joy division & new order sound systems

The concept for my joy division & new order sound systems was to design and fabricate a functional object that was simultaneously local and global. Global meant a functional object that might appeal to everybody everywhere. Local meant a functional object that could be specifically adapted to each user’s home & personal preferences.

“…each system which makes the whole, maintains its identity and longevity without being affected by others while at the same time engaged in dynamic contact with others. When optimum relationship has been formed, an environmental control system can be made. The system that permits the greatest efficiency and flexibility with the smallest organizational structure is ideal.”Fumihiko Maki, Investigations in Collective Form, A Special Publication The School of Architecture Washington University, June 1964

Stereo speakers typically arrange a collection of drivers in a single cabinet. Woofer, mid-range and tweeter are placed in a mathematically determined arrangement within a mathematically calculated box volume. Two boxes are spaced a specified distance apart and a single listener is seated at a specified height and specified distance from the front of the speakers. Distance between boxes, height of listener ears and distance from front of boxes to listener ears is perfected in order to produce a near perfect sound-field. Close your eyes and its as if you are in the studio or concert hall listening to the original performance or recording.

I’ve never been fortunate enough to sit in a recording studio or in the perfect seat in a concert hall. I’m always off center, in the back, in the front, on the side, etc. Each time a band plays they play in a different concert hall which produces a unique sound experience for both band and concert goer. I wanted to duplicate this multiplicity of experiences as best I could.

My solution was to place each driver in a separate enclosure. Computer software was used to size the enclosures. Each speaker consists of a tweeter box and two mid-woofer boxes. The crossover is housed within one of the mid-woofer boxes. The system has a single arrangement that, according to stereo speaker tradition, would be considered “ideal”. More importantly, conceptually, the system can be re-arranged into at least twelve different configurations producing twelve unique sound experiences.

Each of the twelve configurations is neither better nor worse. Each configuration is unique, a unique listening experience that allows the listener to revisit a familiar or favorite album and hear the familiar in a new or unfamiliar way. Configurations allow the system to adapt to both the listener’s preferences and the acoustical characteristics of the space within which the speakers are placed.

“Cities today tend to be visually and physically confused. They are monotonous patterns of static elements. They lack visual and physical character consonant with the functions and technology
which compose them. They also lack elasticity and flexibility. Our cities must change as social and economic use dictate, and yet they must not be ‘temporary’ in the worst visual sense.” Fumihiko Maki, Investigations in Collective Form, A Special Publication The School of Architecture Washington University, June 1964
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An early 2d design drawing made to explore the variety of possible arrangements and re-arrangements of the 6 driver enclosures.
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An early 3d design drawing made to explore the variety of possible arrangements and re-arrangements of the 6 driver enclosures. The left handed guitar player (that looks a lot like Paul McCartney) was included to give the proposed speaker design a sense of scale.
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joy division sound system…by dividing the speaker drivers amongst six enclosures rather than 2, the listener can take joy in rearranging their sound experience. Prior to selecting drivers & crossovers for joy division & new order, I had my hearing tested. Once I determined the range of sounds that I was capable of hearing, I looked for speaker drivers and enclosure dimensions that would reproduce sound in such a way as to make it "customized" to my range of hearing, i.e. why produce sounds that I'm incapable of hearing.
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new order sound system…similar to joy division, new order divides the speaker drivers amongst six enclosures rather than 2 giving the listener the option of continually exploring their newly ordered sound experiences. Additionally, the drivers & crossovers in this sound system cost nearly 5x what the drivers & crossovers cost for the joy division system. I new the sound wouldn't be 5x better, but I did want to get a sense of the difference in sound quality between the least expensive speaker components I could find vs. audiophile grade components with similar enclosures used as a kind of datum.