JUNE 2012: For over twenty years, Joel Lonky has been touring with many of the music industry's most amazing luminaries. He is currently hired as production manager for The Goo Goo Dolls and as FOH engineer for Rob Zombie, Billy Idol, and Diddy.
His past credits include FOH tours with Rage Against the Machine, Third Eye Blind, Maroon 5, Weird Al Yankovic, Anthrax, Guns & Roses, LL Cool J, Korn, Cypress Hill, and many others. Lonky recently upgraded from a well-known sound analysis software platform to Metric Halo's SpectraFoo Complete. He now uses SpectraFoo before every show in order to guarantee that his mix will translate for the swarming sea of fans who are ready to participate, body and soul, with the music they have come to see live.
"I first learned of SpectraFoo in 1997, when I was shown an early copy while mixing Third Eye Blind in their heyday," said Lonky. "[Metric Halo founders] B.J. and Joe [Buchalter] offered me a license. At the time I was a hardcore 'PC guy' so I didn't take advantage of the offer. Fast forward to 2011: I had become a Mac man and was mixing Rob Zombie and Billy Idol. I wanted something better than the software I had been using so I contacted Allen [Rowand] at Metric Halo to see if that license was still there. He offered me another, and I jumped at the chance. I have been using it with my trusty system engineer Andrew Dowling (I don't leave home without him!) ever since."
Currently, Dowling and Lonky have a well-rehearsed routine that plays out before every single Rob Zombie concert. Once the Adamson E15 Energia PA system is flown and trimmed to height, they do a component noise check. Next, they use SpectraFoo's transfer function: The system is pink noised as a reference, and then the PA is broken into sections that can be modified, starting with the upper right side. They use SpectraFoo's delay computation function and inspect the coherence trace to make sure the measurement is valid. Then they EQ the array as a whole, being careful not to add too much top end (knowing that it will naturally need help at the longest throws of the PA). Once the response looks correct up to approximately 8kHz, they EQ the top zone, adding a little extra energy with a high-frequency shelf to help with the high-frequency loss over distance.
Once completed, they use SpectraFoo's snapshot capability to capture the response, which will serve as the reference trace for the rest of the zones. They move the RTA mic through the zones, repeating the tuning process if they have time or simply capturing each zone's response if time is tight (which it usually is). In the latter case, they compare all of the responses to the reference and make appropriate adjustments. Then they use a similar procedure to tune the under-hang and side-hang boxes, if present, using SpectraFoo's delay finder to match arrival times.
With the full-range components in good shape, they next move to the subwoofers, again using SpectraFoo's delay finder to get the proper alignment. They use SpectraFoo's RTA to make sure the mains and subs are working together, paying close attention to the crossover point where the delay must be closest to correct. Then they use SpectraFoo's phase trace and slowly add time to the subs until the phase trace of the subs matches that of the mains at the chosen frequency. "And that is how we time align our system," said Lonky. "Easy as 1, 2, 3... 3, 2, 1... 3.14159265..."
During the show, Lonky uses SpectraFoo's Spectragraph and Spectragram together with the board's main output and an RTA mic, which gives him a good comparison of what's translating (or not) from the board to the room. "For several reasons, I find that SpectraFoo is superior to all of the other sound packages out there," said Lonky. "For one thing, it has less inherent averaging. I can dial in as little or as much averaging as I need for a particular application. Other platforms simply report a delay time, whereas SpectraFoo shows me the impulse and reflections, which makes it much easier to spot a false positive. I can label all of the windows, which can be arranged and grouped however I like, and I can leave them open to reference later on. Saving and loading snapshots and transfer functions is a breeze."
Although Lonky uses SpectraFoo to align the system he's traveling with most of the time, he also has the opportunity to align house systems for one-offs and special occasions. "You can really see when you go into venues with existing PA's how badly they are aligned and tuned," he said.