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Tag Archives: Velodyne

Velodyne LiDAR’s technology isn’t just for driverless cars and Radiohead videos

The Velodyne LiDAR HDL-64E

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Velodyne in the news recently…and didn’t even know it. Although Velodyne’s HDL-64E LiDAR sensor has been the main force behind autonomous vehicles for some time, the media pitch is clearly on the rise.

It began with the State of Nevada, which recently became the first state in the nation to formally approve legislation authorizing the use of autonomous vehicles on its roadway. Among other things, Assembly Bill No. 511 authorizes the state’s Department of Transportation to develop rules and regulations governing the use of driverless cars.

The public also recently saw the real-life benefits of this technology when California resident Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was “chauffeured” to a local Taco Bell by a driverless car…

Did you notice the distinctively shaped cylinder spinning on the roof of the car? That’s the HDL-64E LiDAR sensor hard at work. It contains 64 fixed-mounted lasers that are continuously measuring the surrounding environment. Each laser is mechanically mounted at a specific vertical angle, reading its surroundings while the entire unit spins. It generates 1.3 million points per second output rate.

And you may have seen this technology a few years ago without realizing it.  If you’re a Radiohead fan, you already know they were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Short Form Music Video for “House of Cards”.

The inspiration for the video idea came from Aaron Koblin, an electronic artist and researcher at UCLA. Koblin created the flight pattern map featured at the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Koblin said he thought Radiohead would be the only band out there willing to take a risk by making a music video without cameras. Check out how Radiohead used our HDL-64E to create their vision for the song:

Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer commented on the creative process for the video. “I always liked the idea of using technology in a way that it wasn’t meant to be used, the struggle to get your head round what you can do with it. I like the idea of making a video of human being and real and time without using any cameras, just lasers, so there are just mathematical points – and how strangely emotional it ended up being,” he said.

You can be sure this is not the last you’ll see of that spinning cylinder.

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Haute tech: Making a statement with wearable electronics as fashion accessories

The back of this gown literally lights up a room

It’s a crazy world we live in today. I feel that technology is a large part of the craziness, for better and for worse. And in the case of modern electronics, for wondrous and a little weird.

A German-based fashion label called MOON Berlin is the perfect example of this. Founded in 2010, this company has transcended pure entertainment (think the Black Eyed Peas’ performance during the Super bowl Halftime show) and taken wearable electronics directly to the streets. The company philosophy states, “The main idea is to combine light technique with high fashion in a sensitive way.”

Pause.

I’m not really sure what that last part means either. But I digress.

What I find intriguing is the mix of companies working together to create this electro-fashion. This label is working in cooperation with jewelry designer Damir Antolovic, DAAN Designstudio, and Stretchable Circuits. Stretchable Circuits is a company that provides engineering services and project management for flexible and stretchable electronic systems, with a specialty in integration of electronic functions into textiles.

Stretchable electronic systems. That is something to think about.

I’ll admit that I’m a fan of pretty things that sparkle and shine. I am also a firm believer in function over form. There is no reason something functional cannot be pretty, but I don’t think form should ever trump function. If you build something that contains both form and function, you’ve hit on something fantastic.

Enter The Orb. This innovative new design is both a Bluetooth headset and a piece of jewelry. Of course, every new product has its own angle in a niche market. The Orb has its own take on the best way to carry your headset with you when you aren’t using it. This innovative new gadget transforms from a wireless earpiece into a ring with one simple twist. It was developed through a partnership between Hybra Advance Technology Inc. and AbsolutelyNew Inc. They’ve promised to cater to those with petite or stubby fingers with the availability of different ring sizes. There will also be a limited edition designer model featuring decorative gemstones with a bling factor.

Ugg ear muffsUgg may be known primarily for boots, but they are one of the many companies out there getting involved in the headphone industry. They are leveraging their well-established brand to sell “tech-savvy knit earmuffs that feature a port for audio devices.” Of course, these are made of shearling, which is the same material they use for their famous boots.

And for those of you who are into using personal audio products as a fashion statement and also enjoy arts and crafts, it’s your lucky day. Click here for a tutorial on how to make a pair of ear muff headphones, which requires “basic sewing and soldering skills.” This tutorial is narrated by Syuzi Pakhchyan, whose blog, fashioningtech, is devoted solely to the idea of wearable electronics.

