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bhays
10-22-2007, 05:55 PM
I have decided to centralize our sound at the haunted house this off-season. Trying to deal with 10-15 separate sound systems every night is just too much of a headache. I want to put together a system in the shop with all the amps and just run speaker wires to each area of the warehouse with jacks on the ceiling...then put together hanging speakers that we can just plug in and drop into each area where sound is needed. I don't want to mess with cd's, etc. really want to use mp3's or wav files from a hard drive.

I have a plan to do it with multiple delta 410 sound cards in a pc, but I was wondering if anyone else has experience with a different type of hardware where the amps might be integrated, etc?

Anyone have suggestions or details on how they do it?

beardedbil
10-22-2007, 09:38 PM
Seeing that you really want to use a computer/laptop I would seriously look at the Echo AudioFire 12 as a great choice for multiple outputs from one computer. You get 12 balanced quarter inch analog outputs all from one breakout box. Much nicer then multiple sound cards and a lot easier to troubleshoot in my opinion. If you rather not use a computer you can use mp3 repeaters from evillusions, sound bricks from gilderfluke, frightwave from fright props, I believe digital sound and lighting has Compact flash digital audio repeaters... There are literally dozens of solutions out there. Hope this helps.
Bill

Brandon_K
10-23-2007, 10:59 AM
We run 24 channels of centralized sound out of our haunt at this point. I have (2) 42U racks that house a total of 12 stereo amps, an MAudio Delta1010, two dual well tape decks, four dual well CD decks, a few rack rider power conditioners, a few computers, digital AM/FM tuner, (6) solid state MP3 players, (2) 8x8 matrix switchers, (4) 70v output transformers and a few other toys.


Hindsight being 20/20, if I had it to do again, I wouldn't do CD decks. While ours have been ok for the most part, they aren't rock solid. I have 2 wells that skip on occasion, 1 well that doesn't like to read at power on, and it takes a few minutes to set them up at the beginning of each night as you have to go through and press play on all of the decks as well as set them for repeat-all. The biggest benefit is I can record the discs, 8 channels worth in under half an hour.

The tape decks have been rock solid. In 4 years, the decks have eaten exactly one tape. Granted, these are rather high end Denon units. Tape decks have their pro's and con's. The biggest pro is that they have been absolutely rock solid. The con's are you have to record your tapes in real time. Cons: Even at just 4 channels, it takes me 4-5 hours to sit there and babysit the recording at the start of the season, making sure levels are ok, making sure the source is looping properly, etc. While the sound quality is rather good, it's still not a digital source.

As far as using a PC based system like what we use for the MAudio Delta 1010... I wouldn't do it again. The cost is to high and the risk is to high. You have $400 wrapped up in the unit itself ($400 from Musicians Friend, list is $750). Add in another ~$800 for the PC, monitor, etc. Keep in mind it needs to be a fairly beefy machine. You're not going to run this on a P3 500... When you do the math, it comes out to about $150 per channel of audio.

The biggest issue is, there isn't any software out there to do what we need for a haunt, easily and time friendly. Our needs are simple, to play a single, or multiple wav or MP3 track on a given channel and have it loop continuously. I've played with a number of packages and the only one I've really got to work is Ableton Live (add another $400 for software). It's really a pain in the ass to setup though. It's simply not designed for playback how a haunt would use it, it's designed for musicians. Basically, you have to select the tracks you want to play on a given channel and drop them into the channel. Then you have to go through and tell each track how to act. IE, when Track01 finishes, it needs to play the next track, and so on. Then, the only way you can get it to loop all of them is to set the "loop time", which is based off of beats and measures. Myself, not knowing a damn thing about music theory, had (and still do) a very difficult time for this.

Winamp can be set to run multiple instances, but after a year or two of searching and playing, there doesn't seem to be a way to easily set it up or start a sequence. Ultimately what I was looking to do was have a batch file start 8 instances of Winamp, set each instance of Winamp to play out of the correct channel and finally, load a pre-made Winamp playlist. At this time, the only way that I have found it can be done is load a Winamp instance, change the settings, load the playlist, then move to instance #2. VERY time consuming.

