John and Joel have been bugging me for ages to write something about my experience at the Harman Academy this past June, but I’ve been at a loss about where to begin. Is there anything new to say? What superlatives haven’t been used yet? I’m sure it’s been said before, it is absolutely a Disney World for AV guys -- “Experience the amazing Multi-Channel Listening Lab!!” “Hear the wonders of tone sweeps!” “Bask in the isolation of the anechoic chambers!” Kidding aside it was a genuine privilege to experience firsthand things I’ve been reading and hearing about for years.
Readers of past newsletters will know that the Harman Academy is a two-day training opportunity for dealers that Harman hosts at their HQ in Northridge, CA. What separates Harman from other manufacturers is that the Academy isn't merely a training on their product line. It is an in depth look at how Harman brands Revel and JBL create their products as well as the principles of acoustics, both creation of sound and room acoustics, which guide that creative process. I wish it had been a week-long trip but it was generous enough of Harman’s staff to give us as much of their time as they did.
DR. FLOYD TOOLE
The Academy started with a talk by Dr Floyd Toole, one of our heroes here at The Screening Room, about his time at the Canadian National Research Council, his research in acoustics, and how he created the loudspeaker testing processes which lead to his being hired away by Harman and given the opportunity to continue his industry-leading research while applying his knowledge in the manufacturing world. Dr Toole’s experience covers the history of Hi-Fi.
Highlights of the rest of the day, for me, included being treated to talks from Dr Sean Olive about how room characteristics affect speaker sound and placement; from Principle Engineer Chris Hagen about JBL’s line-up (and a great demo of the new JBL L100 Classics!), how testing in an anechoic chamber works and their use of the Klippel testing software; and a visit with Revel’s Principal Engineer Mark Glazer who showed us around his lab, discussed his approach to speaker design, and demonstrated Harman’s large anechoic chamber.
DR. SEAN OLIVE - PRESENTATION ON CONTROLLING VARIABLES DURING SPEAKER LISTENING TESTS
JBL ENGINEER CHRIS HAGEN SHOWS OFF THE JBL 4367 AND L100 CLASSIC
REVEL ENGINEER MARK GLAZER IN HARMAN'S LARGE ANECHOIC CHAMBER
BLOG AUTHOR DAVE CARTY'S ATTEMPT AT A TARZAN YELL FOILED BY ANECHOIC CHAMBER
One of the things I find most engaging about Harman is their iterative process of product development and their willingness to share that process with the entire audio industry, in the true spirit of science (seriously, Harman publishes their findings as peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals). We witnessed a striking demonstration by one of their lead engineers, An Nguyen, who showed us how they test cones and domes using a laser to reveal any break-up modes that can result in audible resonances. The results of the test could be seen in real time to pinpoint any areas of the cone that might be improved to increase efficiency / linearity.