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. The common denominator in all of this seems to be the mixing of art with technology. It’s no longer all about the way something sounds to your ears or fits on your body. It’s all about adding innovative technology and taking it to the next level.

In fact, there is an organization in New York City devoted solely to pairing artists and technologists together. The Eyebeam Art & Technology Center offers both education and state-of-the-art tools for digital research and experimentation.

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3 inventions that changed personal audio forever

Velodyne has just thrown its proverbial hat into the arena of personal audio products. The incredible reception to vPulse is exceeding all of our expectations. And as we gear up for some amazing new releases in the near future, our brains are filled with visions of technology that may have seemed like an impossible dream 100 years ago. But we’ve become so accustomed to technology in our daily lives that it sometimes loses its zing. It’s almost impossible to remember life without it.

How did this evolution happen? Pondering the history of personal audio has started some great conversation in the hallways of Velodyne, as well as blissful reminiscing about the good old days.

A set of antique Nathaniel Baldwin headphones

The Invention of headphones

Born in 1878, Nathaniel Baldwin was a natural tinkerer and inventor throughout his life. He was also a devout Mormon and reportedly, grew frustrated when he couldn’t hear Mormon sermons over the noise of the crowds at the vast Salt Lake Tabernacle. Baldwin began experimenting with sound amplification , which led to the invention of the first modern headphones in 1910. Baldwin sold his invention to the U.S. Navy. His headphones were made by hand in his kitchen and, despite the Navy’s suggestion; he never patented his invention because he considered it to be trivial.

It’s not incidental that his imagined headphones were first thought of as a way to block out crowd noise. Workers and soldiers have long used them to mute the din of machines or artillery while receiving one-way orders from someone with a microphone.

Baldwin eventually started the Baldwin Radio Company. He became quite wealthy and used his success to help support the post-manifesto polygamous movement in the 1920s. Many officers in his company were leading polygamists who assisted in creating the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Baldwin himself actually only married once. Sadly, this celebrated genius was bankrupt by 1924 and impoverished when he died in 1961.

That last part had nothing to do with headphones, but I found it interesting.

The first audio cassette player

No way...I was just listening to that song in my car!

The idea for this product came from Masaru Ibuka, the founder of Sony. He challenged Sony engineer Nobutoshi Kihara to come up with a simple, playback-only stereo version of the small Pressman tape recorder. Kihara certainly met that challenge.

The first Walkman model was unveiled on June 22, 1979. Journalists were invited to Yoyogi (a major park in Tokyo) and given a Walkman to wear. They listened to an explanation of the product in stereo while Sony staff members carried out various demonstrations, including a young man and woman listening to a Walkman while riding on a tandem bicycle. Many journalists predicted the product would never take off since it didn’t include a recording device.

In 1986 the name Walkman was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. By 1995, the total production of Walkman units reached 150 million and over 300 different models have been produced.

A single product that changes the course of music, media, and entertainment

On October 23, 2001 Apple publicly announced the introduction of their iPod line. The initial reaction was somewhat hostile because of the $400 price tag, the unconventional scroll wheel, and the lack of Windows compatibility. It was only a few months later that Apple introduced iTunes, the first legal way for the public to download music. It was the perfect companion to the iPod. A decade later, the iPod is a household name along with a small army of other gadgets attached to its legacy.

The iPod was named by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter who was called by Apple for advice on how to introduce the player to the public. After seeing the prototype, Chieco thought of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phrase “Open the pod bay door, Hal,” which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. Chieco saw an analogy to the relationship between the spaceship and the smaller independent pods and the relationship between a personal computer and the music player.

At the unveiling of the iPod in California, Steve Jobs told journalists; “No one has found the recipe yet for digital music. And we think not only can we find the recipe, but we think the Apple brand is going to be fantastic, because people trust the Apple brand to get their great digital electronics from…we’re introducing a product today that takes us exactly there, and that product is called iPod.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

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5 Differences between Live Music and Using Headphones

Visual elements can enhance or detract from live music. Oooh, pretty lights... so green...

