©2016 VICE Media LLC

    The VICE Channels

      This Guy Invented a System That Lets You Play Music Really Loud Without Pissing Off Your Neighbours

      April 14, 2015

      Xergio Córdoba

      This article originally appeared on VICE Spain

      Xergio Córdoba is a mastering engineer from Spain who has patented a system that uses psychoacoustics to allow concert halls and nightclubs to boost their volume while still maintaining the same dBA. The invention is called Masn´live© and it's basically a processor that once inserted into any sound system, it allows you to enjoy music at its intended quality without breaking any noise control laws.

      Basically, you can crank the volume right up without whingy neighbours or nearby businesses ever noticing. Could this be ultimate solution for party-goers everywhere? We sat Xergio down to ask.

      VICE: How did you come up with this technology?
      Xergio Córdoba: I came up with the idea a few years ago, when talking to a client who ran a nightclub. It can be quite difficult for a lot these places to run their businesses with the legal constraints surrounding decibel output. Acoustic emission regulations demand lower sound pressure levels and the sound quality deteriorates massively in order to restrict the emission of lower acoustic frequencies. Bad sound can really ruin the reputation of a business.

      Don't you think those regulations are helping to limit unnecessary and potentially damaging noise?
      Well, the club business used to be a "no man's land" where anything went. So, of course lawmakers are doing the right thing by caring for the environment and taking people's homes and businesses into account. That said, I think that developers and site owners need to do things right and begin checking out whether buildings and their surrounding environment are actually suited for a nightclub or not.

      So, what are the first steps when you decide to build a tool like yours?
      Testing the equipment and running all the corrections and solutions after countless hours of insomnia. The mind just seems to work more freely in those hours. Actually, the vast majority of this system was conceived and developed during sleepless nights with only a small recorder to capture all of my insane ideas. It wasn't that easy, though.

      Just when you think that you have built it and it's good to go, you need to start patenting the product and – together with the development team – begin writing down the ins-and-outs of the entire thing, in a way that people can't misunderstand. There's this constant worry that, all of a sudden, a company will appear and say that they've done it before. There's plenty of patented things that have never gotten released. Actually, there was another company who were looking into technology like this. They actually tried to block our patent but luckily we won it.


      Xergio posing with his patent

      Can you explain, in layman's terms, how this system works?
      Well, it's quite complicated to oversimplify the process, but basically it's as much about the physical sound-wave as it is about how the brain interprets the same sound-wave. It's pure psychoacoustics.

      To give an example, it's like when you listen to an mp3 through headphones and there's a drum or a bass, but the headphones are too small to reproduce it correctly. This is instead done by evolutionary compensation. It's something that we use a lot in mastering and have applied to our system in order to accomplish what we were after.

      Does your system protect against excessive noise and potential ear damage?
      Hearing damage is based on dBA levels and the amount of time that your ears are exposed to those levels. Unfortunately, our system doesn't prevent ear damage but what it does is it helps your brain perceive music as if it's louder than it actually is and, in that way, it minimises exposure to damaging frequencies.

      At what point did you know that you'd achieved what you wanted?
      We knew we'd achieved success when we saw that we could achieve bass frequencies that appeared more powerful than they actually were. We were able to double the loudness, while still maintaining the same dBA, as well as improving audio quality and impact.

      Double the sound at the same dBA level – that sounds amazing. What do you think is the limit?
      Well, doubling the sound is already more than a victory for us. Especially since we achieved it while maintaining audio integrity and quality. Not too long ago, at a pretty well known club in Madrid, we hit almost three times the sound but the quality began to deteriorate because the room was packed. They chose to keep it at that level though – even with a slighter lower sound quality – because it was their anniversary.

      Where else could you use the system – maybe a house party?
      It has been tested at a house party in Barcelona. But, above all, it's aimed at artists looking to transmit their musical message in the best quality possible. We can achieve real wonders with next to no sound issues. It's basically the same as audio mastering, but at a venue instead of a studio. Pretty much everything sounds better, higher, sharper and there's much more detail. We've tested it in a whole bunch of places, all with extremely surprising results. We've tried it with blues, pop, salsa, rock – all genres.

      Which artists have tried it?
      Laurent Garnier tried it at La Riviera. We used it at Sonar with people like Ellen Allien, Steve Lawler, Joris Voorn and Miss Kittin. Jamie Jones used it at Teatro Arteria in Barcelona. Lee Foss used it at the Egg Club in London, Pendulum in Madrid, a bunch of times at Fabrik and Atlántida Barcelona; also Oscar Mulero and Christian Wunsch at Reverse.

      It sounds like it would be pretty good for outdoor raves. Can it be used in open spaces?
      Sure. It can be used in any area that has a good sound-system, really. It's proven effective in both enclosed and outdoor spaces. We actually used it in a bunch of different scenarios during Sonar Festival. We'll try and implement it at many more renowned festivals this year.

      So, what's the next step? Going commercial?
      Yes. That's the hardest part – you need to create something new but not too new, because most people won't understand it. It's all about us "encoding" the musical experience in a way that the mind can "decode". It's definitely hard to take that next step – that final step.

      Topics: psychoacoustics, fabrik, egg club, sonar festival, laurent garnier, joris voorn, miss kittin, jamie jones, pendulum, oscar mulero, christian wunsch, reverse, patent, sound, eternal midnight, Xergio Córdoba, Masn´live©, music, clubbing, culture, travel, Barcelona, VICE Spain, Riviera club, decibel, dBA, VICE International, how to play music loud without pissing off your neighbours

      Comments

      Top Stories