Links


  • Record Stores


  • Academy Records, LPs and Annex
    The Academy Annex in Williamsburg is my favorite place to buy used records.

  • Amoeba Music
    San Francisco, Berkeley and LA. Best in the West.

  • Boomkat
    UK based site specializing in Electronic, Ambient, Post-Folk, IDM and more

  • Generation Records
    This Greenwich Village staple has attitude. Great for punk, hardcore and much more.

  • Insound
    Top online independent retailer. Great deals and selection.

  • Other Music
    Among the best independent record stores in New York City.

  • Permanent Records
    Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My favorite store to browse.

  • Sonic Boom Records
    Along with KEXP, the reason that I could survive a move to Seattle

  • SoundFix
    Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They've developed a great website and have online ordering as well.



(Previously: Indiecoustics – Part I)

Direct sound is defined as the portion of a sound wave which travels the shortest distance from the source to your ear. Everything else you hear after that initial split-second is due to reflection and reverberation. You actually receive more reflected sound than you probably realize. If the path from your ear to the speaker is obstructed, then most everything you hear is reflected sound. A certain amount of reverberation is pleasant because it contributes to a sense of envelopment, the feeling that sound is coming from all around you and not one single source.

The reverberant level is relatively constant throughout a loud room, yet the level of the direct sound decreases quickly as you move away from the speaker. The reverberant level is constant because it is composed of millions of non-correlated reflections, whereas the level of the direct sound is highly dependent on your distance from the source. Thus, when you are close to a speaker, the direct sound dominates, but as you move further away there is a point where the reverberant sound level becomes louder that the direct sound. The point where the direct sound level meets the reverberant level is known as the critical distance. One reason why an outdoor concert can sound vastly different than the same show indoors is because there is less reverberant sound, although sound engineers consider this when designing a system.

At a live concert, the critical distance could also be referred to as the proverbial “sweet spot”. Clarity is higher within the critical distance, yet envelopment is better outside of this distance. Thus, the best of both worlds is found along the critical distance. In well designed halls, the mixing board is placed at or near the critical distance so that the engineer can hear both the sound coming from the speakers and the sound that is bouncing around the room. So how can you determine where the critical distance is?

In large, reverberant rooms such as Webster Hall, the critical distance is relatively close to the speakers. In smaller halls and those with sound absorbing surfaces, the reverberant level is lower and the critical distance is further from the stage. This is the case with Mercury Lounge, where you are more aware of the placement of the speakers. The beautiful thing about Bowery Ballroom is that the speakers are raised high off the ground and many people are able to stand at a pleasant sounding distance from them. The balconies on the sides are thin and do not hinder the distribution of sound greatly.

One of Webster Hall’s problems is caused by the balconies, which are very wide. This forces the speakers towards the center of the room and causes many variations between different locations in the hall. I’ve enjoyed the sound from the center of the floor but in few other areas of the room. Webster also has other issues, such as the uneven frequency response. When I saw Wolf Parade recently there was one note on the synthesizer that always sounded much louder than the rest. This wasn’t due to the instrument, but rather one of the resonant frequencies of the room. Based on the dimensions of the room, certain notes are reinforced because their waves fit well between the walls and floor. You might notice this phenomenon if you stand over the sink in the bathroom and hum various notes. At least one note always sounds louder than the rest because its wavelength fits the size of the sink and it gets reinforced. The difference between the linoleum tile in Webster and the wood floor in Bowery is also worth noting. Wood absorbs more sound than concrete or linoleum and helps to shorten the reverberation time, improving clarity.

I’ve attempted to calculate the critical distance in a few clubs, but my figures are very rough estimates. You may find that it helps to be aware of the concept without being overly scientific about it. The only acoustic measurement devices that should really matter to concertgoers are attached to the side of their head.


4 Responses to “Indiecoustics – Part II (Critical Distance)”

  1. 1 Amrit

    thanks for this analysis Ryan. great to be exposed to this terminology. I’ll be mindful of your discourse on critical distance, direct sound and envelopment next time I go out to a show…in ten minutes. great stuff.