It’s happened plenty of times before: I’ll buy concert tickets months in advance, my expectations directly proportional to the price of the tickets, only to wish I could have just heard the tunes on a good pair of headphones when the show was over. On the other hand, I can look back at a few live music events as peak life experiences and never quite recapture the excitement without the pulsing energy of a jazzed crowd. When it comes down to it, live music and the stuff that comes through your headphones is fundamentally different. Here are 5 key distinctions between the live and headphone experience.

 

  1. Technical perfection. Live music is almost never “perfect” the way a recording can be. Auto-tune is a fickle mistress, and it’s painful when an artist can’t deliver the goods live. On the other hand, as Dave Grohl explained following his controversial Grammy speech, little flaws can add authenticity and excitement to a performance. Personally, I’ll happily forgive a few missed notes if the artist is a passionate and energetic performer.
  2. Personal space. Boy howdy, can this one make a difference. Whether you’re fighting it out in a mosh pit, perching on the edge of a stadium seat or reclining on a blanket in the grass, you will invariably have neighbors in a live music environment. Whether or not they act neighborly is up to pure chance–I’ve personally had to elbow my fair share of bubble-violators, which can certainly detract from the magic of the evening. On the other hand, the crowd can create an electricity and energy that headphone listening can’t hope to match. Whether the adjacent masses help or hurt the experience is up to the crowd-sorting fates to decide.
  3. Intimacy. As #2 suggests, there’s plenty of (often unsolicited) physical intimacy to be found at a concert. Aural and emotional intimacy, though, is hard to attain when throngs of people around you are chatting over the music or singing along off-key. By contrast, a pair of noise-reducing headphones can isolate the sound to the point where the whole outside world melts away, and all that’s left is you and the artist playing right into your ear. That’s the kind of intimacy I’m talking about: no distractions, no extraneous noise, no intrusions. And you’re better able to get it with a pair of ‘phones.
  4. Visual aids. Unless you’re prone to using the visualizer option with iTunes or watching music videos, your typical headphone experience will be strictly auditory in nature. This leaves you free to close your eyes and supply your own visual elements, or to concentrate only on how the sounds hit you. At a concert, with light shows or pyrotechnics or even just the band, the visual spectacle can have a big impact on your experience. Whether the production is distracting or engaging depends entirely on the show.
  5. The element of surprise. When you select your favorite track on your MP3 player, you know exactly what’s about to come through your headphones. A familiar album or playlist can act as an aural security blanket or change agent that you can perfect and select for your particular mood and musical needs. Live music has the element of surprise; instead of being in control of your experience, you’re along for the ride.

 

Coming soon: I compare the experience of hearing a few of my favorite songs live to the recorded versions in one of my favorite games, “Live vs. Headphones“–with some unexpected results.

-Benevolent Siren

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Welcome to Integrated Systems Europe (ISE 2012)

Showing off the Digital Drive PLUS at ISE 2012...

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I landed in Amsterdam a few days prior to ISE 2012. I felt confident I was mentally and physically prepared following the exquisite chaos called CES. But how would it go down with the added stress of frigid weather and jet lag?

I can report I was pleasantly surprised by the civility of it all.

The show itself was substantially smaller than CES. There were 40,869 registered attendees over the course of three days. The 825 ISE exhibitors occupied 11 halls of the Amsterdam RAI. These numbers are the highest in the history of the show, with the exhibitor total increasing 15% from 2011.

ISE, which started in 2004, is Europe’s largest tradeshow for the professional AV and electronic systems industry. It’s a kind of meeting place for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers from all over the world. The manufacturers can show off their latest technologies and distributors and retailers can see what’s available for their customers and consumers.

The show itself feels like a cool combination of a professional dress code and relaxed energy. It is truly international, representing companies from all over the globe.

The Standout Trend

There was "live" entertainment available in every hall.

The number one trend at ISE was digital signage. It was everywhere. In fact, ISE kicked off with the Digital Signage Conference (DiSCO). One of the topics covered was the potential for digital signage to help brick and mortar retailers compete with e-commerce websites by allowing them to reflect the new ways in which consumers are shopping. This includes providing the ability to allow shoppers to serve themselves, access products not on shelves, and obtain detailed product information.

That’s the cerebral take on digital signage. The sensorial take is the mind-blowing picture clarity and endless number of LED screens dominating the halls of RAI. There were single screen behemoths towering overhead, as well as smaller screens interacting seamlessly to create any number of awesome effects.

