Testing Our 2nd Generation Prototype
- 1 Building the 2nd Generation Prototypes
- 2 Testing the Prototypes on Real Concerts
- 2.1 Concerts in One Venue With Different Bands
- 2.2 Different Bands in Different Venues
- 2.3 Concerts in Different Venues With One Band
Building the 2nd Generation Prototypes
Cliff and Joe had built a number of prototypes of what was to become the L1 speaker. See the article First Research Prototype for more details.
In late 2001 and early 2002 Ken and Cliff decided to build another, more sophisticated prototype based on everything they had learned.
Cliff fabricated stands for what had already become the Bose MA12 line array for installed applications. The MA12 was a commercial offshoot of the early L1 prototype work: Commercial Offshoot of L1 Research Project.
Cliff and some of the lab technicians built small racks that housed LabGruppen power amps and a DSP controller where we could dial in EQ and limiting for the 2nd generation prototypes.
We used Bose MB4 bass boxes.
As you can see from the following notebook entry, this is where Bose decided to go with a separate bass box -- a momentous decision.
Here's a photo of the 2nd generation prototype. For the first time, Ken felt they had something that was really starting to look elegant and truly unique -- as unique as the invention.
Testing the Prototypes on Real Concerts
Cliff built about eight of these 2nd generation prototypes and made them so they could be easily transported.
This is a shot of one of our speaker engineers, Pete (also an excellent drummer) who had loaded up his pickup truck with ALL of the prototype systems. Ken remembers going to get his camera and saying "Pete! Wait!" And taking this picture. It really hit home that here was a new kind of amplification system -- one that replaced conventional PA, monitors, backline amps, mixers, and most of the wires with seven-foot-tall, coffee-mug-wide, portable line arrays. It hit the small group hard at this time.
Many, many live concert tests were conducted with this set of 2nd generation prototypes.
These concert-tests were roughly broken into two categories:
1. Same venue, lots of different bands.
2. Same band, lots of different venues.
Concerts in One Venue With Different Bands
For the first category, a series of concerts took place in the Spring of 2002.
Although it was not known at the time, the team was only 18 months from launching a commercial product in October of 2003.
The historic Village Hall in Framingham was chosen for this batch of concerts.
It's a challenging room, fitting a few hundred when full. It's very reverberant. It was chosen for several reasons.
- It was close, only about 5 minutes from the lab.
- It was typical of the places people play.
- It was acoustically challenging: if the prototypes were successful in Village Hall they'd be successful in the better behaved halls.
- The testing could be kept relatively quiet.
Cliff and Ken set up what they called their "soldiers of sound" on a rented stage, as shown below.The MB4 bass boxes behind the curtain. If you look hard you can also see the "baby mixers" that were part of the prototype systems. These were four channel mixers.
At this time, it was just Cliff and Ken and the occasional hired crew. Ken and Cliff rented trucks, pipe and drape, carried all the gear, made all the arrangements and communications (like the above) and assembled and repaired stuff in Cliff's garage, about a half mile from Village Hall. Ken insisted on this arrangement as the only way to experience what eventual customers might experience and thus know "in their bones" as he put it what design decisions to make when it came time (hopefully) to commercialize the idea.
Here's another shot of the stage. The team wanted to show the fact that for the first time in a long time the stage was super neat. You could really see the musicians and they could really see their audiences.
Here's a copy of the advertisement that was placed in the local newspaper to attract audiences without attracting attention to the new technology. This was really tricky to pull off. On the one hand, the team was intent of doing a set of real world tests -- to be absolutely certain that their beliefs and claims could be realized. They wanted not just to prove that musicians liked the sound, but that audiences did too. They wanted to prove that the L1 concept meant better live music. And so we had to have real concerts. On the other hand, they wanted desperately to keep their work quiet. It would be terrible for news to leak out of our work.
In the advertisement there was no mention of new technology being used. Just a celebration of live music and better sound.
Ken and Cliff received excellent reactions from the musicians. The ones that especially loved it and took to it the best were the jazz players, who are more used to hearing each other and playing together. Least adaptable were rock musicians who are used to playing to monitors and not necessary playing with the whole band.
The prototype systems performed reliably and excited much less reverberation by not sending sound to the hall’s upper reaches. It made instruments responsive and musicians said it was easy to engage their audiences. Cliff said of the experience, "The sound wrapped around me, like a hug from someone who loves me, and then went out to the audience to do the same. I can still remember how it felt and how it sounded. It’s a really beautiful memory for me."
Different Bands in Different Venues
Cosmopolitan Grille: Vdrums and Cybertwin
Five of the 2nd generation systems were set up at the “Cosmopolitan Grille”, a local club in Framingham. Cliff's band fronted Tony Sarno who was visiting from Nashville. A good set of Roland VDrums had been purchased for testing with the prototyep system. Two systems were used for the Roland drums and they sounded very good. It was clear that 2-channel “stereo” was very limited: the kit only sounded spatial and full in front of it, between the two speakers. After this, a mono system was used for drums (electronic or acoustic) with much better results.