  2. 2 J.Annum

    I’d think that the use of line arrays vs.floor standing full-range cabinets probably has a bit to do with how pleasant the sound in a particular room seems to be. That’s why NorthSix is so painful to be in, for me, anyway.

    How about that new Massenburg room,huh?
    http://www.digidesign.com/digizine/dz_main.cfm?edition_id=101&navid=907

    This site is pretty good. Rock on….

  3. 3 Lilly Brieva

    Hi….
    I’m asking for information about the acoustics in the Radio City Music Hall..
    I really apretiate if u can answered me as soon as you can
    Thanks…
    GOD blees You!!

Leave a Reply





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Recent Shows


2011

I finally saw The Dismemberment Plan and my life is complete. Enjoy the archives.

Past Shows


2010

8/28 The National Rifle [KFN]

8/15 !!! [East River Park, NY]

7/24 Cap'n Jazz [Starlight Ballroom]

7/2 Busses [Johnny Brenda's]

6/24 Wakey! Wakey! [North Star Bar]

6/25 - 6/26 Northside Festival (Marie Stella, The Grates, Dinosaur Feathers...) [Brooklyn]

6/22 Villagers [FUC - Chapel]

6/16 The Most Serene Republic, Annuals [North Star Bar]

6/2 The Futureheads, The Like [FUC - Basement]

5/2 The Album Leaf [FUC - Sanctuary]

5/5 Bear Hands [World Cafe Live]

4/10 Pilam Human BBQ (Algernon Cadwallader, These United States)

4/9 Freezepop, Cannon Logic [North Star Bar]

4/2 Band of Skulls, The Whigs [North Star Bar]

3/16 - 3/21 SXSW (Octopus Project, The Megaphonic Thrift, Local Natives, We Were Promised Jetpacks...) [Austin, TX]

2/19 Memory Tapes, Neon Indian [Making Time - Voyeur]

1/22 Freelance Whales, Animal Tropical [KFN]

1/21 Savior Adore, Circadian Rhythms [KFN]

1/14 River City Extension [North Star Bar]

2009

12/4 The Wrens [Maxwell's]

12/2 Jaguar Love [Mercury]

11/29 Zero 7 [TLA]

11/17 J TIllman [FUC - Chapel]

10/20 - 10/24 CMJ [New York]

9/12-9/13 Monolith [Denver, CO]

8/28-8/30 After The Jump Fest [Littlefield]

8/14 Starlight Mints [North Star Bar]

8/8 A Crimson Grail for 200 Guitars [Lincoln Center]

7/18 Siren Fest [Coney Island]

7/16 Rit Mo Collective [Chris' Jazz Cafe]

6/26 The Most Serene Republic [North Star Bar]

6/11 - 6/14 Northside Festival

6/5 White Rabbits [Johnny Brenda's]

5/30 Jodienda [The Glass Door]

5/29 Pet Ghost Project, Dinosaur Feathers, Quiet Loudly [Fontana's]

5/23 United Nations [Delancey]

5/21 White Rabbits, Cymbals Eat Guitars, The Antlers [Bowery]

5/20 St. Vincent, Pattern Is Movement [Webster]

5/15 Marie Stella, Coyote Eyes [Portland, ME]

5/9 The Lisps [Joe's Pub]

5/8 Mono [Society for Ethical Culture]

5/3 No Doubt [Bamboozle]

5/2 The Get Up Kids [Bamboozle]

5/1 The Beets, pow wow! [Red Star Bar]

4/22 Into The Presence [Pianos]

4/18 The Life and Times [Webster Studio]

4/16 Middle Distance Runner [The Annex]

4/15 Nada Surf [Bell House]

4/10 The Wrens [Bell House]

4/2 Asobi Seksu [Bowery Ballroom]

3/17 SXSW

3/13 The Wrens / Titus Andronicus [Bowery]

3/6 The Bird and The Bee [Bell House]

3/5 Antlers / The Physics of Meaning [Union Hall]

2/28 ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead [Bowery]

2/27 Uninhabitable Mansions / Spacecamp [Union Hall]

2/26 Bell Orchestre / Clogs / Brooklyn Phil [BAM]

