He was at the Clubhouse, a time capsule of a studio in New York's Hudson Valley where artists from the National and the Lumineers to Linda Ronstadt have recorded music. My old stone brain exploded. in one corner sits a Fender Rhodes electric piano accompanying Elvis Presley's original Las Vegas performance, with "LV Hilton" written on the surface. Another 1902 concert left here by composer Ben Folds.
This story originally appeared in Roads and Rail Volume 15.
It's getting better. Eight-time Grammy Award-winning producer, mixer and engineer Elliott Scheiner stands in front of the iconic 28-channel Neve console, the solid-state turntable that defined '70s rock with Nirvana's Nevermind finale.
Still unsatisfied with canned car audio, Scheiner first lobbied skeptical car manufacturers to up their game. Scheiner installed the first DVD-Audio 5.1 factory surround sound system, a Panasonic ELS unit in 2004. In the Acura TL, now with eight stylish speakers and 225 watts of power.
Shiner, 75, was driving from Connecticut this morning in the Aughs-era Ford Thunderbird as he prepared to record an album with jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux. Outside is the Acura MDX Type S Advance, with a 1,000-watt, 25-speaker, 22-channel ELS Studio 3D Signature Edition system. The ELS Studio 3D Signature Edition is the latest recipient of Scheiner's golden ears.
It's an ear closer to Van Morrison's guitar sound on Moondance. In fact, Shaner has covered music by Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Queen, Sting, Foo Fighters and Beck. He helped create Steely Dan's famously laborious albums, some of which required Kubrick more than a year of recording, with a rotating army of session musicians who became benchmarks for a generation of studio engineers.
So when Shaner invites me to his ideal seat at the club table to listen to songs like God, Bach or The Beatles, he becomes the ideal guide for today's musical research; It's been Shaner's personal fault since the 1980s, including Los Angeles' legendary A&M studios.
“When we finished the mix, they were able to stream it from the front room to the '57 Bel Air conversion,” Scheiner recalls. “And you get in the car and you just listen, mostly to hear how bad it is. It's never sounded so good in any car."
Fast forward to 2005, when the Acura system introduced by Shaneer was more than enough. After Shaner engineered Foo Fighters' In Your Honor , Dave Grohl and his bandmates listened to and approved the final 5.1 mix in the car instead of the studio. Ultimately, Shaner and the artists whose vision he serves, plus singing car owners, can hear the system hitting the right notes.
A brief history of knots
Besides Whistlin' Dixie, the first music heard in the car came from a crudely converted home radio. In 1930, Paul Galvin loaded a prototype AM radio into his Studebaker in time for a broadcasting convention, named it Motorola, and became a millionaire. Blaupunkt brought out the first FM car radio in 1952. Hi-Fi recordings from CBS Laboratories and Chrysler's Highway fell into obscurity by 1959, despite clever technology that packed 45 minutes of music onto seven-inch discs. Eight-trackers, tapes and CDs have been replaced by apps, broadcasts and satellite radio, which offer variety at the cost of (mostly) compressed audio files with sub-CD sound quality.
However, we are surely now entering the golden age of car audio, fueled by both new technology and popular luxury. Names previously known only to audiophiles (Bang & Olufsen, Bowers & Wilkins, Burmester, Meridian, Naim, Mark Levinson, Lexicon, Infinity) are being added to our streets. Similar to racing power, luxury cars can now include more than 1,000 watts and two dozen speakers, with nearly separate amplifier channels for each.
However, recognized challenges remain. From tight spaces to hard and uneven surfaces, the car cabin is a sonic minefield. The residents were pressed against the door instead of sitting center stage under the beautiful sound of the speaker.
"Cars have always been considered one of the worst audio environments," said Rishi Daftoire, who leads systems design for Mark Levinson Systems at Lexus as senior acoustic engineer at Harman International. That's changing, Daftuar says, with a better sound system offering sweeter reproduction than your average home setup. How many people have dozens of speakers in their living room with the equipment tuned, tuned and optimized for their room and a fixed listening position? In stark contrast to most of us who carelessly place a bluetooth speaker behind a flower pot in the living room.
The sound system should boost some low frequencies by about 10dB to counteract road and engine noise. But they can also use room intensity—the phenomenon where smaller spaces generate bass pressure faster than larger spaces—to passively boost the bass—the chest rumble you usually only experience at concerts. . A critical time delay ensures that music from multiple speakers reaches your ears on time.
In a Harman survey, people named their car the most pleasant and listening environment. A '70s teenager looking for underseat insulation on Main Street might say the same thing, but if that teenager heard the Stones' "Loving Cup" cascading through the speakers of a modern luxury SUV, they'd start measuring distances or the beds. water
"There is an emotional connection between driving and listening to music that spans generations," said Jonathan Pearce, director of global experience research and development at Harman Automotive.
As for today's digital tracks, often streamed in mediocre quality from apps like Spotify or Pandora, which Pearce calls "the bane of my existence," many experts predict that sound quality issues will take care of themselves with our new wide generation. . From Tidal hi-fi streaming to Spotify Premium 320kbps, Pierce sees lossless or CD-quality music as an inevitable evolution for in-car listening.
It's not just about the ears. Visual speaker design used to be largely the domain of car manufacturers, but audio companies were also developing distinctive looks. Car manufacturers allow audio partners to advertise their brand on shiny speaker grilles.