One of my personal favorites was a bit more understated, but really cool. These screens featured “live bands” playing in a sushi lounge located in the center of one show hall. Each member of the band had his or her own screen towering over the lunch tables. There were four screens in all playing simultaneously. The bands members were probably filmed separately, but they actually look like they are interacting with each other in each of their respective screens. You really feel like you’re watching a live show.

The European Aesthetic

A minimalist at heart, I felt a connection to the European aesthetic. There weren’t a lot of bright colors or flashy designs. And it was easy to see why as I looked up into apartment windows while walking through the city. They almost look bare compared to living space in the United States.

The fully invisible wall speaker complete with signature by Dave Santos, one of our sales aficionados.

For the most part, the walls were consistently white or off-white. And there seemed to be only one or two pieces of furniture or artwork. The industrial design and colors of most of the audio products reflected this aesthetic. It’s no wonder that our MicroVee and MiniVee are so popular in Europe. Most of the design is focused on hiding audio components. I saw the embodiment of this idea with a “fully invisible wall” speaker. It was quite literally a wall of sound. It’s also not surprising that our distributors in the United Kingdom are creating some pretty cool custom designs focusing on installing the SC IW (1250) In-wall subwoofer into the floor and other hidden locations.

Overall, the show was fantastic. It was fascinating to see what is happening outside of the United States. ISE showcased some of the major differences in the domestic and international markets. However, both markets are clearly utilizing incredible technology to fill consumer needs and demands.

A typical Dutch snack is the “Hollandse Nieuwe” or raw herring from the North Sea. It’s an acquired taste.

A Special Message to the People of Amsterdam

Thank you for your gracious hospitality. Thank you for delicious cheese and chocolate. I secretly believe these are your two major food groups, although I cannot prove this. I found your city to be absolutely delightful, but please consider holding ISE during the summer next year.

To all the bikers who jingled their bells as I wandered into their lane, unaware I was grossly violating local etiquette: In my humble opinion, your bike lanes look very similar to your pedestrian sidewalks. It was an honest mistake.

 A Tribute to Amsterdam in Trivia:

  • Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, as well as the largest city.
  • The name Amsterdam is derived from the city’s origins: it grew around a dam in the river called Amstel.
  • There are approximately 747,290 people living in Amsterdam proper and 2,158,592 living in the metropolitan area.
  • It is impossible to know for sure, but city authorities say there are well over 600,000 bikes in Amsterdam.
  • There are165 canals in Amsterdam, with a combined length of 60 miles.
  • There are 1,281 bridges in Amsterdam, many of which can open to let ships pass. In fact, “The bridge was open” is a popular excuse for arriving late to school or work.
  • Amsterdam has 6,800 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings.
  • Amsterdam is also known as the “Venice of the North” due to its many canals.
  • The Amsterdam zoo, Artis, was founded in 1838. It is the oldest zoo in Europe and the third oldest zoo in the world.
  • Established four centuries ago, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange is regarded as the oldest stock exchange in the world.

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Why Do I Need a Subwoofer?

When I tell non-audiophiles that I work at a subwoofer company, the first question is usually either something like “What is a subwoofer?” or “Why are subwoofers important?” Believe it or not, I love getting these questions, because they give me the opportunity to go on and on about how a subwoofer can fundamentally change the way I experience media until my conversational companion’s eyes glaze over. Since I now have this platform to gush about them, I may just refer people to this page for my answer in the future.

Subwoofers like this Velodyne DD-18+ are indispensable to a satisfying audio experience.

So why do you need a subwoofer? Here’s my answer, in a nutshell: subwoofers reproduce bass (sound frequencies at the low end of the spectrum), and bass is absolutely essential to the emotional connection you forge with audio media. The cleaner and more powerful the bass, the more you can lose yourself in what you hear.

As far as I’m concerned, low frequencies are the id of entertainment. They tap into the base-level emotional and physical instincts that compose our collective psyche. Bass is sex; bass is terror; bass is overwhelming, uncontrollable joy. The heart and soul of sound lies in the foundational frequencies, and what is sound without feeling? Why listen to music, or watch movies, if not to be moved in some way?