The other issue with a PC based system is reliability. Sure, Microsloth has gotten significantly better since the days of Windows95 and BSOD's, but it's still not perfect. A reboot will leave you without 8 channels of audio (or 16, or 24, or 32...) for at least a few minutes by the time you get rebooted and the software loaded back up. Then of course is the possibility of a hardware failure. If a drive dies, do you have all of your audio tracks backed up somewhere else? How soon can you get that drive replaced and the machine back up and running and at what cost? I only mention this because it happened to me this year. Thankfully I was prepared, but that's because I was a systems admin and I knew to be. Many people don't put much thought into the above.

And finally we get to the solid state players. As of current, we have (6) Gilderfluke SD10's that are primarily used for triggered audio (IE, prop trips, monster makes a sound), I'm currently using 2 of them for looping audio and they're working terrific. Setup is simple, set the dipswitches to the correct mode (looping all tracks, auto start), slap the SD card in and power it on. Done . It plays. No moving parts, no buttons and they're half the size of a pack of smokes.

Next year we will probably end up selling off all but one of the CD decks and one of the tape decks and then buy a number of the SD10 players. I'm also getting a demo unit of an Alesis ADAT24 to play with. The biggest drawback to the Alesis is that to loop a track, ALL tracks must loop at the same point. So if you want track01 to loop at 30 seconds and track02 to loop at 30 minutes, you can't. You'll have to "copy and paste" track01 to fill a 30 minute span and then all 24 channels will loop at 30 minutes. I don't think it's going to work, but since I can get one to play with for a month, I'm going to give it a shot.

Alcorn has a product that they call 8Traxx, but it's very expensive and has a lot of limitations. Last I checked, it sold for right around $2000. It's an 8 channel MP3 player, making each channel ~$250. Aside from price, I have two other issues with it. One, since everything is read from a single CF card, you're limited at what bitrate you can record at. If memory serves me, if you're playing 8 channels, you can only record at 96kbps or roughly cassette tape quality. Two, it goes back to risk. If that one piece of hardware fails, you just lost audio for 8 area's of your haunt. Alcorn makes very high quality industrial stuff, but nothing is perfect.

Centralized audio has it's pro's and con's. It's far more expensive, you end up running a LOT of wire (due to the size of our haunt, we have literally a mile of 12/2 audio cable running throughout) and it take far more time to install. But I don't have my amps outside in the weather, I can control everything by turning around from my desk and things stay locked up and stay put. Since we lease the building for the entire year, security is an issue and with it locked away in my office, I don't need to concern myself as much with it. Additionally, since everything is bolted into the rack, I don't have to worry about something getting damaged when we tear down at the end of the season. (While we lease the property for the year, we still take the prop / electronics and store them out of the weather). It also stops our designer from fiddling with knobs :)

I'll get some pics of our setup up tonight. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask. I'm about the only tech guy and its nice to come to a place that I can "talk geek" to others :)

beardedbil
10-23-2007, 12:29 PM
Brandon,

Have you tried SFX Pro Audio software? It features Simultaneous Playback of unlimited Wave Effects, Internal Fade Effects, Wait and Autofollow Effects, unlimited Stereo Outputs (16 channels per cue list), and wave Effect loop points. ( http://www.stageresearch.com/products/SFXProAudio.aspx )

They make software that is primarily used for theatre but with the sound card I mentioned above, the Echo AudioFire 12 , you basically tell which sound effects or music tracks you want to route to any of the 12 outputs and your set. Once its setup once, just boot the program press play, and all your files will play to the appropriate outputs. Expensive? Yea a little bit, depending on your haunting budget. Software runs around $850.

Brandon_K
10-23-2007, 01:09 PM
Bill,

No, actually I wasn't familiar with that software. I've googled for a LONG time trying to find something like that and came up empty handed.

And you're right, that certainly isn't cheap!!! I read some of the tech details and it seems that it supports ASIO, so any ASIO compatible device (Delta 1010, AudioFire, etc) works with it.

