“You can fool all of the people some of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln
“It’s desperately easy to fool yourself.” – Me
I know, I do it all the time, especially when evaluating how things sound. It’s just so easy for your head to tweak what you think you hear. Everything from a bad day at the office, to a little nasal stuffiness can have big affect on your listening skills. I’ve found that having access to measured performance helps to focus and stabilize subjective listening evaluations …
… and I think I’ve just found the quick and dirty solution.
We’ve got an Audio Precision audio analyzer, and a Head Acoustics Aachen Head in the HeadRoom Lab for measuring headphones, and they’re VERY cool tools … but at roughly $40,000, the price may be a bit steep for most folks. So, when Jamey showed me this cool acoustics measurement gadget on his iPhone I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.
“And it’s only twenty bucks!” he said.
Nice, my kinda price.
Jamey proceeded to tell me about Andrew Smith the lead developer of Audio Toolbox and his work with folks like Grace Designs and Ayre Acoustics, and his iPhone app company Studio Six Digital.
The Studio Six Digital’s “Audio Tools” iPhone app is a snap to use. It has a sound pressure level meter made to look old school with analog needle meter, rotary range control, and A/C weighting and fast/slow response switches. Also included is a 1/3 octave real time analyzer, audio oscilloscope, and signal generator. Very, very, cool.
I took the company iTouch; loaded it up with the app; played some pink noise on my speakers; and … nothing. Oh yeah, I forgot, no microphone on the iTouch.
I head over to Jamey’s area and ask him what to do. He pulls what looks like a thumbtack out of his bag, and hands it to me.
“Uhh … ”
“It’s a microphone. It’s called the Thumbtack. Go ahead and borrow mine for a while. Buy one, they’re cheap.”
Sure enough, for $12.99 and $3 shipping you can have a Thumbtack by SwitchEasy. I took it back to the lab and plugged it into the iTouch, and almost instantly I was measuring all sorts of stuff. The problem is that I’m a total measurement snob, and I wanted better than 1/3 octave red bars on the RTA (real time analyzer); I wanted a nice adjustable high-resolution FFT. Fortunately, there is one built into the Audio Tools app that can be turned on for $19.99. We were getting so much for so little already that I was glad to send a few more bucks Studio Six Digital’s way for such a cool product.
It took only moments for the iTouch to Wi-Fi connect, download, and turn on the FFT option in Audio Tools. The instrument’s controls are very simple and intuitive, allowing me to adjust smoothing resolution (from whole octave, to 1/24th octave, to none), and sample averaging (from none to 8 sec decay, also peak hold and average). There are also controls to pause the measurement, store it, take a photo snap shot, and various set-up, scaling, and signal generator options.
Enough talk, let’s go measure some stuff!