Take hip-hop, where the bass is explicitly held in high regard. (Bass is essential for every musical genre, but in hip-hop the low frequencies take center stage.) I listen to rap to feel like a badass, and every time the bass kicks in a core-shaking rhythm, my whole demeanor takes on a life of its own. Thump thump rap lyrics thump, and I’m feeling like the king of the world in three beats flat. Badass indeed.

Or, consider the home theater experience. Movies are meant to be experienced, not just watched; a good film is meant to involve you wholly in its story, stealing you away from your daily life. If you want to be truly engulfed in a movie, you need to feel like you’re right there in the action, and the soundtrack is instrumental in bringing you there. Nautical battle scenes can’t seem real without thundering cannons; the tremors of an approaching beast’s footsteps can’t scare you if you don’t feel them thumping. Full and accurate bass reproduction allows you to forget that you’re watching a movie, letting you feel everything the characters do.

So, audiophiles and audio-philistines alike, I say to you: let there be bass! No matter the media, a subwoofer rounds out the sound and lets you turn on, tune in, drop out with all your consciousness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray and put my subwoofer to work.

-Benevolent Siren

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Types of Headphones: An Overview

There are a lot of terms to describe different kinds of headphones: Bluetooth, noise canceling, in-ear, earbuds, earphones, on-ear, over-ear, studio…and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what each of them really mean. That’s why we’ve assembled a short glossary of terms to help you keep them all straight! Without further ado:

 

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that connects portable devices using short-length radio waves.

Bluetooth headphones are often used with stereo Bluetooth-ready phones & computers. Bluetooth is a relatively short-range transmission method, allowing connection between devices up to about 30 feet apart. Some wireless headphones, however, can transmit longer distances and can be used anywhere in the home or office.

In-Ear or Ear Bud Headphones

The vPulse in-ear headphones from Velodyne are compatible with most iDevices, allowing you to easily switch between calls and music.

In-ear headphones offer great sound in a small, lightweight, and portable package. They are excellent for on-the-go cell phone and music listening.

In-ear headphones (also called in-ear monitors, IEM, earphones, ear canal headphones, ear buds, and canal-phones) are small earphones that fit into and seal the ear canal. In-ear headphones are commonly used by pro performers to monitor sound mixes; this prevents possible feedback from stage monitors and isolates the artist from audience noise.

The Velodyne vPulse in-ear headphones fit snug in the ear canal and thus provide the best isolation and reduction of ambient noise. In-ear headphones help to ensure safe listening levels since they block ambient sounds so thoroughly you won’t have to turn the music up loud just to overcome noisy environments. The vPulse come with a variety of different sizes / types of eartip sleeves; it’s important to experiment to find the tip that works best for you. To get solid bass from in-ear headphones it is CRITICAL that you have a securely tight eartip seal within your ear canal. The Velodyne in-ear headphones, like most in-ear headphones, are efficient enough to work well directly out of an iPod or portable player without necessitating a headphone amp.

About Studio Headphones

Studio headphones fit comfortably over your ear for an immersive listening experience.

Studio headphones are full size headphones which fit completely around the ear for a rich and sensual sound experience.

Full size headphones may be open-back, closed, wireless or noise-canceling types. Generally speaking, full size headphones are the most comfortable to wear for listening around the home or office, but they are often too large for portable use.  Some are easily powered and will reach satisfactory volume and sound quality direct from an iPod/iPhone, computer or portable player without the need for a headphone amp. Studio headphones will typically fit all the way around the ear (circumaural) and work best with home stereo equipment and/or headphone amps. All professional, high-end and audiophile full size headphones should be driven with a dedicated headphone amplifier for best acoustic performance.

What are Closed Headphones?

Closed headphones, aka sealed or closed-back headphones, have an enclosed, non-vented earpiece to most effectively block out ambient noise.  Closed headphones are often used by DJs.

Closed headphones, also known as sealed headphones, have a solid-backed earcup construction preventing noise from leaking into or out of the headphone. Closed headphones block ambient noise and also prevent those nearby from hearing your music. Closed-back designs may be either full size (circumaural) or earpad (supra-aural) types, and all noise canceling headphones are also closed-back.  Audio professionals such as DJs and location recordists – and also portable listeners — will often choose closed headphones. The sound quality of closed cans has continuously improved in recent years and some can now compete directly with the top open-back headphones.