I'm going to try a few things before I go down that road. I know Winamp could be executed from CLI at one point. If it can, it shouldn't be difficult to create a script to run a xx instances, load the playlist and set it to xy channel.

screamshow
10-23-2007, 05:11 PM
Brandon,

Have you tried SFX Pro Audio software? It features Simultaneous Playback of unlimited Wave Effects, Internal Fade Effects, Wait and Autofollow Effects, unlimited Stereo Outputs (16 channels per cue list), and wave Effect loop points. ( http://www.stageresearch.com/products/SFXProAudio.aspx )

They make software that is primarily used for theatre but with the sound card I mentioned above, the Echo AudioFire 12 , you basically tell which sound effects or music tracks you want to route to any of the 12 outputs and your set. Once its setup once, just boot the program press play, and all your files will play to the appropriate outputs. Expensive? Yea a little bit, depending on your haunting budget. Software runs around $850.

Nice! Am I understanding correctly that this soundcard / software combo will allow a standard PC to run different simultanious looping sound to 12 sets of speakers? For example, outdoor sounds to the graveyard, teletubby sounds to the nursery, etc?

beardedbil
10-23-2007, 06:46 PM
Basically yes. With this software which is very easy to understand, use, and learn it is possible to route 12 individual tracks to 12 different locations. You will however need long audio cables which is also an added cost. You might be better off decentralizing your system. Instead of going the route of running all your audio from one room, why not buy a bunch of sd-25's which include amps in them, and save money on all your long audio cables by placing them right by your speakers. Also they can start running and playing audio as soon as power is applied so no running around and hitting play to 12 different players. Check out what will be easiest and most cost effective for your setup.

beardedbil
10-23-2007, 06:48 PM
Bill,

No, actually I wasn't familiar with that software. I've googled for a LONG time trying to find something like that and came up empty handed.

And you're right, that certainly isn't cheap!!! I read some of the tech details and it seems that it supports ASIO, so any ASIO compatible device (Delta 1010, AudioFire, etc) works with it.

I'm going to try a few things before I go down that road. I know Winamp could be executed from CLI at one point. If it can, it shouldn't be difficult to create a script to run a xx instances, load the playlist and set it to xy channel.

Brandon keep me posted on your progress I would love to hear what works for you and your event. Thanks!
Bill

bhays
10-23-2007, 09:14 PM
I'll get some pics of our setup up tonight. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask. I'm about the only tech guy and its nice to come to a place that I can "talk geek" to others :)

Brandon,

I would love to see some pics. I had planned on using four Delta 410's or four Gigaport AG's http://www.esi-pro.com/viewProduct.php?pid=12 to save a few dollars. The Gigaports look good, but near as I can tell they are usb 1.1 and I question if there is enough usb bandwidth available to run all the channels at once. I had planned on running winamp via a batch file and CLI using this little program:

http://membres.lycos.fr/clamp/

Without it, you can still start multiple instances:

http://forums.winamp.com/showthread.php?threadid=180297

I hear you on the single point of failure with the pc, however. I was going to do a raid 1 setup and use a case with dual power supplies. For amps, I was going to use these little 10 watt T-Amps http://www.thinkgeek.com/electronics/audio/6cd8/?cpg=froogle
At $29 for a stereo amp and pretty good reviews, it seemed like a real deal. With all hardware and speakers, it comes in at about $100 per channel.

For prop sound I use ISD Chipcorder players and planned to leave that decentralized at each prop. I can buy those with 60 second chips for $24 each, but they have to be recorded in realtime and it just seems more convenient to have a pc where I can see what's going on and change an audio file just by pointing and clicking...

I also like the idea of being able to play music in the off season on work days and to have a house wide announcement play in the event of emergency, etc. Paging capability would also be cool, but I don't see any cheap/simple way to accomplish it. Is the sync good enough with the Delta card to play the same audio file to all channels simultaneously?

