Anya Datasheet #1: Understanding S3
In the marketing silliness running up to Anya’s debut at the Coachella Festival, we said, “There is no datasheet. There can never be a datasheet. It’s all very Zen.”
While, of course, we will have a datasheet very soon, the reality of adequately documenting Anya is proving difficult. In order to understand what an “Anya datasheet” means, we need to review what these documents represent to the market and how they are created.
Long story short: they don’t tell you a lot and may well be misleading.
Even within our own hallways, even with our rigorous S3 process, high-level executives recently had a conversation about positioning the JF213 vs. the JFL210. How could we say that the JFL213, with its lower HF section maximum output, delivered more HF compared to the JFL210? The answer is that the JFL213’s HF section delivers more even broadband response, especially in the top octave but at a slightly lower average level compared to the JFL210′s HF section, which is a little “peakier” and rolls off a little faster through the top octave.
The frequency response charts tell the story pretty clearly; the nominal specifications do not.
This is why datasheets – even S3 datasheets, the best datasheets ever – can be misleading. Distilling a complex system down to a few simple numbers necessarily eliminates any complexity.
And eliminating complexity from a complex thing is inherently misleading.
“But,” replied the audio pro, “that’s why you publish the charts.”
Yes. And because these are S3 charts, they are directly comparable because they used identical methodology to generate the core measurements that underlie them.
There’s also a bigger problem with datasheets – other companies make them, too. And they don’t use the S3 process. Some may try very hard to deliver consistent, accurate data on product performance. Others maybe not so much.
The point is that EAW can only control the accuracy of EAW datasheets, and we do so with great care. So let us briefly explain in simple language what S3 is, what it isn’t and how the S3 process turns measured audio data into visual outputs.
Quest for a Standard
It would be great if every loudspeaker manufacturer used the exact same process to gather data and generate datasheets. If there were a standard that met our need the way S3 does, we would likely support it, assuming we were assured that everybody complied with the standard.
You see already how this is going off the rails. Our industry is far too secretive to support a true standard; standards require transparency. So you, the person who is supposed to compare competitive products and make an informed buying decision, know going in that the datasheets you get from manufacturers are at best a crude tool that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff. You know they won’t help you distinguish the awesome wheat from the rest of the wheat.
“But,” said the acoustical engineer, “that’s why you have ears.”
Savvy audio pros know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Thus, demos and shoot-outs are the real test of any system’s performance. This is the only true standard in our industry.
At EAW, listening on its own is not good enough; we need a measurement standard if only for ourselves.
We need to know with 100% certainty that the set of measured data we acquire next week will be directly comparable to a set of measured data we acquired several years ago. If they are not directly comparable, our entire approach to loudspeaker design and application falls apart.
That’s why we developed the S3 process for generating data.
S3 is an Internal Standard
For over 15 years, EAW engineers have been using this process:
- Capture acoustical measurements
- Combine those measurements with other measurements as in an array
- Use all those measurements as inputs to computer algorithms
- Run algorithms to develop signal processor settings that produce a specified acoustic outcome
- Create the arrays and measure the performance
- Compare measurements to prediction to confirm the accuracy of both the original measurement and predictive algorithm
A measurement mic and test software showing results that match the Resolution model – at EAW, this is a datasheet.
We learned early on that step 2, combining measured sets, required ultimate consistency across all the data measured. Every measurement had to be identical to every other measurement in order for combined performance to match prediction.
S3 is the protocol – the steps and conditions to meet – that ensures consistency across the entire library of measured data and the S3 datasheets that result from it.
“But,” said the audio pro, “you can make up anything and put it on the datasheet.”
Maybe somebody could make up a datasheet, but it’s not EAW. To a large degree, the S3 process itself determines what the nominal specification turns out to be, and the process errs toward the conservative.
For example, nominal sensitivity largely determines peak output. Peak output is the ultimate number, so manufacturers like to publish a high sensitivity specification. One way to do it is to find the octave or the part of an octave that has the highest sensitivity and use that as the nominal specification for the system.
That can’t happen at EAW. The S3 process sets nominal system sensitivity at the broadband average as indexed against the operating range, which is -10dB. And it’s that way for every S3 datasheet, so EAW users can accurately compare products across the EAW catalog with assurance that the products will deliver the performance they expect.
Our customers know that when they design complex arrays with Resolution and implement with UX Series processing or supported 3rd party systems, they will get the predicted performance.
So in terms of a datasheet for Anya, it’s a little bit silly to publish a nominal specification for a system specifically designed to deliver highly customized performance in a variety of situations, hence the marketing silliness. But you can rest assured that the core measurements for the Anya system are rock-solid accurate and directly comparable to any EAW product created under the S3 process.
Where from Here?
Part 2 of this 3 part series will discuss EAW software development and the evolution of our approach to the art and science of controlling sound in the digital domain. Spoiler alert: the predictions are extraordinarily accurate.