About On-Ear Headphones

Also known as ‘supra-aural’ headphones, on-ear headphones have earpieces that will gently rest on the earlobes.

Earpad — or ‘on-ear’ — headphones are available in open, closed, and noise canceling types, and can vary greatly in size.    On-ear headphones come in both open and closed-back earcup designs.  They usually have a standard over-the-head headband (some fold for compact transport or storage), but earpad headphones can also be behind the neck or clip-on types as well. Closed back or sealed earpad headphones can isolate from some mild ambient noise, but typically not as well as closed-back studio, full size headphones.

The Headset

This Bluetooth headset allows you to talk hands-free.

Headset headphones let you  talk while you listen with a built-in microphone.  Compatible with iPhones & other cell phones, headsets include all types of headphones including Bluetooth, wired, full-size, and earbud style.

Headsets are designed to let you listen AND talk, and are commonly used with cell phones. There are many different types of headsets: wired mono (one earpiece) and stereo (two earpieces) headsets, earpad headsets, in-ear headsets, full size closed headsets, Bluetooth headsets, USB headsets and more. You can also turn any pair of headphones into a headset by adding a headset adapter with a microphone.

Noise Canceling Headphones and How They Work

Noise canceling headphones are designed to insulate you from outside noise by using ‘active’ battery-powered electronics.

Noise canceling headphones use tiny built-in microphones in the earpieces to sense ambient noise around the headphones with an active (battery powered) electronic circuit that amplifies and inverts those signals, then adds them into the music signal to ‘cancel’ the acoustic noise pressure present at the earpieces. Noise canceling headphones are designed primarily to block airline/train cabin noise during travel and usually isolate sound better than a basic closed headphone.

Clip-On or Wing-Style Headphones for Activity

Clip-on headphones, or ear-clip headphones, are designed to stay in place during physical activity.

Clip-on headphones and wing adaptions stay secure on the ear for listening while you are in motion. They are lightweight and compact, and you’ll be able to stay aware of your surroundings while running or walking.  Waterproof styles are available for swimming.  The clip-on style headphones will usually fit under a skateboard or bicycle helmet.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, you can make an informed decision about which headphone type is perfect for you. Happy listening!

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Dealer Spotlight: Audio Obsession


We’re really excited to kick off 2012 with our first “Dealer Spotlight” feature. Most custom installers know that Velodyne makes the best subwoofers available, but custom installation goes way beyond a single sub. And it’s not for the novice. We’ve seen some insane setups over the years, and it’s clear these people take their sound seriously. You could say they’re obsessed with audio.

And speaking of obsession, let’s get started with our first dealer spotlight.

Velodyne Dealer:
Audio Obsession
Gilroy, California
408.656.8086
ronweav@aol.com

Principal: Ron Weaver

The master craftsman cheerfully surveys his workshop domain.

The Man Behind the Company

Ron Weaver is a custom installer whose life-long passion has lead to a new career in his retirement. He spent 35 years working as an engineer for IBM, but has been passionate about audio his entire life.

“About three years before I retired, I picked up a copy of ‘Speaker Builder’ magazine and all the lights went on,” he said.

A self-proclaimed Velodyne enthusiast, Ron started building speakers with his brother when he was 14 years old. He also sang in church choirs and played the cello.

“Music was always a big part of growing up,” Ron said. It’s not surprising he majored in classical voice and music while attending college at San Francisco State. But he switched his major and graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in mechanical engineering, which lead him to IBM.

And a decade after retiring from IBM, he’s busier than ever designing and installing home theatres all over the west coast. His reputation and business is built solely on word-of-mouth.

Ron runs Audio Obsession out of his home in Gilroy, California. Did we mention he’s also obsessed with woodworking? Not only does he lovingly craft custom cabinets, but he also built his entire home.

“We designed every square inch of this house,” he said. The “we” includes his wife, who gave him the thumbs up to complete the home theatre before the rest of the house was done.

 

Ron's attention to detail is reflected in the beauty of his custom cabinets. He will only use one piece of wood for each cabinet, to ensure consistency in the grain.