Brandon_K
10-24-2007, 10:07 AM
Bill, I'll keep you updated. We only have 5 days left in our season (tonight through Sunday) so I won't be doing any serious work on it at this point. Regardless, I'll keep you in the loop when I do get around to it.

Brett, thanks for the links on the Winamp CLI. I knew it was out there, I just haven't had much time as of late to look into it. After doing some reading, it appears the only issue I might have to fiddle with is having it change the output to the appropriate channel, as it is effectively changing the output driver.

I'll play with it and see where it takes me once I have time. I still think I'm going to get away from the PC based setup, just to much to deal with when there are other options out there that give me more flexibility. I started the Delta 1010 project a while ago, well before Gilderfluke had their SD10's. At the time, the cheapest hardware based unit that would work for our use was $300+. Costs have come down significantly over the last few years on CD quality playback devices.

As far as paging, "haunt wide" music, etc, you're correct, there really isn't a cheap way to accomplish it for the most part. Right now we use two 8x8 matrix switchers that run ~$350/ea. After this season, those are going away and I'll be installing a Knox or Kramer unit. I want to go for a 24x24 or 32x32 unit, but unfortunately Knox only offers the MediaFlex in a 16x16 which is a really super sweet unit, it just doesn't provide the channels that I want to have. To get that, you have to get into their 64i series which starts at $4000 for the frame alone...

As it sits, due to the layout of our haunt, even the 8x8 works for emergency page, haunt wide music, etc. It may not play in every room on every channel, but once you turn the mic gain up a bit, it can still be heard in 99% of the haunt.

I'm not a huge fan of the chipcorders. The sound quality just isn't there. Everything in our haunt, including prop sounds are centralized. More expensive yes, but more flexible. Though as of right now, the back of my rack looks like a rats nest.

Yes, the sync is good enough on the Delta to play the audio file on all channels, so long as you have the processing power and resources to back it. My system is a P4 3.2ghz w/ 4gigs of ram.

I got caught up fixing some props last night (why in gods name can't these vendors make something that will last a single season?!) so I didn't have time to get the pictures. I'll try to get those done tonight.

Brandon_K
10-25-2007, 08:50 AM
I took some shots of the gear last night. My apologies for the quality. The office sits a top a room that is fairly heavily fogged and it makes it's way into the office, hence why the pic's are quite hazy. At some point I'll throw some better ones up that have more detail.

The first pic is the left rack, housing primarily the power amps. There are a few DVD players in there (currently not in use), the Delta 1010 and some storage for CD and the like. The bulk of the amps are Radio Shack PA amps. While not exactly the leader in quality, I was working at the Shack when these were purchased and I was able to get them at $90/ea. They've been rock solid and give us plenty of volume to work with (125w/ch @ 8ohm, 175w/ch @ 4ohm, 250w @ ohm bridged). We have a few Rolls and a Crown amp down below the RS amps.

The next picture is the right rack which houses all of the playback gear. From top to bottom, AM/FM tuner, (4) dual well CD decks, (2) 8x8 matrix switchers, (2) dual well tape decks, crossover, computer, etc.

The following pictures are behind the racks. The pictures should be pretty obvious, amp rack and playback rack. The last picture shows the bundles of cables that go down through the floor and then get distributed throughout the house.

bhays
10-26-2007, 09:33 AM
I had a chance to visit with Terry at Industrial Nightmare last night and check out his sound room. He uses a Digital Binloop system from Alcorn McBride.

http://www.alcorn.com/products/binloop/index.html

http://www.alcorn.com/products/binloop/images/binloop_front.jpg

It provides up to 32 channels of audio from compact flash cards and seems almost foolproof. I am certain they are big money new, but he has about a 10 year old model that still works like a champ. I am going to be on the lookout for a used unit, as this seems 100% more trouble free than the PC/audio card route. Does anyone have experience with this equipment or a source for used units?