2/26 Tally Hall / Oppenheimer [Union Hall]

2/25 Ben Kweller [Town Hall]

2/23 Jimmy Eat World [Terminal 5]

2/18 Sam Roberts Band [Bowery Ballroom]

2/17 Fugiya & Miyagi / School of Seven Bells [LPR]

2/2 Frightened Rabbit [LPR]

1/26 Beirut [Coco66]

1/3 Holy Moly [Pete's Candy Store]

2008

10/8 Barbara Morgenstern [Galapagos]

9/20 My Bloody Valentine [Roseland]

9/11 Land Of Talk [Mercury]

8/25 Lykke Li [LPR]

8/22 Lykke Li [Amoeba - Hollywood]

8/22 Radiohead [Hollywood Bowl]

8/20 Broken Social Scene, Menomena [Sunset Junction]

8/15 Manuel Göttsching [Lincoln Center]

7/31 The Long Winters [Castle Clinton]

7/24 Ambulance LTD [Bowery]

7/18 Deerhoof, Metropolis Ensemble [Prospect Park]

7/17 Ted Leo [Castle Clinton]

6/26 Devo [McCarren Pool]

6/21 After The Jump Fest [Williamsburg]

6/19 Man In Grey's farewell show [Delancey]

6/4 M83 [Bowery]

5/29 Hello Eden [Rebel]

5/28 Birdmonster [Mercury]

5/2 Stars of the Lid [Good Shepherd Church]

4/17 Gelsey Bell [Goodbye Blue Monday]

4/3 Helio Sequence [Bowery]

3/21 Jens Lekman [Hollywood, CA]

3/18 The Lisps [Los Angeles, CA]

3/12-16 SXSW [Austin, TX]

1/27 Laura Veirs [Union Hall]

1/16-17 Wordless Music Orchestra (Adams, Bryars, Greenwood) [St. Paul the Apostle]

2007

12/20 Wakey! Wakey!, Jason Joseph [Arlene's]

12/14 The Most Serene Republic [Mercury]

12/13 Cake, Brazillian Girls, Oakley Hall [Terminal 5]

12/12 Wakey! Wakey!, Jukebox the Ghost [Mercury]

11/28 Max Richter, Cepia, Assaff Weisman [Good-Shepherd Faith Church]

11/10 Mum, Hauschka, Bing and Ruth [Society for Ethical Culture]

11/9 Mum, Torngat [St. Paul the Apostle]

11/3 Grizzly Bear, Michael Harrison [Society for Ethical Culture]

10/16-20 CMJ (Spoon, The Octopus Project, The Most Serene Republic, Saturday Looks Good To Me,1900's, Biffy Clyro, Freezepop...)

10/5 Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurdsson, Sandro Perri [Good-Shepherd Faith Church]

9/24 Beirut, Colleen [Society for Ethical Culture]

9/21 The Most Serene Republic [Union Hall]

9/20 Beirut, Fifth Veil [Brooklyn Masonic Temple]

9/15 Do Make Say Think [The Middle East, Boston]

9/14 Do Make Say Think, Electric Kompany [Society for Ethical Culture]

8/29 Feist [McCarren]

8/25 After The Jump Festival [Studio B]

8/23 The Rentals [Nokia]

8/21 The New Pornographers [Bowery]

8/19 Wolf Parade [Warsaw]

8/12 Junior Senior [Soundfix]

8/12 Ted Leo/Pharmacists, The Thermals [McCarren]

8/9 Daft Punk [Keyspan]

7/28 Benni Hemm Hemm [Union Hall]

7/23 Eastern Conference Champions [Pianos]

7/4 The New Pornographers [Battery Park]

6/11 Feist [Town Hall]

6/2 Man In Grey [Union Hall]

5/12 LCD Soundsystem [Studio B]

5/8 The Shondes, Beat Radio [Delancey]

5/5 Arcade Fire, The National [Tower Theater]

4/30 The Books [Society for Ethical Culture - Wordless Music Series]

4/24 Pela [Mercury]
Wakey Wakey, Casey Shea [Pianos]

4/14 Cloud Cult, Young Galaxy [Mercury]

