall of subs with a small gap in the middle separating the non delayed versus the delayed. Some delayed 18's were right next to non delayed 18's while others were 12 or more feet away.

Yet we are using a time delay of just 3 ms. The theoretical design is based on two point sources but the whole sub wall thing, while functional, has trouble getting out of it's own way. What we need is two nice clean point sources. But how do you do that with six double 18 boxes that are nearly two feet high and four feet wide?

From yet another angle there was the MicroSub project designed to use the coolness of actually being able to physically configure the boxes themselves to achieve desired results.

http://www.eaw.com/info/EAW/Loudspeaker_Product_Info/Current_Loudspeakers/MW_Info/MicroSub_Configs.pdf

Yes subs are very close to omni directional at low low frequencies and since low frequency wave lengths are long, it may seem that these configuration variations would have little or no effect on the output and coverage. But the reality is that there are significant audible differences and once I actually stacked these things up I found the assets of the configurations are even more pronounced than anticipated. The actual direction a sub is pointing does not matter much till you start getting above 60 0r 80 hz. While the 'on axis' focal point and distance between multiple sub sources rapidly gains importance as the frequency is raised.

**** Mini Offshoot Sound Nerd Speak ****

For example. The MicroSubs are 26" wide and 13" high and hold a single 15" speaker. If you stack two directly on top of each other on the floor like 'The Up Up' configuration,

the source dimensions are about 26" high by 15" wide plus ports so about 26"x24".

That would give us a side view pattern of something like:

As you can see we have we have reduced the vertical coverage, which optimizes for musicians a bit farther away and blows through the legs of closer artists when used as a sidefill.

Now slide the top MicroSub back till it drops into the 'Laid Back' configuration

and we now get something more like this

Where there is an up tilt giving us a nearer focus. Here the nearer artist is in the focus while the sound will tend to go over the heads of musicians father away. Plus, this is with just two MicroSubs. The stacked responses are of course achievable with conventional low profile subs but the additional option to utilize the angled configs with the MicroSubs is unique and can be very effective in tackling a wide variety of applications.

**** End Mini Offshoot Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ok, back to Vortex and Slotfire.

 

So taking what I learned from Sub Cannon's, MicroWedge, MicroSub lets next add in add in the cool enclosure designs like the dV-Sub http://www.l-acoustics.com/fichestech/dvsubgb.pdf where multiple speakers are pointed at each other to result in a powerful output from a small area.

And then it grew on me to combine it all and gain control over steering by creating a smaller and more manageable sound source dimensions and completely disregard the direction the sub speakers actually point. At that point all the ideas started flooding in as with so many restraints of design removed.

Here is the Slotfire, notice the two 18" wide 'slot' sources that offer distinct control.

And though the Vortex occupies an 8 ft by 8 ft by 5.5 ft high space, it offers a relatively small point source-ish output relative to conventional setups.

Oh, and this was the gig where we learned that the Vortex works best in open space and does not like to be near a wall. The Slotfires though, prefer a wall and shoot too much rear energy in open space. The V Fire:

is the no wall or hollow stage version of the Slotfire but does not quite sound as good.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

So as I mentioned, I adore the new adventure feeling of opening the bus door to a brand new world. And some days you just got to grit your teeth and bear it. Dammit, where in the heck is the parking lot? Is that a gig through yonder forest?

The luxuries for a touring roadie crew are endless, but at least we get our own are to hang out in and relax.

I did it, I finally broke down and labeled my console.

So this Branson guy from Virgin decides to toss a party for 30,000 or so of he best friends, for free. Multiple stages, Blink, Weezer, Jet and lots of other cool bands

And what better way to make an entrance than to sky dive out of a helicopter onto the roof of the main stage at Blossom Amphitheater? None better! A bottle of Champagne

And away we rock. Can I say that this guy rules! And speaking of guys that rule, I am so happy to be touring once again with Craig Overbay! So great to hang with so many friends.

Dave Rat

 

Never Underestimate the Importance of Irrelevant

Though Fall Out Boy has left us for a while, thought I would share this shot of Midii desks side by side new school/old school can live in harmony! Say hey to Kyle, FOB's engineer.

Roadies come in a wide variety of species. If you look carefully you may be able to spot one of the rare Beamhugger roadies napping in his natural habitat.

Meet Cadaver (Captain Jack Spare-Ocho), Sweatshop (Ochito), J-Con ( Ocho-Guesto), Satan (Ocho Diablo), Doug (Double 0 Ocho)and Robert (Ocho Libre). Though at first look you may mistake them for bankers on their way to work in business suits, if you look carefully you may take notice that Sweatshop and Robert are tossing out signs of their allegiance to the Ocho. The Ocho is an elite and highly feared group of roadies that travel together on a tour bus that has a little plastic 8 in the window.

A rare glimpse inside the Ocho

One of the most wonderful aspects of touring is the unexpected. The thrill of not knowing what will happen next. And probably the pinnacle of that feeling occurs when you awake on the bus after an overnight drive to step out and look at the brand new world around you. Take a gander at this view while imagining the heart pounding thrill of stepping out into Hartford

This tour like every tour I take on a project or two and do my best to succeed. My primary project for this tour was to try and wear one of two hats everyday. Yes, this may seem daunting but with enough will power, roadies can accomplish nearly anything. What you may not know is why. Why not a baseball cap, why not a Guilligan hat or beany? Well perhaps you are not fully learned on the assets of a properly Dave Rat folded cowboy hat. If I recall correctly, I believe I purchase the mixing tigers at the same truck stop in Florida.

It's not just the Ocho, it's a way of life!

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Just to take the edge off the heaviness of the blog, I really try an offer some technical sound nerdery. So what today? Lets see, someone asked how audio gets off the spinning drum riser. Well, that was something that we solved in pre production as it was not thought of in the design. There is a 20 channel audio snake and ac cable that feeds through a tube dead center. Since the riser only spins 2 rotations max, the wind up is not bad. The Drum riser actually is two pieces and splits in half and rolls on the truck on a pair of set carts. Of course everything is bolted down and it stays nearly intact with just mics, snare and cymbals getting pulled each day.

Oh, here is something you may find interesting. A little more on the slotfire setup.

The theory here is to create two point sources spaces at 1/3 of a wavelength. Now typically with the wall of sub setup that is common, point sources are just plain out of the question with multi-sub setups but... by pointing them at each other we can significantly reduce the size of the sound sources and now have something we can really work with.

Now by delaying the outside pair 1/6 of a wavelength, we get a 1/6 +1/3 wavelength =1/2 wavelength cancellation on stage an we get a maximum summation angle I am guessing 30 off axis or so. Fair enough, all good works quite well, especially if you have a wall behind them but....

There is another aspect that is really interesting. The distance between the subs that face each other has is useful as well. See, we are creating a compression zone and the amount of compression also effects the way our subs sound. The closer together they are, the more front pressure we put on the cones. Typically the cones ported boxes only see back pressure from the enclosure. This front pressure has a damping effect and can be used to alter the tuning of the speaker/enclosure a bit or in other world as you get closer the sound gets tighter and father is looser. This added dynamic is yet another cool (and free) tool to add to your subwoofer toolbox.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****