Brett

beardedbil
10-26-2007, 10:25 AM
That sounds like a really amazing piece of hardware. Also after reading the website it looks like it can also store video, so if you ever do any video effects, or do a pre-show with a short video you can store it right on this machine and have a solid state video player. Nice find!
Bill

Brandon_K
10-26-2007, 10:35 AM
Brett,

I have been looking for a used Digital or Video Binloop for a while now. From what I can tell, they simply don't exist.

The Digital Binloop is overkill for most attractions. The Video Binloop is less expensive and the only thing it doesn't do is 24bit audio (16bit only) and it isn't compatible with Cobranet (very cool, very expensive, very un-needed for small haunts. Typically used in large distributed applications). VERY expensive, especially if you're using it for audio only.

I've had the oppourtunity to play with a Video Binloop and they are very cool. Keep in mind though, it's not 32 mono channels, it's 16 stereo channels, so if you want to run 32 different sound tracks, you have to load 2 tracks per Binloop channel and edit the audio to loop at the same time, etc. Also, oddly, it doesn't support MP3, or at least the unit that I had the chance to play with didn't. WAV and PCM RAW only.

As nice as it would be for our haunt, I would have to find one at a substantial discount over new to get one.

Alcorn makes some very cool equipment though, it's all just very expensive.

bhays
10-26-2007, 11:35 AM
That sounds like a really amazing piece of hardware. Also after reading the website it looks like it can also store video, so if you ever do any video effects, or do a pre-show with a short video you can store it right on this machine and have a solid state video player. Nice find!
Bill

It also accepts a contact closure to trigger any channel, so you can run prop sound through it as well.

too rich for our blood, most likely, though.

geckofx
10-29-2007, 01:15 PM
All you need, and can get for a reasonable price is a hard disk drive recorder. They generally come with 24 channels and if you get a used one you can get it for a totally decent price. Toss the output to the amps, and you'll be rockin and rollin in no time.

bhays
10-29-2007, 02:51 PM
All you need, and can get for a reasonable price is a hard disk drive recorder. They generally come with 24 channels and if you get a used one you can get it for a totally decent price. Toss the output to the amps, and you'll be rockin and rollin in no time.


Can you give me any brand/model names to get me started on the search?

beardedbil
10-29-2007, 06:01 PM
Yes i would like to hear more about this also, are hard disk recorder is just to general to narrow it down on Google...

geckofx
10-30-2007, 02:36 AM
Alright lets throw some product names out there then, and I'll give you rough prices if the items were new.

Fostex D2424LV - $1000-$1500

Mackie HDR - $2500ish
Mackie MDR
Mackie SDR

Now a place I used to work for used the Fostex because we were looking for something new and the lower end Mackie are no longer made. Worked great and that was well within the price range we were looking for.

However if you are shooting lower than that here is the skinny on the Mackie's. Originally their line had three models. The SDR, MDR, and HDR. The SDR was the cheapest then the MDR and HDR respectively. For whatever reason they canceled the SDR and MDR units and now only offer the HDR. The HDR is WAY more unit than you need. Actually the MDR is way more than you need, the SDR would suite you perfectly for your application and is also the cheapest. I just checked and they are floating around on ebay for a decent price.

I don't know how fancy you are looking to go with this but I have some other suggestions if you want to push this as far as it can go.

The philosophy behind this kind of equipment is that while it is a high cost up front purchase, it is very simple to operate once you have it setup, literally push play, turn on the amps and you're rolling, and it will last the life of your haunt as long as you take care of it.


Freddie

bhays
10-30-2007, 08:19 AM
The philosophy behind this kind of equipment is that while it is a high cost up front purchase, it is very simple to operate once you have it setup, literally push play, turn on the amps and you're rolling, and it will last the life of your haunt as long as you take care of it.
Freddie

Does it loop the sound files easily? In many cases you have a 2 or 3 minute audio file you want to repeat all night...I just wouldn't want to get into a situation where it took 20 minutes of opening files, hitting play and repeat x 24 channels to get sound going that night.