4/12 Eastern Conference Champions [Union Hall]

4/2 Amiina, Eluvium, Gilles Vonsattel [Good Shepherd Faith Church - Wordless Music Series]

3/31 The Long Winters, The Broken West [Mercury]

3/28 Menomena [Bowery]

3/23 Toca Loca, Polmo Polpo, Social Music Work Group [Good Shepherd Faith Church]

3/14-3/18 SXSW

3/9 Matt & Kim, Professor Murder [Bowery]

3/7 Mirah, The Blow [NYU]

3/1 Thunderbirds Are Now!, Tigercity [Knitting Factory]

2/20 Explosions In The Sky [Society for Ethical Culture]

2/19 Explosions In The Sky [Warsaw]

2/18 Malajube, Rock Plaza Central [Mercury]

2/17 The Muggabears, Please Dept [The Delancey]
Gelsey Bell [Vivaldi Cafe]

2/16 The Arcade Fire [Judson Memorial Church]
Pela [Mercury]

2/11 Steven Malkmus and the Jicks [Maxwell's]

2/10 Sure Juror [Pianos]

1/30 Peter, Bjorn and John [Bowery]

1/27 Liam & Me, The GoStation, White Rabbits, Seth Kallen + The Reaction [Sin-e]

1/19 The Wrens [Knitting Factory]

1/18 The Hold Steady [Northsix]

1/13 Gil Mantera's Party Dream, Free Blood [Knitting Factory]

1/6 Matt & Kim, Meneguar, Aa [Studio B]

2006

12/20 Bridges & Powerlines [Pianos]

12/16 Rainer Maria, Pela, Daylight For The Birds [Bowery]

12/15 Bell, Lismore, Theives Like Us, The Ballet [Delancey]

12/13 Bound Stems, Ra Ra Riot, The Muggabears [Sin-e]

12/09 Oxford Collapse [Northsix]

11/28 ¡Forward, Russia! [Bowery]

11/22 The Hold Steady [Warsaw]

11/20 The Little Ones, Small Sins [Mercury Lounge]

11/15 A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Andrew Bird [GSF Church]

11/14 Bad Viens [Knitting Factory]

11/13 Modest Mouse [Nokia]

11/10 The Shondes [Brooklyn Lyceum]

11/6 Voxtrot [Bowery]
Cloud Cult [Knitting Factory]

10/31 - 11/4 CMJ [Everywhere]

10/21 Maritime, Bound Stems [Mercury]

10/17 TV On The Radio, Grizzly Bear [Irving]

10/15 Okkervil River, Sam Champion [Bowery]

10/14 Okkervil River, Elvis Perkins [Bowery]

9/30 Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond [Town Hall]

9/29 Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond [Town Hall]
The Long Winters [Bowery]

9/27 The Big Sleep, The Rogers Sisters, The Occasion (Movable Hype 9.0) [Spiegeltent]

9/26 O'Death, DraculaZombieUSA (Beg Yr Pardon #9) [Delancey]

9/18 Wordless Music Series (Glenn Kotche & Nels Cline, Jenny Lin, Elliot Sharp) [GSF Church]

9/15,16,17 Austin City Limits Festival (Explosions In The Sky, Okkervil River, The Long Winters, Nada Surf, Ben Kweller, Ted Leo, Stars, The New Pornographers, Husky Rescue, What Made Milwaukee Famous...)

9/13 The Grates [Pianos]

9/12 The Dears, The Grates [Bowery]

9/3 Mono, Fridge [Bowery]

9/2 Explosions In The Sky [Bowery]

8/31 Asobi Seksu, Say Hi To Your Mom, Cassettes Won't Listen [Maxwell's]

8/29 Casey Dienel, Inlets [Union Hall]

8/25 Ted Leo (free) [South Street Seaport]
Beirut [Mercury]

8/24 My Brightest Diamond [Speigeltent]

8/23 826NYC benefit w/David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, John Roderick [Beacon Theater]

8/21 The Diggs, Slowlands [CBGB]

8/18 The Mugs, The Isles [Union Hall]

8/17 Takka Takka, Slowlands [Union Hall]

