Vienna Symphonic Library, an innovative, music software and sample library developer based in Vienna, Austria, premiered its long-awaited Vienna MIR reverb software at the 2009 Winter NAMM Show, in daily demonstrations within an intimate, soundproof Presentation Cube. The “Cube” was originally created by Austrian acoustics designer, Peter Willensdorfer of tonachitektur for VSL’s first public appearance at the 2002 AES Convention. In anticipation of VSL’s new launch in January, VSL decided to completely renovate the Cube—from the aesthetics to the audio—featuring Blue Sky’s state-of-the-art Sky System One 5.1 Surround System.

VSL’s long-time Senior Audio Engineer, and an independent music producer, recording/mixing-engineer, Dietmar “Dietz” Tinhof took control of the redesign. As a Blue Sky user and aficionado, he was confident that the Sky System One surround setup would be the ideal audio provider to showcase the new VSL software in the Cube, and worked in conjunction with Austrian distributor, Wolfgang Sauter from ProPerformance, to arrange the systems.

“For the release of Vienna MIR, a development we have been working on for five years, VSL decided to refurbish the Cube from ground up,” Dietz recounted. “Apart from the visual changes, the main goal was to include a full-blown surround monitoring system to allow for the most convincing listening experience of the new approach Vienna MIR brings to virtual orchestration. I’ve been a big fan of Blue Sky monitors since I first heard them and use a 5.1 MediaDesk—a small, but incredibly honest and powerful monitoring system—in my workspace at home. My kids have their own EXO systems, and I’ve successfully suggestedProDesk and Sky System One-setups to producers I worked with, or customers of the VSL. The sound and feature-set of the Sky System One was the ideal choice for the setup we had in mind for the Cube. The fact that it’s a sealed monitoring system (opposed to ported loudspeakers) made it much easier to fit it into a very peculiar listening environment like the Cube, which has quite a few acoustic idiosyncrasies due to its form and size.”

They arranged for two identical systems—one sent to Los Angeles in the Cube’s container by ship, months before the NAMM-show started; the other was installed in the studio of the VSL’s resident composer, Christian Kardeis. “We knew we could work on our demo material until the moment we left for the airport,“ Dietz explained, “knowing that our mixes would translate perfectly inside the Cube.“

With the small size constraints of the Cube—a 13.1-foot square space—there were inherent challenges of the room acoustics. “There is no proper way to implement a ‘text-book’ ITU-surround circle if you actually want to use all the space of a quadratic room,” he recalled, “not just the remaining in-circle. We got off lightly, though, by implementing delays in the millisecond-range for the center speaker, and larger ones for the surround speakers. The transmission of the bass frequencies was obviously the biggest problem, and we overcame this problem partly by equipping the system with two woofers instead of just one for better spatial dispersion of the bass. The woofers were positioned slightly off-center on the front side of the cube, aimed at opposite directions, which gave us the most convincing overall frequency response. But I have to admit that even after intensive measurements, tuning and moving the woofers around, the laws of physics showed the limits of a small room in this regard, there was a quite perceptible exaggeration of frequencies below 60 Hz in certain spots of the room – something our listeners seemed to enjoy as additional ‘wow-factor’”.

From the Cube’s visual and conceptional design to the sound and the transient response, the demo proved an immeasurable success for VSL—from company personnel and show attendees alike. “We had four days of flawless, great-sounding performances during the Winter-NAMM show. Many people who attended our presentations commented about the great acoustical setting within the VSL’s Cube; some of the more involved people were especially surprised by the satellite-concept of our System One, and got excited by the view of the dedicated remote-controller. Quite a few visitors in the Cube were convinced that we had the speakers on display! I would choose the same system again in a second, for this or any application.”

By Diane Gershuny