THE SOUND OF LIFTOFF!
Thanks to the help of a friend at NASA, I was able to record the liftoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery on March 8, 2001 from the Kennedy Space Center VIP viewing site at 3.1 miles from the launchpad (as close as they let anyone get during the launch except for crew members). Also with the courtesy and help of Gary Baldassari, Mike Morgan, and Andy DeGanahl, who supplied some of the equipment used. Andy and I braved the all-nighter and captured the launch at 6:42:09.059 am EST.
This is a quick time video of the shuttle launch with 16 bit 48 K STEREO Apple Lossless Sound and music accompaniment. PC Users: If the movie will not run when you click on it, then download Quicktime 7. The music is provided by Orlando’s superb Sovereign Brass, whose album I mastered. Audio engineer Andy DeGanahl took the images with his trusty 8mm handicam. Andy, don’t quit your day job! Registered users: Download the video.
9/10/09. In addition to the stereo recording, made with the DPA mikes, we are very pleased to present to you the Shuttle Launch in SURROUND, at 96 kHz/24 bit, which matrixes the DPA 4041s with the Sennheiser figure 8s to produce a 4 channel recording. Registered users: Download This is a free download of the original 4.0 recording (just the shuttle launch, without the music accompaniment). Thanks to Chris of airwindows.com for inventing the asynchronous conversion that allowed me to synchronize the front and surround channels of this recording, which were made on two independent Masterlink recorders. The result is incredibly realistic and natural. If you have a properly bass-managed surround system with high headroom subs (preferably a pair of subwoofers with accurate response) then this recording will knock your socks off. The proper reproduce gain is +7 dB above the Dolby standard calibration. That’s right, turn up your monitor gain 7 db higher than the SMPTE standard 83 (or “85”) level calibration. The free audio files are only available to Digido.com registered users (it’s easy to register, just go to the Login menu at the top). After registering, click on the RESOURCES menu and choose DOWNLOADS. The discrete PCM WAV files can be found in the Discovery Shuttle Launch section of DOWNLOADS, as well as a DVD-A from an Iso image file, or the Quicktime Movie. If you download and play these files please give me some Social Media love!
We are also providing a 24bit 96 k Surround Flac 5.1, also available to registered users. It’s coded for Surround 5.1 and uncompressed. Note that the Center and LFE tracks will contain silence. Thanks to Stephen Edie for creating the file, he used 5.1 format to avoid channel mapping ambiguities on playback.
Technical specs of the recording
Four microphones and two independent hard disc recorders at 24 bits, 96 kHz were used, which were sync’d up later to produce a fantastic surround recording. Two spaced omnis at 6 foot left and right distance were DPA 4041s, and on the same stands, “synchronous” Sennheiser MKH-30 figure 8’s. When decoded via dual MS decoders to surround, the outdoor enthusiastic audience should subtend an angle from about 45 degrees left or right all the way around and behind the listener, with the NASA announcements to the right and behind you. The shuttle liftoff commands stage front center, but with doppler waves and echos throughout the front soundstage and distant echoes behind you and the audience largely behnd you. Playing this back in surround is a true “environmental experience.”
About the Spectrafoo Audio Analysis
Through the magic of Spectrafoo’s audio analysis tools, the audio “portrait” (above) demonstrates that there’s nothing like being there. The spectragram runs from T minus 4 seconds to about T plus 2 minutes. I don’t think there’s anything on earth that compares with the sound and sight of that fire-breathing monster on liftoff. If you study these incredible specs, including a spectragramic timeline of the liftoff, you will see that to do justice to the experience, you will need a low-distortion subwoofer system capable of producing up to ~119 dB SPL on peaks at 25 Hz and ~116 dB SPL at 16 Hz and below! If not, then you will not be able to feel the chest-thumping, clean solid bottom that is produced. Ironically, the shuttle liftoff from the VIP site is “just loud enough” in person, a pleasant and not ear-damaging experience. Think of it as an 8.3 GWatt amplifier/loudspeaker with zero percent distortion and response down to DC! Running at say, 40% efficiency, that would take 20 thousand megawatts from the breaker box! Those figures are calculated by Dick Pierce from the comparable Saturn 5 moon rocket. These are the figures at 0 foot distance. Of course, some power has been dissipated at 3.1 miles, but examine the astonishing figures below.
It turns out an LFE channel is not needed to reproduce this recording with a properly bass-managed system, because “bass” is the focus of this recording and it requires turning up the gain by 7 dB ABOVE Dolby standard. However, it could not be engineered to reproduce at Dolby Standard monitor gain without redirecting the bass to an LFE channel or it would overload the digital level. But then the bass would not be in stereo, and the shuttle definitely sounds better to me with stereo bass.
Thanks for reading!
Enjoy— Bob Katz.
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