Posts Tagged ‘audio’

The Wave Organ

May 29th, 2019


The Wave Organ, photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikipedia
 

On Memorial Day I found myself in the Marina in the evening with a little spare time. I figured I’d try visiting The Exploratorium’s Wave Organ. Though I’ve been before it was seemingly never working. As it turns out, I simply hadn’t followed the directions — as the official website explains, The Wave Organ only works at high tide. Fortunately this time the tide was coming in. Sure enough, it was working!

The Wave Organ is built out of reclaimed concrete and stone at the end of the Marina Harbor jetty, with metal pipes sticking up that produce sound as the waves splash past the lower end. Here’s a short clip I recorded from one of the pipes:

 

 

I don’t know what I had in mind, certainly the echo-y sloshing sound of the waves coming through big pipes is nothing like your typical church or old fashioned movie theater organ. It’s more of a natural, meditative soundscape. It’s not super loud, but if you put your ear up to the pipes it sounds much louder than the passing waves down below.

During my visit the place was crawling with people… most of who were taking selfies instead of listening to the organ. To be fair it is a decent spot to get a photo of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I didn’t get any decent photos of my own before I had to take off; the photo at the top of this post is from The Wave Organ’s Wikipedia page.

Ambient sound of new and old BART trains

April 10th, 2019

Now that BART’s new “Fleet of the Future” trains have been in regular service for a while, I’ve found myself on them dozens of times. The extra set of doors in the middle is my favorite feature, followed by the significantly improved ventilation. The live map is nice too.

But the biggest change is the audio. No more unintelligible operators mumbling what train you’re on or what station you’re arriving at; now a generic female voice clearly states this information automatically.

This got me to wonder what else might be different about the way the new trains sound vs. the old ones. Listen below to two recordings I made with my phone on two short morning BART commutes.

 

 

For comparison, here’s the same ride on a much older BART train. The only automated announcement is the warning that the doors are closing, and there’s also no door chime.

The biggest surprise to me listening to these on my headphones is the slight rattling sound. Definitely didn’t notice that when I was recording this and I’m surprised my phone’s microphone even picked up such a small detail.

 

 

You can tell in both recordings there’s still some squealing as the trains go around the corner from 16th and Mission to Civic Center, though nowhere near as much as with the previous wheel design. I kind of wish I’d made a recording a couple years ago for comparison but I don’t know how that awful sound would have come out on a phone. Lest we forget, the old BART rail screech was so unbearable in the Transbay Tube it was once recorded by an audio designer for a survival horror video game.