Go to a live gig and listen on your iPhone!

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Thursday March 17, 2011

I love April Fools' Day. It can be a good laugh, costs nothing, and you don't have to buy anyone an expensive greetings card. I particularly love the gags (often written by Olaf Pirol or Loof Lirpa!) in the April issues of magazines, particularly audio mags, because they come out in March and I'm not expecting it.

March is one thing. February is another. And this is what New Scientist reported on February 23...

You know when you go to an open-air live gig how the sound is often pretty awful. Well actually, it's pretty brilliant considering the unforgiving nature of the laws of physics. Often the bass comes through nice and pounding, just as we like it. But the high and high-mid frequencies somehow get left behind. Of course the FOH engineer could EQ them up, but then he or she would scorch the ears of people standing nearer the speakers at the front.

So what if you could have a supplementary personal speaker system right up close, as close as you want, which fills in those missing frequencies? Sounds good?

Well you can. You have it in your pocket and it's called an iPhone. Actually it's called a Nokia N900 smartphone, but I don't think the idea will gain much traction down that route.

"Aha!" you say, the phone isn't necessary. All that's needed is a radio transmitter at the mix position and for people to tune in their portable radios (which don't actually exist anymore but you might just have one in your phone if you're lucky) to the right frequency.

The snag with that is that radio waves travel at the speed of light and sound from the PA system doesn't. Your local audio source will be way ahead of the sound from the speakers - around a second at 340 meters from the stage.

So why not delay the signal? The problem is that the delay required varies according to the position of the listener. Which is where the smartphone comes in...

The smartphone uses GPS to know exactly where you are! So clever software can apply a delay that is exactly right for your listening position. Apparently the user still needs to do a little fine tuning, but I don't see a problem in that.

You know, I have the feeling that this isn't an early April Fools' joke. It's one of those ideas that stands exactly on the line between genius and ridiculous. Who knows where it will go from here?

What do you think? Next time you go to an open-air concert, will you be listening on your smartphone?

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