Network: My Technology: Heard and not seen

OMD's Andy McCluskey sings the praises of the humble loudspeaker

The oft-neglected loudspeaker, the humble loudspeaker. I probably have a lot of common with most people when it comes to technology or machinery - I am happy to use it, but I don't know how it works. It's something to do with magnets, coils and vibrating cones.

Effectively, speakers have remained the same since they were invented but the technology that drives them and puts the sound in them has changed again and again. The basic principle works, but they have modified and improved; it will always look the same and act the same.

We all know that aircraft have transformed life, but they are so huge you can't miss them. The humble loudspeaker has been overlooked in the roll call of life achievements. If you pardon the pun, `let's hear it for the loudspeaker'.

The speaker in itself is not a very sexy object to look at. These days they compensate through being over-designed boom boxes, from ghetto blasters to fancy-fronted grill devices, you never see the speaker you are listening to.

Loudspeakers are available in any number of watts. Speakers with thousands and thousands of watts are the big black box ones at the side of the stage which obscure your view. Without them you wouldn't hear ear-snaring guitar and thumping bass.

To see a PA crew set up in a venue and hear them sound-check the speakers is frightening; it sounds like a tornado coming through your head. One of the interesting things about every speaker is it's a bit like a pair of glasses - it actually distorts reality.

Every speaker has a different frequency response. In the studio one of the biggest problems when doing a mix is whether to trust the speakers. It's a mundane job, but you have to rely and trust that the speakers are even, otherwise you can get an over-flattering or an unflattering picture of the sound.

The problem is made worse because every studio sounds different. It's like how every person's stereo sounds different. I always cringe when I hear my music for the first time in the real world after spending time in the studio. But short of everyone setting up their stereo to the same bass and treble, it is inevitable.

What we do is think most people listen to music with the loudness as a priority, full boost bass and full boost top. It's not the way you make it in the studio, but you vary it on those lines.

In a studio a lot of people consciously mix on not very good speakers. Their theory is if you can make it sound good on those then it will sound good on everyone else's. But if you do it on a super dooper one you have no idea. It amazes me.

I go into a top studio and they are checking the sound on a crappy speaker. It's a real reality check, what it will sound like on the road. But it's such a contrast to all the money and technology in the studio that the acid test is what it will sound like on a crap system. But I don't really worry myself about that. I hate being in recording studios. It's like pulling teeth for me to start worrying about whether they are being true, flattering or colour heavy with too much bass or too much top treble.

I use my computer every day for writing songs. I didn't used to, but it's so common nowadays that most music is computer-generated, apart from guitar music. With the advent of samplers it means you can play anything. I have 94 different tracks of sound and 124 different other instruments available through a midi-controller.

It's just scary how the technology for making music has changed. When we started, the synthesiser sound was cutting edge. Everything was played by hand. Our first hit was played on a synthesiser bought from Kay's catalogue. So much for cutting edge.

`OMD - The OMD Singles' (Virgin) will be released on 28 September

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor