ISSUE 2 – Our mindset of sound and reproducing sound through musical experience

Introduction

Each manufacturer will have a different approach in the research and development (R&D) process. Most manufacturers approach in terms of technique, technology and finishing quality. For those who have a core R&D role at ThivanLabs, all of these criteria are an obvious must-have. So what concerns us more than the above issues? It’s a signature sound for the audio equipment we build. Accordingly, we approach the issue from the perspective of sound and music because one of the most important things that a user needs in an audio device is to listen to music and how the sound is amplified, as well as how musical experience they would get.

This is also the basis for us to choose research methods and conduct product development research to identify the right issues rather than concern or discuss more about technology. Engineering serves as a tool to achieve the sonic goals we define and work towards. At ThivanLabs, engineering solutions are always researched and improved to serve our sound aims. Like a chef with adept knowledge and skills, but how the dish should taste is an unlimited creativity. Sound is the same. Let’s think of sound as a personality, then what is the personality of ThivanLabs’ sound?

 

Purpose – Goals – Scope of discussion – Research methods

After attending many live concerts and sound testing, a sound philosophy has been developed for ThivanLabs parallel with development of engineering and sound standards.  In the ThivanLabs sound philosophy, along with the technical specifications that are obviously always optimized, the naturalness of the sound and faithful sound reproduction are the top goals that the devices must achieve. So what is the naturalness of the sound and faithful sound reproduction? And what is ThivanLabs sound destination?

This article will share our product development design thinking with you more clearly, introduce the research methods we have selected and implemented in our journey to define and build a sonic characterization for the sound reproducing devices we build.

In order for the article to focus, the issues discussed will have specific limits!

In this article, we limit our discussion of sound to a narrower scope that is music and entertainment sound, which may also include movie sound. These are the main forms of sound in human entertainment needs and are directly related to the research and development of our sound amplification and reproduction devices. In order to research, discover and find the truths for product development, defining the distinctive sound that ThivanLabs audio devices will need to achieve, the core people of our R&D team has always focused on musical experience and experimented with amplification and sound reproduction in the most diverse ways.

The musical experience here is not merely a love of music, but rather is applied as a research and development method for our products, namely a form of exploratory research and empirical research to find out the goals for the next experimental research steps that we carry out. Through these research methods, we have the observation, experience and comparison to be able to identify natural sound issues and thereby get the right assessment and objective judgment on sound reproduction. Then, along with the device testing process as well as experimenting, comparing and assessing various technical design solutions in many real-life using and performance situations to perfect the sound quality of each model. The ultimate goal is to create optimal products that bring the best music experience to users, especially those who really love music and listen to music!

Being able to combine music experience with product research and development (R & D) is really exciting! For the music experience, which is not only a personal love of listening to music, we also put ourselves in the position of people who listen to music and look for emotions from music. In these categories, we are an object of music. In these diverse musical experiences, in order to experience the most natural and original sound, we place more emphasis on classical music experiences and live concerts which are not amplified by any device to get a more objective assessment of the natural sound.

Accordingly, a subjective factor is that audio amplification devices are excluded. Because each manufacturer of amplifier equipment will have different philosophies, opinions, criteria, and subjective perceptions about the sound they will reproduce. So, it is obvious that the sound amplified by the equipment of different brands will be different. In addition, the audio signals after going through the amplifier stages will be less or more transformed and no longer original, specifically reducing the “dynamic” and “dynamic range” which are the inherent dynamics of natural sounds. This is also an issue that we are particularly interested in researching to come up with solutions to minimize the attenuation and transformation of the original audio signal when reproducing the sound through the amplifiers that we develop.

After excluding this subjective factor, for other peripheral factors that may affect the sound transmitted to the listener’s ears, only the influence from the architecture and interior of the auditorium will remain. This is where acoustics are concerned and the role of architects is really important here! The world’s top auditoriums almost all have to go through a long period of tens to hundreds of years in improving acoustic architecture to achieve the sound optimization. Often as a spectator, we all have to accept the acoustical conditions that are available in the auditorium. Also, we don’t want to go any further than experiencing music and won’t discuss acoustics in this article.

Therefore, in the scope of this article, we assumed that auditorium acoustic environments are already available, whereby the sound in each auditorium will be different. The discussion in this article will only revolve around experiencing music, feeling the sound directly in different auditorium acoustic environments that we have selected to experience and experiment. Then based on the facts gained from these to analyze and define the natural sound we aim for. Theories and perspectives on auditorium acoustics will not be covered in this article. Let the architects take care of that! However, there are still a few other factors that will also affect the feelings of sound and emotions the listeners would get from the music that need to be analyzed and taken into account are volume in the auditorium. This issue involves the correlation between the size of the auditorium and the orchestra, the different types of instruments performed as well as the talent of the conductor and musicians.