For guitar, the direct output of the then new Fender Cyber-Twin amp was connected to the prototype L1 system. Cliff remembers that on the bandstand, something really snapped in Tony’s brain. Talking on the phone later from Atlanta, Tony was wild with ideas and revelations, including using a Roland guitar processor (similar to a Line6 Pod) that “everyone in Nashville” was using for recording at the time.
For more on how the electric guitar work unfolded: Electric Guitar Research
North by Northwest in Philadelphia
After the Village Hall tests, Cliff and Ken began the process of testing the 2nd generation prototypes in different venues. They decided to take a road trip to Philadelphia where Cliff knew a bunch of professional musicians from when he lived in this area. Cliff had played in the Philly/So Jersey clubs and music halls mostly with a band called the “Allstars” and most of them were still there, active as musicians. Cliff and Ken rented and drove a white van with the prototype systems from Framingham to Philly.
They invited an extraordinary singer and guitarist Tony Sarnoto join them, after the Guitar Summit (see Reinventing the Electric Guitar As We Know It for details) to play at a great club recommended by bassist Rick Prince called “North By Northwest”. Local musicians and music-business people (booking agents, studio and record people, promoters, etc) were invited. Ken did an early version of the presentation that was to become Music is Human to explain what we would be doing onstage. Then the band played. It was a great lineup, including Allstars Rick Prince (bass), Rick Valenti (harp and vocals), Jay Davidson (sax, later to play with Cinderella, the “Standing In the Shadows of Motown” tour and with Steve Winwood), Fred “The Red” Berman on drums (now touring with Amos Lee), Doug DeHays (bari) and Steve Jankowski (trumpet). Cliff played keys. Ken and Cliff both felt it was a highly successful event: musicians and audience alike were thrilled with the experience. There was quite a buzz.
After the event, back at the hotel, Ken invited Tony Sarno to join the team as someone who could representative professional musicians and electric and acoustic guitar players. His growing ability to play genuine electric guitar through the L1 (and endless stream of different ways of getting guitar tone) and front the soon-to-be-called Bose demonstration band THE Linemen would be his work at Bose. He would be a musician-to-musician spokesman for the L1 and for the company, especially as he could provide advice and authentic opinions about a real recording artist's experience with the system. Tony accepted and did this work for two years, leaving the corporate world to get back to being a full time musician again.
In the photo, that's Tony singing, Jay saxing and Steve trumpeting.
Here's the musicians having dinner in the side courtyard at NXNW before the show. Starting far left at the table and working around clockwise: Ken (pointing up), Rick Prince (pointing at the camera), Jay Davidson, Doug DeHays (I think), Fred the Red (testing wind direction), Rick Valenti, Tony, Steve Jankowski, not sure, me and Tim Jordan, a local guitarist, singer and songwriter. Rick P and Tim are in a band together as of this writing.
Boston Area Rock Trio
A local Boston rock trio was invited into the lab to play. These guys were great, and they rocked. This photo is poignant for several reasons. They really liked the system and sang great together. I don’t think the drummer was totally wild about the Roland kit and the Vdrums were later abandoned in deference to a real acoustic kit with some minimal amplification, notably the kick drum.
The guitar player was very experienced with using a Line 6 Pod for recording. He got his tone okay, but was perplexed by not being able to "get away from his sound" as he described it at the time. Rock and metal players normally have a single or double 4x12 stack. The sound in front of these amps is hugely bright and loud but you can "get away from it" by standing to the side. You can not do that with the L1 system because it projects its sound very evenly.
The test was after business hours, a good thing considering that Ken and Cliff were measuring 120 dB-SPL in the lab. It was very, very loud. In fact, it was learned that day that a band could play "too loud" on the prototype system. This test allowed convinced Cliff and Ken that the system could "rock".
Boston Area Hard Core Trio
A hard core New England area rock group came in to play in the old cafe.
Concerts in Different Venues With One Band
Soon after the Philly test, Tony relocated to the Framingham area from Nashville, and he and Cliff started recruiting local players for an in-house test band. They first met with bassist Wolf Ginandes, who Cliff knew and had played some with. Wolf in turn brought in Marty Richards (J. Geils, Peter Wolf, Gary Burton, others) as drummer. Tony knew local saxman Bruce "the Goose" McGrath from previous bands they were in together, and Goose brought trumpet great "Doc" Channonhouse. Last, Cliff "Goodsy" Goodwin came along on the advice of Pete and Wolf as second guitarist. His work as music director for the Joe Cocker Band made him the perfect candidate for MD for this band, and Wolf came up with the name THE Linemen.
