Sound

Absurdly huge bass subwoofer

A bunch of University of Wisconsin PhD engineering students decided to build a massive 6000 Watt ‘bass cannon’for the UW-Madison Engineering Expo.

The cone of the speaker is made of polycarbonate and is 6 feet in diameter, with the cabinet measuring 8ft x 8ft x 2ft or 128 cubic feet. Very disappointingly, I sortof doubt this would fit in my car.

The whole thing was custom made, including the voice coil, magnet assembly, cone, surround and case. The speaker works best in the 5Hz – 50hz range, and unfortunately the video below doesn’t do it much justice.

We found the resonant frequency of the building it was in which caused “annoyance” for people several floors above us in the opposite side of the building. We were partially inspired by Doc Brown’s speaker from Back to the Future.

I’m not sure what ‘annoyance’ meant, but I wonder if it had something to do with the brown note.

Here’s a video of the Giant Speaker in action:

Resonance

SOUND is an exhibition organized by SUBTROPICS 20 Experimental Music and Sound Arts Festival at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach.

Included in the exhibition are works that involve sound as art, with the installation in this video illustrating the process of fishing for resonant frequencies inherent in the architecture; a technique passed down by Russell Frehling, one of the many artists whose work is included in the show.

In his site-spesific installation entitled Bass Soundfield Russell Frehling works with ambient waveforms extracted from the very highest parts of the audible spectrum: in effect, dissociating this sound material from its familiar context and experiential cues. What does remain are these remarkably ethereal bits that interact with the room in a captivating but confounding way.

I found this video incredibly relaxing, and it’s worth watching not only to listen to the resulting ambient soundscape, but also to watch the motion of the mic operator move through the room.

This art piece illustrates very well the reason why people acoustically treat their recording/mixing rooms – whatever sound is coming from your speakers sounds completely different depending on where you are in the room – even moving one inch can completely transform what you hear. Your ears are able to trick you by averaging what they hear, but as soon as you throw a mic up there the effect becomes very obvious.

Loudest bike horn in the world is louder than a jet

Do you need that extra kick to get cars out of your way while riding on a busy street?   The Hornster, which is oficially the loudest bike horn in the world, emits a honk that is 178 decibels.  To put this into perspective:

Hornster: 178db
F-14 take off: 130db
Concorde: 119db
Truck air horn: 110db
City traffic: 78db
Conversation in restaurant: 60db

The Hornster bicycle was developed by the UK Environmental Transport Association to highlight the dangers that cyclists face.  The triple air horn on the bike is an Airchime KH3A from a train, modified to be powered from a scuba diving cylinder.

The Hornster’s inventor, Yannick Read, whose previous work includes the flamethrower-equipped BOND bike and the world’s smallest trailer for bikes ( QTvan ) says:

“The same quietness that makes bicycles such a civilised way of getting around makes them vulnerable to inattentive motorists – the Hornster is a wake-up call for drivers who don’t pay attention to bikes.”

Unfortunately, it’s not cheap – The Hornster sells for £4,995.

Do dogs have perfect pitch?

We all know that dogs have great hearing, but scientific analysis seem to suggest that many dogs have a very, very good sense of musical pitch as well.

Some work with wolves has shown that when howling, a wolf will change the pitch of it’s howl to a different pitch when other join in to create a “chord”, and no wolf seems to want to end up on the same note as any other in the choir. Dogs will do somthing quite similar, and this is why if you ever hear a dog howling along with a group of singing people, you can hear the dog easily because it stands out so much – he is deliberately not in the same register as the other voices.

Now, years and years of seeing this ad in countless magazines tells me that many people wish that they could have perfect pitch, but it’s possible that dogs already have this ability.

Here is a very interesting video of a dog playing a piano keyboard:

To start, the owner speaks note names and the dog plays them – cute, but not a big deal.
After 5:10 the dog starts to match notes just by ear
After 10:50 it starts to get really interesting the dog plays melodies by ear.

Check it out:

Onesense headphones

The OneSense headphones are a concept design by Joe Doucet.  The purpose of them is to both provide an immersive experience, and also to discourage distraction that could interrupt your listening pleasure.

The headphones themeselves block out visual stimulation, and also go a little ways to block out other sounds as well, presumably with some sort of noise cancellation technology.

At first, I thought that the spikes were some sort of anechoic coating to absorb sound, but they are actually meant to be some sort of psychological warning, meant to tell people “back off, I’m a freak, and I’m listening to music!” so the wearer can relax without being bothered. Read More…

Paper Note

Paper Note creates a tangible waveform from laser cut disks of paper. The user records a message, a sound or loads up music, and the system analyses the sound to map each moment to a corresponding slice.

Paper Note is a project made by Andrew Nip at CIID.  The software that he developed creates a real-life representation of a waveform for any specified sound file. Each Paper Note is made up of about 450 stacked paper disks, each representing the volume of the waveform at a particular “slice” of time (think samples).  The resulting piece is about 14cm in length.

The software was programmed in Processing, and uses a laser cutter to cut the disks.  See it in action in this video.

Too bad I didn’t have a laser cutter – these look absolutely stunning as works of art.  That being said, Andrew is offering to cut the paper if you send him the sound file.

Anechoic chamber

anechoic [ˌænɪˈkəʊɪk]
adj.
(Physics / General Physics) having a low degree or absence of reverberation of sound.

In the late forties I found out by experiment (I went into the anechoic chamber at Harvard University) that silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around. I devoted my music to it. My work became an exploration of non-intention. To carry it out faithfully I have developed acomplicated composing means using I Ching chance operations, making my responsibility that of asking questions instead of making choices.

– John Cage, 1990

Here’s another description of Microsoft’s anechoic chamber:

Since I entered the chamber with two other people, the first thing I noticed was how voices changed. They became clipped, truncated, like someone was holding the mute pedal down on a piano. The subtle atmosphere and depth associated with room reverberation that we come to expect when hearing the human voice was totally gone. No echoes, hence the term “anechoic.” My own voice sounded like it was having trouble coming out of my head.

For a moment, I felt genuine disorientation, like the light-headedness you can get with low blood sugar. The guy who showed me the room said that, even though he works in there a lot, he still has moments when he loses his balance, because the ear uses sound reflections—in addition to inner-ear leveling—to position the head and body.

Sometimes we do not realize how much we rely on auditory cues to get a grip on reality.

Relevant.

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