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Author Topic: To or Not To invest in SMAART.  (Read 1348 times)

Matt Vivlamore

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To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« on: December 09, 2022, 10:30:06 PM »

Should I do it or talk me out of it?

After this weekend, seeing the FOH/System tech do his thing with SMAART and time aligned correct the PA (flown d&b) and heard it cleaned up the sound. And we got talking about my system (hes heard it before) and because Im mixing brands, were thinking that my tops and subs arent playing nice with each other and there is a time/phase alignment delay. In a few weeks well be on a gig together and Ill be supporting the C-Stage with my system and were going to check the time alignment.

I am running RCF TTP4A tops and JBL SRX828SP with an SQ5 at the front end. Depending on the situation/room, I either ground stack or I put the TTs on tripods & center cluster the subs. Im also thinking of investing in the fly hardware to hang the tops off an SL100 or Lifts.

So would it be worth it to invest in SMAART (will need to buy an RTA Mic and USB interface) and then pick up a decent DSP for delay adjustments.  Or am I over thinking this?
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Matthias McCready

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2022, 11:43:49 PM »

Should I do it or talk me out of it?

After this weekend, seeing the FOH/System tech do his thing with SMAART and time aligned correct the PA (flown d&b) and heard it cleaned up the sound. And we got talking about my system (hes heard it before) and because Im mixing brands, were thinking that my tops and subs arent playing nice with each other and there is a time/phase alignment delay. In a few weeks well be on a gig together and Ill be supporting the C-Stage with my system and were going to check the time alignment.

I am running RCF TTP4A tops and JBL SRX828SP with an SQ5 at the front end. Depending on the situation/room, I either ground stack or I put the TTs on tripods & center cluster the subs. Im also thinking of investing in the fly hardware to hang the tops off an SL100 or Lifts.

So would it be worth it to invest in SMAART (will need to buy an RTA Mic and USB interface) and then pick up a decent DSP for delay adjustments.  Or am I over thinking this?

I would go for it.

It has been a great investment for me. It is a tool that can help to answer many types of questions' although to get the most out of it, as the operator you did need to know what questions you are wanting to ask.

For an interface, literally about any interface will do. Get the I/O that will be useful for you. I was lazy and got the same interface Jamie had at the Smaart class (a Roland Octacapture), but I have been happy with the purchase, it has saved my butt on a gig or two (it can work as a small/basic mixer independent of a computer with input comps and HPF's).

For mics Rational Acoustics sells some cheap measurement mics with calibration files for about $150 each. I just went for those. If something terrible happens (they get run over by a rogue lift or something) I would have very few tears. You can always get nicer measurement mics down the road, but these do the job, and will get you measuring.

The manual is super good and informative (honestly a good general audio read), but their classes are also quite good; so if you have the opportunity attending one of those is worth it, it can also get you a decent discount on the software as well.
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Michael Lawrence

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2022, 11:58:52 PM »

You don't even need to pay extra for the correction files. We sell them because people want them but they don't make any practical difference in this type of work. The seat to seat variations in the space will swamp the corrections made by the file. See page 8. https://downloads.rationalacoustics.com/documentation/Smaart-Gear-Choices.pdf

If the investment is a challenge, we introduced an annual subscription option for v9 that you may find appealing. A year of Smaart LE is something like $159 and gives you everything you need for system alignment work.

That being said - if a PA system is not sounding right, the issue is almost never the main-sub alignment. In a typical small-medium system situation it just doesn't have a big enough effect on the outcome. I devoted a chapter to it in my book but there's also this PSW article from a few years ago. https://www.prosoundweb.com/dont-fear-the-phase-gremlins-looking-further-into-alignment-between-mains-and-subs/

Having the tools to give yourself more information - whether that's Smaart or another platform - is never a bad thing, the more information you bring to the table the more informed your decisions will be. (And it's about your decisions... Smaart is just a tool.. you must decide what to do as a result of the data you gather).

If you're considering a measurement rig and are looking for some guidance on what to get, feel free to give the office a call, my extension is x107. On weekends it'll ring through to my cell so call any time.
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Helge A Bentsen

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2022, 09:22:36 AM »

You don't even need to pay extra for the correction files. We sell them because people want them but they don't make any practical difference in this type of work. The seat to seat variations in the space will swamp the corrections made by the file. See page 8. https://downloads.rationalacoustics.com/documentation/Smaart-Gear-Choices.pdf

If the investment is a challenge, we introduced an annual subscription option for v9 that you may find appealing. A year of Smaart LE is something like $159 and gives you everything you need for system alignment work.

That being said - if a PA system is not sounding right, the issue is almost never the main-sub alignment. In a typical small-medium system situation it just doesn't have a big enough effect on the outcome. I devoted a chapter to it in my book but there's also this PSW article from a few years ago. https://www.prosoundweb.com/dont-fear-the-phase-gremlins-looking-further-into-alignment-between-mains-and-subs/

Having the tools to give yourself more information - whether that's Smaart or another platform - is never a bad thing, the more information you bring to the table the more informed your decisions will be. (And it's about your decisions... Smaart is just a tool.. you must decide what to do as a result of the data you gather).