I am just curious what level of complexity is involved vs something like the binloop that you just hit one button on. Or, albeit a hardware cluster, the Delta cards and Winamp with a batch file that loads all the players when windows boots.

beardedbil
10-30-2007, 10:00 AM
Here is a link to the manual for the Mackie SDR 24/96 for anyone who is interested...

http://mackie.com/pdf/sdr2496_og.pdf

robos99
10-30-2007, 10:02 AM
Does it loop the sound files easily? In many cases you have a 2 or 3 minute audio file you want to repeat all night...I just wouldn't want to get into a situation where it took 20 minutes of opening files, hitting play and repeat x 24 channels to get sound going that night.

A HDD based recorder is not what you're looking for in this case. HDD recorders are intended for a continuous multi track (or channel) recording. So this will go from beginning to end, on all 24 tracks at the same time. You might be able to get it to loop, but all tracks will loop at the same time, not separately. Further, you can't have a closed contact trigger fire off the tracks either.

I have one of the Mackie HDD recorders (not sure which model, it was the cheaper one) and it's quite a nice machine, but would not do what you're looking to do. You'd have to load all your sound files into a sound editing program, loop them all internally to the desired length, send them out to separate wave files, and then load each wave file onto the machine.


Aren't there any manufacturers that make audio products geared specifically towards haunts? Or perhaps people that can put together audio products intended for something else and package them in a manner useful to haunts?

bhays
10-30-2007, 10:10 AM
Aren't there any manufacturers that make audio products geared specifically towards haunts? Or perhaps people that can put together audio products intended for something else and package them in a manner useful to haunts?

There seem to be a lot of people making individual digital sound units for prop sound, etc. but not a centralized unit such as I am looking for. The Alcorn McBride Binloop system is ideal, but it's targeted at the theme park/amusement industry and priced accordingly.

robos99
10-30-2007, 10:40 AM
There seem to be a lot of people making individual digital sound units for prop sound, etc. but not a centralized unit such as I am looking for. The Alcorn McBride Binloop system is ideal, but it's targeted at the theme park/amusement industry and priced accordingly.

Yes, I'll agree that the binloop is way too expensive for most to use. Same goes for their line of show controllers. Excellent products but definetly not meant for the budget minded.


On the issue of centralized units, do you think there would be a market for such a thing? I'm a bit of an audio expert and right now only dabble in the haunt industry as a hobby, but I'd certainly be interested in developing audio solutions targeted at haunts if there was a market for it.

And if such a thing were to be made, what do you think people would want out of a centralized audio system?

geckofx
11-01-2007, 06:35 PM
Actually you don't need to drag it into a sound editor. Granted I do this now because we mess with every audio file we use, but back when I first started this gig I used a CD player to record each track onto the recorder.

Here is the skinny.

The setup on the HDD Recorder is where the money is, it takes some time, but once everything is dialed in you turn it on, hit play and away your audio goes. We setup a 30min loop on ours. Each of tracks varies between 30sec to 10min. If you use winamp on your computer as the source for recording the reset time between loops is instantaneous, so you get no break in the audio on a given track. We record each track for 30min and presto, you're done. You will have a discontinuity in the tracks once every 30min, you could push this longer is you so choose. Our haunt is roughly a 20min walk through which means the customers will at most catch one point where is sounds like the audio skips.

We don't look at our audio as number of tracks, instead we approach it as the number of channels. Each channel can have a singe speaker, or an array of speakers. A HDD Recorder gives you 24 channels of audio. It is totally possible for several of the channels to be identical, and using the spiffy copy and paste features on the recorder you can have the channels lines up exactly. This way if you have a larger area where you want say 8 speakers all playing the same audio you could simple run 2 channels each with 4 speakers in series, or 4 channels with 2 speakers in series.

So if you take those 24 channels and power them using inexpensive home theater stereos. Best Buy sells a 5ch Insignia for $150 you could easily power 96 speakers in your haunt for right around $2000 and that is with all new equipment.

