By Miles Rogers. It’s not that often that you get to work on a project that changes the way you look at—or in this case listen to—the world.
It’s not that often that you get to work on a project that changes the way you look at—or in this case listen to—the world. That has been my experience working on the Meyer Sound Bluehorn System. It is a loudspeaker that builds on a tradition of innovation and brings Meyer Sound one step closer to the goal of a completely transparent studio monitor.
Pursuit of this elusive goal began in earnest with the iconic HD-1 studio monitor, introduced in 1989 and still in the product line today. In 2000, John Meyer and his R&D team developed the X-10 monitor, which incorporated cutting-edge technology to create very low-distortion, low-frequency drivers based on aerospace engineering principles. In 2012, when they started working toward the next generation of critical listening monitors, there was a lot of feedback from the front lines about the Acheron series of cinema loudspeakers—in particular, using the Acheron Designer in the midfield for mixing music. Sparking his interest, the R&D team experimented with pairing an Acheron Designer to an X-400C subwoofer. Early listening tests showed that this was an extremely musical system, and provided the flexibility to explore implementation of new technologies Meyer Sound had been developing.
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Designing a loudspeaker from an existing platform is like perfecting your favorite meal. The core ingredients are already there, presenting an opportunity to refine the recipes—and there were some tasty new ingredients in development. In parallel with the Bluehorn System, we were developing the LEO Family line-array products. Cross-pollination was taking place, with the Acheron horn design influencing the LEO Family, and with new driver technology from the LEO Family extending the bandwidth of the Bluehorn System. Excitement was building. Each refinement on its own was small, but the sum total was generating a completely new paradigm.
Soon the hardware components were ready, but the Bluehorn System was still a work in progress. It was built on a DSP platform that needed to become “show ready.” That’s when Perrin Meyer (son of John and Helen Meyer) stepped up to the plate and hit a home run by refining the phase correction algorithm to perform more efficiently and run on our newly released Galaxy 816 loudspeaker processor. With a signal-to-noise ratio of better than 125 dB, along with even faster processing, the Bluehorn System now had become a force to reckon with in any content creation environment.
Due to the laws of physics, DSP phase correction from 25 Hz to 20 kHz takes time—about two film frames. This isn’t an issue on the scoring stage or in the mix room, but what about when overdubbing in a recording studio with the guitarist in the control room? Here, low latency is critical, and this is where John Meyer’s decision to keep processing external paid off. If we feed the system from one of the non-phase corrected outputs of the Bluehorn 816 processor, we instantly switch into “live” mode with ultra-low latency.
A completely transparent loudspeaker—one with flat magnitude and flat phase response across the audio bandwidth—had been achieved with the Bluehorn System. It was amazing to see this result in measurements, but what really blew us away was the audible performance. Every time we ran a demo, the reactions were stunned astonishment, and in 2016 we had an ideal opportunity to put the system to the test in the field. Oscar-winning score mixer Shawn Murphy invited us to bring the system down for the last days of his sessions on the Sony Scoring Stage for the film The BFG. As with all system setups, my plan was to stick around to make sure everyone was happy and then head out to the airport. When John Williams and Steven Spielberg sat down at the console with Shawn to listen to the first cue, they all turned around and looked at me with big smiles.
Shortly thereafter, Shawn took the system to 5 Cats Studio, owned by film composer John Powell and home turf for scoring mixer John Traunwieser. They wouldn’t give the demo system back. It’s still there.
That brings us to 2018. A few months ago, United States Patent 9,992,573 B1 (“Phase inversion filter for correcting low frequency phase distortion in a loudspeaker system”) was awarded to John and Perrin Meyer for the foundational Bluehorn System DSP technology. We continue to get amazing feedback from demos at trade shows and industry events around the world. Systems are selling into key locations and continue to be used for film scores like Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, The Post, Ferdinand and, most recently, Venom.
Personally, I have noticed that my aural referencing has greatly improved, as I am gaining the ability to critically listen into the time domain. Having a reference monitoring system that addresses the critical domain of group delay, and the nonlinear effect this has in sound reproduction, provides a new and revelatory experience. Once you hear this difference, it sticks with you.
I look forward to demoing Bluehorn System for film sound and music recording professionals at our upcoming industry events, and here at the Meyer Sound factory in Berkeley, CA. If you love sound the way I do, Bluehorn System is an experience not to be missed.
Miles Rogers is business development manager, cinema and content creation markets, at Meyer Sound.
Meyer Sound Labs • www.meyersound.com