"The first interaction in any industrial design is with the eyes," says Pierce. "And if you're paying a premium, visual aesthetics can be just as important." As long as there isn't a bait-and-switch sound, he added. "The system may look nice and fancy, but if the sound quality suffers, you as a customer will be disappointed."
Audio designers face the familiar constraint of a client or vendor who would rather steal their money than screw it up. Mark Ziemba, manager of Panasonic Automotive Sound Systems and Shaner's sound partner for nearly 20 years, makes it even more symphonic. "You can do amazing things with digital technology, but you can't build a Stradivarius out of plywood," he said. "Conventional acoustic technology has suffered from the commodification of speakers, and that's sad." What surrounds the speakers is also important to the final sound quality. Speaker grilles should be as transparent as possible to prevent muffled sound, but loud enough to protect children's sticky fingers. The steel casing that most car speakers live in is a hotbed of unwanted noise and movement.
"An amplifier can beep and stop, but the speaker is like a vibrating source," says Ziemba.
In some Acuras, Panasonic's acoustic motion control sends a corrective signal to the amplifier to stop the speakers more quickly. Designers warn that speaker count isn't everything, but they've placed woofers, coaxials and tweeters where they can to create precise and immersive 3D sound—even on the headliner, roof pillars, roof or center console.
The best materials help for this purpose. Ziemba mentions the MDX Type S Advance 1.7-inch carbon graphite dome tweeter. Certainly, they faithfully and effortlessly reproduced frequencies that were difficult on smaller systems, like Bob Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica on 1962's "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down."
"This frequency can be torture for tweeters," says Ziemba. "Dylan sounds like he was in the car with you. There's a sweetness to the unfamiliar voice in the car."
In internal system testing and validation, six sets of microphones are positioned and angled at the approximate position of the listener's head, while the laptop and sound card generate the pink noise test frequency. HEADS, or head and body simulators that look like crash test models, have a microphone in the ear and a speaker in the mouth to improve hands-free communication. Despite all that, Ziemba says, small adjustments to volume or equalization can improve playback in ways that objective instruments can't measure. "To make that final decision, we still have to listen," he said.
In the 1980s, Ziemba and his colleagues developed the Listening Test Technology (LTT). Endorsed by several OEMs, LTT has taught hundreds of students how to listen to music and evaluate sound quality. In addition to the expert, Harman guided the layperson to listen to and record seven fixed songs, selected in part to challenge the system based on various criteria. (As times and listeners have changed, Harman recently replaced Steely Dan's "Cousin Dupre" with Daft Punk's "Fragments of Time," a different genre but a song just as vital and active in the rhythm section.)
Naturally, Panasonic and Acura saw Scheiner as their trump card in the vote. Like Albert Biermann, the now-retired chassis guru who took the BMW M car to untold heights, Scheiner combines his deep institutional knowledge with impeccable craftsmanship and then adds a bit of black magic.
"This is not just a cut and dry academic thing," Ziemba says. He mentions Scheiner's mixing of classic REM albums, nuances he adapted from Michael Stipe's soulful vocals. “Elliott knows not only where to place the instruments, what phrases to play, but also the mood of the musicians. Whatever emotions the artist feels, he wants to incorporate them."
"It wasn't always like that," Shiner quickly added. He began his career as an assistant to legendary engineer and producer Phil Ramone in 1967.
“So I left everything to the sergeant. Piper and stand up," Shiner said with a wink. "But Phil taught me what I needed to hear."
hearing is believing
After listening to the tunes in the sonic sanctuary of the Clubhouse, studio owner Paul Antonel Shaner and I hopped in an Acura for a drive. Shaner rode shotgun as a dream DJ, even doing rock commentary and history. (We know that Steely Dan's "Hey Nineen" was inspired by Shane.)
The MDX Type S Advance's high-end ELS unit will delight any music lover, especially with full 5.1 mixes of six-channel bliss, unconventional "surround sound" signal processing, fake "concert halls" and other artificially sweetened. bedrooms. effect. One clue to the MDX's greatness is this: music sounds just as crisp and clear in the back seats as it does in the front, thanks in part to center console speakers and true three-way sound. directions (woofer, coaxial and tweeter) for all passengers We were able to have normal conversations with music too It's a very good system, especially considering you're in a possible everyday SUV and not a Xanadu that goes in the street.
I recorded my own songs and artists, played Sault, a transformed R&B-funk-Afrobeat group and the deafening Siren Santigold. Then, in the blink of an eye for Shane, I gave Peter Buck's Rickenbacker 325 a blast on REM's "The One I Love," blasting that foreboding riff into stadium rock glory. It's a transformative upgrade to my lackluster Sonos system at home. I'm starting to feel guilty for just staying out. If we were teenagers, the police would be up at any moment. Antoneli called from behind, as if reading my thoughts.
"I can't remember the last time I sat in my car and listened to music," said the studio owner. "But I discovered this kind of music. That's how I became a fan."
Shiner listened intently, drawing attention to a bass attack here, a musical filigree there, the space between notes as if he were holding his breath.
"I always try to make music where you can hear every detail if you focus," Shiner said. "And that was the goal. To make everything sound like I was in the studio."
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