The issues that we will discuss in this article are as follows:

Part 1: The concept of naturalness and sound fidelity

Part 2: Aim and destination of ThivanLabs signature sound in the latest product generations

… It is to be continued. Let’s follow us to be updated in a next post!

 


CASE STUDY

Experiencing classical music, sound and acoustics at the Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

To define the standard and a natural sound quality for the sound reproduced through ThivanLabs audio equipment, the direct music experience has always been our priority during our trips in Europe.

As lovers of classical music, at the same time, through the process of experiencing music and researching and manufacturing sound reproduction devices, we have found particularly useful values ​​in classical music experience in different concert halls, especially those with the world’s best acoustics and concerts performed by the world’s leading orchestras.

Having attended BBC Proms concerts at London’s largest theater several times, Royal Albert Hall is one of the most exciting experiences in acoustics and direct sound. During the BBC Prom 69 concert, taking place on September 7, 2022, the orchestra, choir, and violin solo were all performed live and without any amplification. In a very large auditorium like the Royal Albert Hall, this acoustic experience is really special.

BBC Proms is a series of classical concerts held annually at the Royal Albert Hall during the summer and lasts for eight weeks. The Proms program has been around since 1895 and is currently hosted by the BBC. The name BBC Proms has become familiar to classical music lovers in the UK and the BBC Proms concert seasons have become a special event in British culture, especially for the classical music community in the UK.

 


 

Experiencing classical music, acoustics and sound at Philharmonie de Paris, France

It is indeed a very special occasion when we have the opportunity to experience music for two consecutive days at two of Europe’s leading auditoriums: Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany and the Philharmonie de Paris, France. While the exterior architecture looks different, the interior architecture of the two auditoriums is quite similar in style. Regarding the size of the internal space, the Elbphilharmonie is larger, wider, the layout of the aisles is quite convenient to move between areas in the auditorium, and is somewhat more convenient than in the Philharmonie de Paris. However, sound and acoustics are a different story. Experiencing live music in these two auditoriums for two days in a row really gave us a chance to compare the sound and music performed at these famous theatres. Of course, we will continue to experience more concerts in the future to have the most objective and accurate assessment.

The Philharmonie de Paris (English: Paris Philharmonic) is a concert hall complex at the Parc de la Villette in the 19th district of Paris, France, consisting of the Philharmonie 1 and 2 theaters. Philharmonie 2 was designed by architect Christian de Portzamparc and opened in 1995 with the old name Cité de la Musique (City of Music). The name Philharmonie 2 was used instead of the old name in 2015 after a larger theater was built here. Philharmonie 2 is a complex consisting of an 800-1000 audience music auditorium, an amphitheater, and a music museum displaying an important collection of traditional musical instruments of different cultures dating from 15th to 20th century, a music library, exhibition area, hall and conference rooms.

Philharmonie 1 opened in 2015, designed by architect Jean Nouvel with a capacity of 2,400 seats. This auditorium is mainly for symphony concerts, but also other concerts such as jazz and world music. With its unique architecture, looking like a spaceship with a sparkling surface, this theater has become the highlight of the whole area.

The concert we attended in Philharmonie 2 performed Symphony No.9 of Gustav Mahler, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and L’Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris.

According to our musical experience here, the acoustic design of the auditorium is very good. The size of the auditorium correlates very well with the orchestra size of over 100 musicians, and so the sound is naturally amplified with great clarity and detail through the acoustic architecture of the auditorium. The sound covers the entire room well, clear, detailed. Some segments playing solo or very low volume can still be heard clearly and in detail depending on the instrument and listening position. However, in this space, for classical music played by large orchestras, the position in front of the stage will give the accurate and best sound space. When seated on the flank or rear wing positions, the instruments farther away will not be as detailed as the ones closer, especially if sitting near trumpet and the percussion such as big drums, there is a tendency for these loud instruments to drown out the sound of the string instruments. Therefore, there will be a difference when listening in different positions, and when looking at the overall sound structure of a classical piece, the seats on the wings will not have an overall balanced sound and the correct placement of musical instrument groups in a symphony orchestra. However, experiencing music directly, without amplification equipment is still really valuable and true, providing the most accurate sound perception and very real emotions.

 


 

Experiencing classical concerts, acoustics and sound at the Elbphilharmonie Theater, Hamburg, Germany.

 


 

Experiencing classical music, sound and acoustics at Musikverein, Vienna, Austria