A History of Hemispherical Speakers at Princeton

The Near Complete History of Spherical and Hemispherical Speakers Stemming From Projects at Princeton University

compiled by Scott Smallwood, Dan Trueman, and Perry Cook


| 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2001 | 2005 | 2008 |


1997

It all began with Dan Trueman, and his dissatisfaction with using guitar speakers to amplify his electric violin. Perry Cook took this to heart, and paying a visit to Bed & Bath, and to some Radio Shacks, he took up his trusty saber saw and other tools. The result: "The Bomb."

Disturbed by the lack of isolation of the individual speaker drivers, Perry paid a visit to many Radio Shacks and a Home Depot. This resulted in "The Boulder."

Being an IKEA type, Dan secured some wooden salad bowls (as opposed to the metal ones used for the Bomb). After some time in the Cook basement speaker lab, the spher-o-nauts had some seriously cracked bowls on their hands. The bowls had to go to Long Island for "glue and clamp rehab" in the wood shop of Dr. Trueman Sr. With some tom-tom mounts and legs, "R2" was born.

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1998

Aside from his other talents, Dr. Laurence Trueman (Dan's dad) is one wicked good woodworker. He worked out the angles for his power saw so it could cut hunks of wood such that they assemble into a wonderful sphere with twelve individual enclosures (think "Best of Boulder and Bomb"). Alliterations aside, "The Critter" was created.

This was integrated into the Bowed Sensor Speaker Array (BOSSA).

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1999

Growing weary of building our own spheres, Dan found United Speaker Enclosures, who were selling spheres with one driver in them. We convinced them to make make us a bunch of spheres and hemispheres with 12 or 6 speaker mounting holes. "Generation 2" was born.

Meanwhile, Curtis Bahn had become infected with the spherical speaker virus, and set out to make a really big one based on the design of "The Critter," for use with his sensor bass. The result: "Bubba."

Once he had made the biggest, Curtis wanted to make the smallest too, but to emphasize portability and sensor control of sound and music performance. Out popped the "Bubba Ball." Not really a spherical speaker, but a controller heavily inspired by one.

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2001

Stephan Moore, an MFA student working with Curtis Bahn at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked with his professional cabinet maker uncle, Ken Malz, to create lots and lots of these nice hemis of "Generation 3."

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2005

Dan Trueman, Perry Cook, Ge Wang, and Scott Smallwood started the laptop orchestra in the fall of 2005. Meanwhile, Moore and Malz began designing an improved speaker with better wood and larger drivers. Cook, Trueman, and Smallwood tacked onto this a multi-channel interface capability. This six-channel "4th Generation Hemi", the Gray Hemi, hit the scene. This hemi was also the first to be produced and sold commercially. Tim Place and Jesse Allison had founded Electrotap LLC to make and sell their cool interface stuff for interactive electronic music performance. They began offering the "4th Generation Hemi" to the world.

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2008

Although the Gray Hemi design had provided years of success, one of the main obstacles for our ensemble was portability. Part of our weight and bulk issue had to do with amplification and interfacing. Since we have been using 6-channel hemispherical display systems, we have required six channels of amplification for each player, thus an external equipment rack which we populated with not only needed amplifiers (Stewart DA-70-2 and DA-70-4) but also the computer audio interfacing box (Edirol FA-101) as well as sensor/controller interfacing (Electrotap Tea-boxes).

Due to recent advances in amplifier technology (cite sources), we were able to ponder the idea of integrating amplification electronics into the speaker enclosure. In addition, as interfacing technology has improved, particularly in the areas of custom sensor interfacing and the widespread adoption of the USB 2.0 protocol for HID devices, we were able to further eliminate the specialized devices that we had been using previously. The result is that we are now scaled down to two primary pieces of equipment: a laptop, and a hemispherical speaker which provides for its own amplification, as well as a small firewire audio interface, which is mounted to the bottom of the speaker.

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