No this system does not allow for small loop triggering as per props. There are a number of audio units out there that serve this exact purpose. Most of the major vendors sell a triggered audio unit with their props for a little extra. And some controllers come with audio units built in. We have not been particularly thrilled with the quality of audio coming from the triggered units. And the units that do offer near 44.1khz PCM quality are so expensive it seems like a waste. What we have been using lately is a CD player hooked up through and octal base relay that the props controller will trigger. This gives us two advantages. One we get the high quality audio coming from a cd player. Two we can split the left and the right channel and have an ambient sound for when the prop is not triggered, and a separate sound for when the prop goes off. The main downside to this approach is that the CD player is continuously playing and the sound kicks in and out randomly through the tracks. That is to say that there isn't a given start and end point for the sound. A little creativity when arranging your audio tracks gets past this however. We have a great setup using this system with some transformers we made, and a Unit 70 Crawler.

I probably should just write an article about all this crap with diagrams and examples. What do yall think, would Larry be interested?

Freddie

robos99
11-02-2007, 12:54 PM
You're correct, you don't need an audio editor to use HDD based recorders...I was thinking along the lines of the way I usually do it. The problem is you can't have 24 channels loop independantly. As you stated, you have a workaround for that, but to me that sounds like it's more trouble than it's worth.

If I were just playing background tracks all of the same length, then this would be great for that. But if you have 24 channels of audio, all of the same length, getting them to all loop together and seamlessly would be a real pain.

You mentioned the audio quality from the triggered units is suspect. Is this quality bad because of the design of the playback device or could it be something else in the signal chain? I'm used to working with large scale PA systems for rock concerts, so at any point there could be a dozen different things contributing noise to a system. Could it be that the connectors used on these are sub par?

But moreso, just how important is true cd quality audio in a haunt? I can see how a high quality, 5.1 digital surround setup could create some really cool effects, but is this really important to anyone? Does audio play a huge role in your haunts? (that's directed to anyone out there). I see a lot of mention of acting, and props, but not a whole lot on the subject of audio, aside from this thread. Just some things I was pondering as I wrote this.

bhays
11-02-2007, 01:58 PM
But moreso, just how important is true cd quality audio in a haunt? I can see how a high quality, 5.1 digital surround setup could create some really cool effects, but is this really important to anyone? Does audio play a huge role in your haunts? (that's directed to anyone out there). I see a lot of mention of acting, and props, but not a whole lot on the subject of audio, aside from this thread. Just some things I was pondering as I wrote this.


I don't know about cd quality, but decent quality sound makes a tremendous difference to me. That's why I am upgrading our sound system this off season. We have been using various crappy Wal-Mart stereos, etc. for the past seven years and when I go to a Haunt like Industrial Nightmare where good quality PA amps and speakers are used, it creates a completely different experience.

actiondeath
11-02-2007, 03:15 PM
Has anyone tried a PC with multiple sound cards. Sounds like that is basically what the HDD unit is. I've never tried multiple sound cards in a single PC, but I have used multiple video cards and capture cards, so I would think multiple sound cards are possible. Most PC sound cards are not too expensive, but for this application, they would need to be equipped with internal amplification (unless your haunt speakers are amplified).

Also, it's been a while since I have used WinAmp. I know you used to be able to run multiple instances at once, but I don't know if you can configure each instance independently (one instance playback on sound card #1, another instance playback on sound card #2, etc.) If Winamp can't do it, I wonder if another program could.

One limitation I can see off the bat is that most consumer boards only have about 4 to 6 PCI slots, so you'd be limited to that many channels (or 8 to 12 if you have an audio editor and you want to run mono).

A little work in initial setup, but after that, I think it would be pretty smooth once you have it down. I may try that sometime unless someone else has and it can't be done. Does it make sense?

robos99
11-02-2007, 03:58 PM
Has anyone tried a PC with multiple sound cards. Sounds like that is basically what the HDD unit is. I've never tried multiple sound cards in a single PC, but I have used multiple video cards and capture cards, so I would think multiple sound cards are possible. Most PC sound cards are not too expensive, but for this application, they would need to be equipped with internal amplification (unless your haunt speakers are amplified).


I beleive this idea was discussed earlier in the thread.

