We use only the finest tools of the trade. Our brand selection is the ongoing result of extensive listening tests between the latest that the industry has to offer. When we use or recommend a brand, you can be confident that it is second to none. Since hearing is believing, it would be our pleasure to arrange a demo of our equipment for you.
Along with our major brands of choice, we use many unique products and methods, several of which are proprietary. They solve some of the most persistent and difficult problems in the industry as we strive to be an innovative leader toward a more perfect sound.
An essenial function of any good sound system is to only put sound where the people are. Normal speakers radiate sound much like a flood light: in all directions generally. This means that the audience members in front will hear a much louder sound than those in the rear. Line arrays help to concentrate sound only on the audience, more like a laser beam, and also to tailor the intensity of the sound from front to rear so that everyone hears the same volume.
Line arrays run on the basic principle that long lines of speakers will cause sound waves to not only behave more like laser beams, but also travel farther before decreasing in volume. A straight line of speakers will have the most effect, while a curved line will have only a partial effect. Even though each individual speaker in the line is designed to radiate sound as directionally as possible, their directionality becomes even more so when they are placed in lines.
This is why line arrays are often shaped like the letter "J" such that the top portion of speakers are in a straighter line, throwing the most concentrated beam at the rearmost sections of the audience, and the bottom portion is gradually curved toward the front of the audience, lessening the intensity of the beam while keeping the sound focused on the audience alone. This results in a very smooth and balanced sound coverage throughout the entire listening area. Using advanced software, line arrays can even be tailored to the exact contours of relatively complex rooms with multiple balconies by micro-adjusting the amount of curvature at any particular point in the line.
NEXO line arrays combine a myriad of unique technologies to produce the most controlled response of any product on the market, while keeping a purity of tone that is second to none. Additionally, their high directionality helps to achieve the most gain before feedback by keeping unwanted sound off of the stage and away from sensitive microphones. Combined with cardioid subwoofers, they make a most elegant solution in the struggle for clarity and musicality.
In the struggle to concentrate sound only on the audience area, conventional subwoofers tend to resemble flood lights, spilling sound in all directions no matter where they are placed or where in the room one stands. This is why walking behind a speaker system causes a loss of mid and high frequencies while the bass remains strong. This poses at least two major problems for sound engineers.
Firstly, the key to avoiding feedback is to make sure that the microphones on stage are hearing very little of the sound that is bleeding off from the speakers. For mid and high frequencies, one must simply position the microphones as far behind the speakers as possible where those frequencies are not allowed to travel as much, especially when using line arrays. However, there is no such escape from subwoofer frequencies. Thus, sound engineers are often forced to cut out most of the lower bass frequencies in vocals and instruments in order to get enough volume for the audience to hear. This results in a thin and uninspiring sound as they rely only on the more cooperative upper mid and higher frequencies.
Secondly, when subwoofer sound is allowed to spill everywhere instead of being confined to the audience area, it bounces off of walls and ceilings, creating problems such as unwanted echoes, lack of clarity, and an uneven sound. Especially in music where the bass is the foundation and support for the other notes and sounds, if the bass is deficient, the music will ultimately suffer as a whole.
The solution is cardioid subwoofer technology. In short, it allows the subwoofer frequencies to be controlled and aimed more like a laser beam, solving the two major problems mentioned above. By emitting a secondary sound wave out of the back side of the subwoofer that is equal to and opposite every sound wave which emanates from the front, the sound is canceled out in the rear, and is in fact increased in the front.
While many companies and manufacturers seek to employ this technology, it is a burgeoning area of study, and quite tricky to get right. In our opinion, NEXO is the world's industry leader in this regard, and we rely exclusively on their research and product line to achieve a near perfect cardioid subwoofer response when such a solution is needed. Not all applications require this technology, but when utilized, the results are incredible.
A short introduction to NEXO cardioid subwoofer technology:
Natural System Tuning
At ALPHA, we trust our ears. While there are many complicated methods and procedures for making a sound system function properly, and many different mathematical standards by which people define what proper functionality is, we concentrate on what actually sounds the best regardless of the numbers.
A "flat" system response is the prevailing standard these days, and special microphones and calibration devices have been concocted to achieve this task. However, the human ear does not hear in a "flat" fashion. Our hearing is anything but flat, as suggested by the Fletcher-Munson curves.
We understand why many companies opt for the flat response. It provides a strong industry standard behind which to hide when someone complains about the way the system sounds. It is relatively easy to achieve with a flat response microphone. It gives peace of mind to those who might not know what does or does not sound good. It provides consistency. It also presents a strong argument from theory that sounds highly convincing and impressive.
However, we think that flat sound systems sound... flat. This is because our very own hearing is not flat at all, and therefore a flattened system will never sound natural or musical. Instead, we reverse the process and let our ears do the tuning. Through a rigorous process of custom balancing every frequency in the entire human hearing range for each sound emitting device in the system, we arrive at a much more natural sound, regardless of how the numbers and graphs may look.
Indeed there are some excellent tools today which do help us get there faster, but we are mindful of the effect that tool-use can have on sound engineers, making them more concerned about how numbers and graphs look rather than how the system really sounds. Our team is truly dedicated to the art of hearing. When it comes to system calibration and tuning, there are no perfect numbers, only perfect sounds.