8/12 Sleater-Kinney, The Thermals [Portland, OR]

8/8 The Long Winters [Mercury Lounge]

8/7 Silversun Pickups [Union Hall]

8/4 Hot Chip [South Street Seaport]

8/3 The New Pornographers [Summerstage]

7/23 Pretty Girls Make Graves [McCarren Park Pool]

7/21 Jens Lekman, Beirut [Bowery]

7/19 Jens Lekman [Mercury]

7/15 Casey Shea [Knitting Factory]
Siren Fest [Coney Island]

7/14 My Brightest Diamond [Joe's Pub]

7/13 Okkervil River [Castle Clinton]
Oh No! Oh My!, The Big Sleep [Supreme Trading]

7/11 Movable Hype 8.0 [Knitting Factory] w/ Takka Takka, Femme Generation, Goes Cube

7/9 Cursive [Mercury]
Les Savy Fav [McCarren Park Pool]

7/7 The Undisputed Heavyweights [Rockwood]

7/6 Broken Social Scene [Prospect Park]
Mates of State [Castle Clinton]

7/4 Belle & Sebastian [Battery Park]

6/30 Birdmonster, Tally Hall, The Talk [Sin-e]
Matt Pond PA, Voxtrot [Prospect Park]

6/29 Land of Talk, Tokyo Police Club, The Ballet [Syrup Room]

6/28 Gil Mantera's Party Dream [Knitting Factory]

6/27 The Grates [Mercury]

6/25 The Undisputed Heavywights [Rockwood]

6/22 Asobi Seksu [Mercury]

6/17 Beirut [SoundFix]

6/15 Saturday Looks Good To Me [Northsix]

6/14 !Forward, Russia! [Mercury]

6/13 Eels, Smoosh [World Financial Center]
The Boy Least Likely To [Knitting Factory]

6/11 !!! [Northsix]

6/6 Nada Surf, stellastar* [Starlight Ballroom]

6/2 Radiohead [Tower Theater, Philly]

5/27 & 5/28 Sasquatch Music Festival [The Gorge, WA]

5/22 Art Brut [Soundfix]

5/20 Pela [brooklyn rooftop]

5/19 Land of Talk, Slowlands [Mercury Lounge]
Land of Talk, Dr. Dog (KEXP in NYC) [Gigantic Studios]

5/17 Art Brut, Art Brut 47 (We Are Scientists) [Knitting Factory]

5/12 White Rose Movement [Bowery Ballroom]

5/10 Nada Surf (acoustic) [Mercury Lounge]

4/25 Jamie Lidell [Bowery Ballroom]

4/21 The Undisputed Heavyweights, Cloud Cult [Arlene's Grocery]

4/17 Cloud Cult [Knitting Factory]

4/11 Art Brut, The Rogers Sisters [Southpaw]

4/10 Wolf Parade [Webster Hall]

4/9 Voxtrot, Irving [Mercury Lounge]

4/7 The Hold Steady [Warsaw]

4/5 Art Brut, Gil Mantera's Party Dream [Bowery Ballroom]

4/4 Art Brut, The Ponys [Bowery Ballroom]

4/1 Dream Theater [Radio City Music Hall]

3/31 Nine Black Alps [Bowery Ballroom]

3/30 Editors, The Big Sleep [Webster Hall]

3/28 Editors, stellastarr* [Warsaw]

3/22 The Go! Team [NorthSix]

3/21 Magnet [Living Room]

3/11 Belle & Sebastian, New Pornographers [Riverside Theater, Milwaukee]

3/8 The Wedding Present [Bowery]

3/2 Ted Leo/Rx [The Hook]

2/11 Gelsey Bell [Cafe Vivaldi]

2/10 Feist, Mates of State, Jason Collett [Webster]

2/9 Jason Collett [Mercury]

1/27 Broken Social Scene [Webster]

1/16 Nine Black Alps [Mercury]

1/14 Sufjan Stevens [Lincoln Center/Allen Room]

1/12 Tapes 'N Tapes, Sam Champion [Rothko]

1/11 Imogen Heap [Avalon]

3K2 theme by Hakan Aydin


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