The Equipment Behind the Sound: About Ron’s Setup

We asked Ron how awesome his home theatre had to be in order get that kind of spousal approval. Much to our delight, Ron invited us over to find out. And the answer was nothing short of spectacular.

“This room has been designed to be as ideal as you can make it for listening,” he said.

The powerhouses behind the setup are two Velodyne Digital Drive 18 subwoofers, the most powerful Velodyne subs available at the time the room was designed. (Ron is looking to take his setup to the next level with a pair Digital Drive PLUS subs.)

Ron chose Velodyne for two main reasons. The first is our servo feedback, which dramatically improves the accuracy of the sound reproduction. Velodyne was the first subwoofer company to address this. The hanging sensor on the cone can sense what’s happening and what’s coming. This allows for incredibly low distortion, typically 1/10 the amount of competing subs.

“You want it to sound the way it’s supposed to and Velodyne does that,” Ron explained.
This realistic sound reproduction is also enhanced by the raw power of Velodyne subs. In fact, Ron said most people are (incorrectly) convinced there are “Buttkicker” transducers in his home theater seats, a product which vibrates in conjunction with crashes and booms on-screen. With Ron’s setup, he has no need for “Buttkickers.” The subs do all the work, bringing to life on-screen events such as an epic battle scene from Master and Commander that we had the pleasure of viewing on Ron’s system.

“No, it’s just the Velodyne subs doing what they do best!” he said.

The second reason for Ron’s choosing Velodyne is our auto-equalization feature. This feature smoothes out frequencies in the room that might otherwise cause less-than-ideal sound in certain locations.

And why two subs?

“Two is always better than one because of standing waves,” Ron explained. The standing sound waves cause disparities in sound volume in different parts of the room for specific frequencies. These standing waves are the reason for placing speakers and seats in very specific places in the room.

Ron also built the ceiling to minimize peaks and valleys in sound volume around the room. It’s similar to a cathedral-type design and the pitch is 9 feet in the front and 13 feet towards the rear. This type of ceiling helps spread out the standing waves to reduce peaks and valleys.

The walls are also a critical aspect of the room. They are double-studded and isolated from the rest of the house. The placement of the unique, reversible acoustic panels was determined by sophisticated computer design and helps strike just the right balance of sound absorption and reflection, even at lower frequencies. And at $90 each, the panels alone were several thousand dollars. The panels are hidden behind a stretched fabric system for aesthetic reasons. Ron was able to come very close to the ideal 350 milliseconds RT60 decay times across the entire audio spectrum. Even the carpet pad is specially chosen for its acoustic properties.

Ron clearly takes his audio seriously.

“It takes a lifetime to really understand it, but anybody can appreciate it,” he said.

The full rundown

Equipment list

  • Onkyo Pro PR-SC886 THX Ultra2 Certified 7.1 Preamp/Processor
  • ARCAM P7 Seven Channel Amplifier
  • JVC RS-35 Projector with Panamorph motorized Scope Lens System
  • Oppo BDP-93 Blu-Ray Player
  • Sony BDCX-7000EX 400 Disc Blu-ray Changer
  • Escient E2-300 Music Server
  • Vudu XL Video Server
  • SI Screens 133” Black Diamond 1.4 Screen
  • DirecTV DVR-HR21
  • Furman Elite 15i Power Conditioner
  • Middle Atlantic Slim 5 Rack System

Speakers

  • Left/Center/Right – Audio Obsession Custom MTM’s with SEAS Excel Drivers
  • Side/Rear Surrounds – Audio Obsession Custom In-Walls with SEAS Drivers
  • Subwoofers – Velodyne DD-18 (2)

Control systems

  • Control4 HC-300 Controller
  • Control4 7” Touchscreen
  • Universal Remote Control MX-3000, MX-6000, MRF-350

Lighting

  • URC and Control4

Cabling

  • AudioQuest, Planet Waves, Liberty

Seating

  • United Leather & NS Designs

Room acoustics

  • FabricTrak Track Systems
  • AVRS Acoustic Panels
  • Guilford of Maine Acoustic Fabric
  • Karistan Carpet Underlayment
  • A/V RoomService Designed Calibrated and Certified

Installation by Audio Obsession

Miscellaneous

  • Draper Motorized Window Blackout Screen
  • Custom Woodworking by Audio Obsession
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