It took time for The Linemen to grow accustomed to and trust the new system. These were highly experienced musicians, but their experience was playing on triple systems. Early on in their use of the 2nd generation prototypes, bad habits were evident, habits developed from playing in "monitor bubbles". Ken recalls that he had to step in on several occasions and tell the band they couldn’t play this way any longer. He gave Cliff Goodwin the job of music director of the band and thus that he be accountable for making the band play to serve the audience. There was no need to play on “10”. Instead, you could play like a record producer. Listen and play to make the song come out. Support the lead and forget your instrument. Team ball all the way. Goodsy accepted and then things really tightened up re: arrangements and sound levels.
Here's a photo of the band rehearsing arrangements.
In fact what was happening is that in addition to testing how the technology worked in different venues, learning how to take musical advantage of the technology was also being undertaken. Years later, we asked Cliff Goodwin to give a speech to the Bose L1™ Musicians Conference Fall 2006. You can see an excellent video of that talk: How to Play Better with the L1® - Cliff Goodwin
John Stone's Inn
The new in-house test band (later to be called The Linemen) played in a number of other venues, including a small local bar and restaurant, John Stone’s Inn, the allegedly haunted pub in Ashland MA with a tiny stage. In this test the team wanted to know what it was like for a seven piece to play through fewer systems. We started out with five systems and gradually worked our way down to two. Even with two systems it was discovered found that the band could perform effectively. Three was preferred.
AMVETS, Natick MA
This was a typical function hall that could fit maybe 200 when full. The kind of place our imagined customers play all the time. The room was reasonably well behaved and the band sounded fabulous according to those that heard this test.
What made this test special is that we did a one-button A/B comparison with a triple system. The mixer in the photo below was used to do the very complicating signal switching and routing necessary to do the instantaneous comparison. This allowed everybody, including the musicians to hear what it was like to go back and forth between the conventional triple system approach and the new approach.
We tested in a large function hall at the Glen Ellen Country Club near Bose headquarters. This room could easily accommodate 500 people. The band was able to fill the room with entertainment sound levels. We were not able to confirm what would happen with a room full of people.
(Steve-at-Bose is shown in the foreground. The stage setup for The Linemen is in the background.)
Regent Theater, Arlington MA
The Regent Theater in Arlington (close suburb of Boston) is beautiful old theater seating about 350.
This photo shows Cliff Goodwin talking over "music strategy" for the event with Ken.
In the photo below, Marty Richards is at the drum seat. adjusting his baby mixer driving his 2nd generation prototype.
Here are some firsthand recollections of this test by Ken Jacob.
I so vividly remember this test at the Regent.
It was daunting. Could the system possibly work in a real proscenium style performing arts theater?
We set up and then we went to dinner with everybody. This is where I announced our plans to launch and how much travelling everybody would be doing. I was preoccupied with this.
The band left dinner and went to warm up. I lingered over my dinner.
I walked through the door from the lobby which enters the auditorium at the back row.
The band was playing and I remember being totally floored by what I heard. I was in the back row of a performing arts theater and it sounded like a CD. Loud, and ultra clear. I'd never heard anything like it before.
This "test" quickly turned into a private concert for about five people, including the janitor. I have a stereo mic in the house recording of this test.
Recollections from Cliff Henricksen of Tests
What follows is written by Cliff Henricksen about this era of testing with The Linemen.
So, with a crew to set up beforehand, we just showed up to play. I can clearly remember seeing our 6 systems set up behind the band when I walked onstage. There were these tall black stilettos that bore no resemblance to any speaker I ever used. And here I was, The Inventor, looking at this alien landscape behind our instruments and thinking “this is crazy; this will never work here”. Honest. This happened a lot. What I saw and what actually came out of all of them when we played was, heretofore, so far out of my experience that I doubted it for a long time. But when I sat down behind my instruments, brought up the gain and played a chord or a note, the whole world changed in an instant. I knew where I was, once again. I was back in our living room, back in magic music-land and I knew then, every time I played, that it would work great and that everyone in the band would hear it and know the same thing and that we would fall in love all over again with this great music we were playing and making together. It really took a while before this kind of experience went away for me. Not that I minded, because it thrills me to relive those times in this writing as it did at those beautiful moments. It’s like dreaming you could fly, then standing up in some field thinking “this will never happen” and then, like in the dream, really be flying. I can’t say I really bore or felt any great weight of responsibility for this increasingly more expensive and demanding project, like “I’m the inventor so if it doesn’t work I’m a failure and have let my colleagues, expecially Ken and Dr. Bose down…”. I never felt this. It always felt great and it always was more fun that I could imagine. But I did, for a long time and over the course of a whole bunch of tests with the band, look at this wacked-out system and feel a strange sense of doubt, only to have it turn to pure pleasure of being a musician the instant I heard the music.
[need to add images and text for The Linemen in different venues here]