If you're considering a measurement rig and are looking for some guidance on what to get, feel free to give the office a call, my extension is x107. On weekends it'll ring through to my cell so call any time.

Mhm. Local variations will often play havoc on your "perfect alignment".
Here's a screen grab from last night at FOH, pretty nasty back wall reflections.
Sounded ok back there, but moving forwards into the audience changed things.
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John Schalk

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2022, 10:10:41 AM »

So would it be worth it to invest in SMAART (will need to buy an RTA Mic and USB interface) and then pick up a decent DSP for delay adjustments.  Or am I over thinking this?
I am going through this decision process right now and I think I'm going to treat myself to a perpetual license of Smaart LE ($449 until 12/31) for Xmas.  I already own an audio measurement rig using a MacBook Pro, although I'm also thinking of re-platforming to a PC running Win10 because of the number of software packages that I need to run that are PC only (Armonia, Ease Focus, Harmon System Architect, etc).  I have a simple two channel USB pre and I've recently setup my X32 Rack to act as my USB Pre for multiple microphone measurement setups.  I use the Behringer ECM8000 ($30).

I've been using Room Eq Wizard, and lately Open Sound Meter, on my MacBook to measure my speakers and to verify system phase alignment for about two years.  If that is all you are interested in doing, then I suggest that you start with one of these free applications.  The value with Smaart, and the reason that I am contemplating making a purchase, is the training and support that are available with Smaart that is specific to our industry.  There are a ton of YouTube videos for REW, but 90+% of them target the home theater audience.  Open Sound Meter has a FB page and that's about it so, when I get a wonky phase trace that doesn't look anything like the example in the step by step process that I'm trying to follow, I'm stuck trying to figure things out on my own now.  If I buy Smaart, then Michael has to take my calls :) 
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Tim Verhoeven

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2022, 05:44:15 PM »

Should I do it or talk me out of it?

After this weekend, seeing the FOH/System tech do his thing with SMAART and time aligned correct the PA (flown d&b) and heard it cleaned up the sound. And we got talking about my system (hes heard it before) and because Im mixing brands, were thinking that my tops and subs arent playing nice with each other and there is a time/phase alignment delay. In a few weeks well be on a gig together and Ill be supporting the C-Stage with my system and were going to check the time alignment.

I am running RCF TTP4A tops and JBL SRX828SP with an SQ5 at the front end. Depending on the situation/room, I either ground stack or I put the TTs on tripods & center cluster the subs. Im also thinking of investing in the fly hardware to hang the tops off an SL100 or Lifts.

So would it be worth it to invest in SMAART (will need to buy an RTA Mic and USB interface) and then pick up a decent DSP for delay adjustments.  Or am I over thinking this?

Have a look at Michael Curtis his Youtube channel. This playlist for example will get you through all the basics and shows you ways to start small: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9yCp3Q5vAs&list=PLqLfCybtxh0HTXmXl4nKZO64yHmQP0lRi

Measuring will definitely help, but first understand the process and what you are seeing. Smaart and similar software are just tools, you need to learn a process to use them correctly.
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Nathan Riddle

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2022, 09:31:04 PM »

My take?

Play with OSM & REW for a while first.

Then get SMAART if it makes you money.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2022, 01:13:07 AM »

Recap of a previous story - my first SMAART class was in 2004 at EAW with Jamie.  I came home and made many, many invalid measurements, mostly because I didn't have a firm grip on what I was going to do with the measurement I was making.  Once I cleared that up it became much easier to see an invalid measurement on the screen, fix the mic position or delay, and remeasure.  Working out this kind of thing with a 'free' product makes sense because you'll not become proficient in measurement over night.

I haven't used my rig in a couple of years at least.  Last time I did a system alignment we used my ME's rig because he had it with him...

Most of our rigs go in the same place(s) in the venues we work.  We've made measurements for each placement and deployment over time.  If I've got the Smaart rig out, it's because something isn't sounding right.
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2022, 08:07:09 AM »

Just having the tool doe NOT mean you will be able to get a better sound.

It is knowing what to do with the data that makes the difference.  Knowing what you can and CANNOT fix is key.

It is really surprising to me how meany people "say" they have/run Smaart, and the only thing they use is the RTA.

Such a waste.

There are various measurement systems out there, each with advantages and disadvantages and different operations.

But knowing what to do with the data stays the same.

When I first got Smaart (V3.6 on floppy disks) I took it home and hooked it up to my stereo and started playing and learning and questioning.

A hint, take a class (or 20) regarding system measurement, alignment etc.  It will be money well spent.
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Russell Ault

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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2022, 02:01:34 PM »

{...} A hint, take a class (or 20) regarding system measurement, alignment etc.  It will be money well spent.

+100 to this. Normally my advice is "don't by Smaart until after you've taken the class"; the only reason I'd make an exception right now is because of the current "early-adopter" pricing on v9.

Equipment-wise, my current vote is for the EVO 4 (which is about to receive gain-tracking support in Smaart) and the cheapest measurement mic you can find that includes a calibration file (my last purchase was a Sonarworks "SoundID Reference Measurement Microphone", although bizarrely it doesn't come with a mic clip).

-Russ
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Re: To or Not To invest in SMAART.
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2022, 02:01:34 PM »


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