Basically a HDD type recorder could be boiled down to just a computer with multiple sound cards...but it's packaged much nicer. It's usually standalone, so you don't need a computer. And some have advanced editing functions built into them. It's not far off from computer based recording.

I don't think I've ever seen PC sound cards with internal amplification. If they did, I would think the quality would be suspect, not to mention you won't get a lot of power out of them. What you really want to do is run the signal from those sound cards (or any other playback device) into a power amp or stereo receiver, and run your speakers from there. This is the signal chain in it's most basic version. I'm intentionally leaving out anything like mixers, mics (for annoucements or emergency messages), and signal processing like EQ and such.

actiondeath
11-02-2007, 06:18 PM
Gotcha. I must've missed that. I was thinking with internally amp'd soundcards you could bypass the big amps. It would be more self-contained that way. To power each channel externally, you would need a separate amp for each pair of channels (unless you had a distribution amp with multiple independent I/O). I suppose that would still beat having 12 home stereo systems running, but I was trying to thin it down a bit more.

I had an HP Pavilion a while back with internal amplification, so I know they exist (or at least they did). I believe it was 10 watts, which wouldn't be terrible for a haunt application if you are using the right speakers.

actiondeath
11-02-2007, 06:33 PM
As far as one amp with multiple independent I/O (for simplicity and space), this one looks decent-

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000XURBKO/ref=nosim/?tag=nextag-ce-tier3-20&creative=380333&creativeASIN=B000XURBKO&linkCode=asn

Good price too!

geckofx
11-02-2007, 07:32 PM
If I were just playing background tracks all of the same length, then this would be great for that. But if you have 24 channels of audio, all of the same length, getting them to all loop together and seamlessly would be a real pain.

The idea is not to get them to loop seamlessly. There is going to be a hiccup in the track, but it will only happen once every 30min for us, and you could easily push that back to an hour if you wanted. Keep in mind if you use a CD player as the source every time the CD loops you are going to get a breif moment of silence while the laser resets. It is a trade off, and it is one that we believe is so minor it is no worth making a fuss over.



You mentioned the audio quality from the triggered units is suspect. Is this quality bad because of the design of the playback device or could it be something else in the signal chain? I'm used to working with large scale PA systems for rock concerts, so at any point there could be a dozen different things contributing noise to a system. Could it be that the connectors used on these are sub par?

It is the sampling rate these devices tend to use. As I mentioned earlier CD audio is at 44.1kHz and most samplers are kicking in at less than 22kHz.

The quality to audio you need really depends on what you are trying to do with it. A surround sound system in most haunts would be a waste because people would rarely be in the right place to hear the sound from all angles. However you can take that same surround sound system and get 5 discrete audio channels out of it. So one surround sound amp = 2.5 stereo amps.

The harder you drive your audio, the louder you get it, the more apparent crappy sampling rates become. We drive most of our props off of JBL Eon powered speakers. These are some big boys and get pretty damn loud. Anything below 22kHz becomes noticeably annoying in quality. Ergo using the CD players, it is a cheap way to let us drive everything as hard as we possibly can.


Look guys the idea behind something like the HDD Recorder is the whole "go big or go home" philosophy. This is more for the haunts that want there patrons to walk out with the ringing in your ears you get after a rock concert.

If you are looking to go much smaller than that barrow MP3 players and CD players from your cast. Buy a low power multi-channel system. While audio is a great dimension to a haunted house it is not worth breaking your budget over.

But when you are ready to suck them into the 9th level of hell, trust me a HDD recorder will not do you wrong.


Freddie

HauntedWebby
11-07-2007, 01:26 PM
Dang do I feel old school. I just purchased cheap boom boxes from wal-mart. Hacked them into a switch board that my hubbie made. 2nd hand speackers.

Swith up it's music, switch down it's a PA system controlled by a cheap karaoke machine. You can PA the whole haunt or each room ... your choice. :)

$200 later and I have sound/pa in 25 rooms.

Not the best choice for ear shattering effects ... but that is not what we go after since we are so actor based :D