Amphitheaters, Amplifiers and Stethoscope Design
I recently attended two quite different concerts. It got me thinking about sound in our world today. The first concert was the New York Philharmonic at the outdoor Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado. Over two nights, we heard a piano concerto, violin concerto, overtures and symphonies - too many pieces to detail here. I was surprised to see that they amplified the orchestra. I assumed that classical orchestras are "purists" and would never stand for amplification. The sound engineer explained to me that they could not do an outdoor concert effectively without the amps, and they adjust the sound so that amplification is almost too subtle to notice. Indeed, I'd sat through half a concert before I even noticed the sound board. The sound was outstanding, despite a venue that has no natural acoustic benefits. The second concert was an Irish band, Snow Patrol, at Red Rocks Amphitheater. For those of you who don't know Red Rocks, it's carved out of the red stone of the Rocky Mountains, with two enormous rock formations forming the walls of the amphitheater. It is one the the finest concert venues anywhere, with amazing acoustics. Take a musical instrument when it's open for visiting, take the stage, and you can be heard in the back row. We sat directly behind the sound desk, the ideal location to hear perfect sound. There was no wind on a perfect, clear evening. We were in for one of those memorable Red Rocks events. The band came on and into the third song I began to doubt my hearing. The sounds was distorted, the notes muddy, and the vocalist unclear. I looked down at the sound desk and it confirmed that my ears weren't lying. The engineer casually sat there as each meter clipped well into the red overload zone, dancing to the music and flashing distortion. People ask me, "How loud is your stethoscope?" It's loud. Fifty times amplification is about 23dB louder than a regular old-fashioned stethoscope made out of hollow tubing. It's probably the loudest stethoscope on the market. But that's not the point. Without clarity, loud is quantity without quality. Loud is fun. But clarity is beauty. I love loud sound that overwhelms my senses. Give me an amplified New York Philharmonic and blow me away with a symphonic crescendo. Let the bass guitar vibrate the entire hall. But never, never compromise on clarity. So when you ask me how loud the stethoscope is, please also ask whether it's clear at such high volumes. The former is easy. The latter is what took all that time to research.