Hybrid Acoustic Panels
When shopping for acoustic treatment, there are basically two options: absorption and diffusion. Absorption is pretty straight forward, in that it partially or completely erases the sound waves around it, leaving a venue with a muted or darkened sound. Diffusion redistributes the sound waves back into the room, but in a randomized and highly altered state, such that the room generally maintains its liveliness and character, while unwanted direct echoes and slaps are eliminated.
Each method has its disadvantages. For example, consider a room with several problematic high frequency echoes and slaps, yet also a boomy, boxy or muddy sounding low frequency response. Diffusion panels tend only to affect higher frequencies where echoes and slaps reside, leaving lower frequencies untouched. Absorption panels, by the time that they are thick enough to begin erasing low frequencies, will make the room sound dead and lifeless since they act most efficiently on higher frequencies first.
The ALPHA DS-48H line of hybrid acoustic panels utilizes our unique SoundRidge technology, a simple method for combining the best of both the absorption and diffusion worlds. Each order of panels can be customized for its specific venue and application, balancing the amounts of absorption and diffusion as needed. The exact amount of each is determined by advanced acoustic software following a concise yet rigorous analysis of the room.
In addition, they can be designed to harmonize aesthetically with any existing architecture and décor. This offers the perfect solution for modern music venues which benefit from a tightening of the bass response and the maintaining of the energy and liveliness that encourages audience engagement and participation, all the while having a positive and pleasing visual impact on the space.
Hear a demonstration of their effectiveness:
Realistic Reverb Effects
Take a second, close your eyes, and listen to the sound of the room or space that you are in. Amazingly, your brain is able to determine the approximate size and character of your environment using even the most subtle auditory cues from ambient noises. These cues consist of millions of tiny sound waves bouncing off of surrounding surfaces from even the faintest of sounds, and finally arriving at your ears with a distinct tonal, time delay, and directional signature. So exacting are our brains, that almost any deviation from a truly natural room reverberation signature will sound unnatural and artificial.
Artificial reverb effects can sound great when one is not expecting a natural sound. For example, the reverb effect on a 1980's rock snare drum is not expected to convince anyone that they really are in the room with the drummer, and the many echoes on 1960's vocals are not intended to give the impression that we are all really sitting in a parking garage.
However, when music does demand a more natural reverb effect, we need a solution. Until recently, the best anyone could do was rely on mathematical algorithms which tried to predict how sound bounced around in various spaces. While some of them did better than others, none of them were truly convincing: they sounded gritty, metallic, two dimensional and lifeless.
With the advent of real-world sampling capabilities, special software programs are able to use microphones to take an "audio picture" of any room or environment, and then recreate its unique acoustic signature with near perfection. The process of properly capturing a room's signature is incredibly challenging, and of course the right rooms must be chosen. Not all rooms are created equal, and not all methods of capturing them are convincing.
Through the years, we have collected our own samples of some of our favorite venues in Europe and America, from ancient cathedrals to modern concert halls. When necessary, we use these reverbs to achieve a convincingly natural sense of space and intimacy to the sound. While orchestral, jazz and choral music is especially ripe for its use, we feel that almost all styles of music can benefit from our realistic sampled reverb effects.
Piano Microphone System
The most difficult part of an acoustic piano to amplify successfully through a sound system is the bass range. This is, firstly, because sound systems tend to spill or bleed bass frequencies back onto the stage more readily than they do mid and high frequencies. The piano mics will hear too much of the sound system spillback in proportion to the direct piano sound itself, and it will cause a feedback loop.
Secondly, pianos tend to produce rumbling and thumping noises at lower frequencies, which our ears are not necessarily sensitive to on their own, but which disturb microphones and sound systems very much. Thumping is caused when all of the felt dampers from the sustain pedal come crashing down on the strings at once when the player releases the pedal. Rumbling is caused by everything from the physical playing of the piano to other stage and ambient noises.
For this reason, sound engineers are usually forced to cut out all of the wonderful low frequency sounds in acoustic pianos just to get enough volume for the audience to hear, which results in a thin and uninspiring tone as they rely only on the more cooperative upper mid and high frequencies. Even the use of cardioid subwoofers only helps to alleviate the first problem; the second will be true of almost any normal microphone.
The ALPHA DS-10 is our new microphone system that solves these two problems by combining three elements: a non-acoustic microphone, a sustain pedal sensor, and proprietary processing software. The non-acoustic property allows for a total rejection of ambient noise, and the sensor/software detects and eliminates thump and rumble. Furthermore, the unique sound quality of the microphone in the low frequency range brings out the best parts of the piano tone.
The system blends perfectly with your favorite pair of piano microphones, requiring only one additional channel on an audio mixing board. It is easy to set up, and can be used with the piano lid open or closed. The versatility of this microphone system allows pianos to be placed next to or near previously problematic instruments such as drums or bass, and even next to non-cardioid subwoofers, while maintaining a clarity and depth of tone that is simply impossible through standard microphone techniques.
Take a listen: