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In Profile: Merging Worlds with Loudspeaker Engineer/Designer Dave Gunness

Checking in with loudspeaker engineer/designer Dave Gunness.

By Kevin Young February 10, 2017

Dave Gunness

Further Progress

His first assignment at EV was to help on development of the coaxial, all-weather Musicaster 100 voice/music loudspeaker, and then it was on to bigger things, literally.

In 1984 he filed a patent for the core concept that ultimately became the MT-4 large-scale concert touring system, still fondly recalled by many old-time “road dogs” to this day.

The “MT” stands for “Manifold Technology” and essentially it’s a method for using a manifold to combine the outputs of multiple compression drivers for increased SPL and more coherent summation. Additional patents followed in conjunction with the development of horn improvements for both EV HP Series and Altec Lansing Vari-Intense loudspeakers.

In 1995, Gunness was named senior engineer at EAW, moving to company headquarters in Whitinsville, MA and joined by his wife Kathryn and their two children. Ultimately he rose to director of research and development, working with a talented engineering team headed up by Kenton Forsythe.

After initial attention to creating custom loudspeaker designs for a variety of applications and clients, his research into directional control of concert loudspeaker clusters led to what became the KF900 Series, another large-scale system incorporating DSP for each individual row of drivers in a cluster, and with the ability to deliver targeted down fill coverage without altering the cluster structure. It resulted in two additional patents.

Gunness at the computer, considering possibilities while producing tangible results.

Concentrating on both individual and collaborative possibilities with DSP, coaxial loudspeakers and digitally steerable arrays led to the creation of FChart software and, later, Gunness Focusing, a significant impetus to his work.

“The big one was using DSP to make things better,” he notes. “That started in college. DSP for audio really wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet. It was theoretical. There was a DSP chip that Texas Instruments came out with and my senior project was a paper about it. I didn’t have the chip, just the manual, but I wrote code, counted cycle times and figured out how many times you could run a given length program in 22 microseconds at 44 kilohertz and evaluated the possibility of using a microprocessor to process audio.

“That was about 10 years before DSP really started gaining interest in audio. I felt people were using DSP to replace things they already could do in analog. It added convenience, but I felt there were things you should be able to do with it that went way beyond what you could do in analog.”

Value In The Chase

Gunness’ need to innovate, he says, is a product of his personality, passion for music and audio, and the fact he was encouraged, particularly by his father, to be creative from an early age. “That’s important,” Gunness states. “If you grow up believing you can do anything, when you get an adult job you approach it from that point of view. My dad let me build a canoe when I was 10. I found a Popular Mechanics article that showed me how, he bought the materials, and I built it.”

He only paddled it on open water once, explaining, “I had no way to get it to a pond, but it was the experience of building it that was the value.” While that creative mindset is the engine that drives him, it took a bit of time to actually get it running. Technology needed to catch up, and he also needed organizational support to turn concepts into reality.

By 2004, still with EAW, he formulated a way to code and test his concepts, but he and his colleagues – Jamie Anderson (now with Rational Acoustics) and Rich Frembes (now with Fulcrum) – needed a specific DSP network that just wasn’t feasible at that time. Creating the NT Series of loudspeakers, he adds, finally provided the team with the fungible resources to move forward.

Gunness had begun development of his proprietary FChart software while at EV, seeking a software tool that would, essentially, make him a better designer. That project, too, stalled for a time. “But I learned from it, and at EAW, I thought, ‘Well, this time I’m not going to try to get funding. I’m just going to write it myself. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.”

For the record, it ended up taking 12 years and – unsurprisingly – he’s continued to enhance and improve FChart since co-founding Fulcrum Acoustic in 2008. “People know about the specialized aspect of FChart – that I used it to do steering calculations for the KF900 system, and that it’s the core of the (EAW) DSA Series – but it was also the integrated platform for core engineering. We’d measure loudspeakers with it, do polars, perform directional analysis, and obviously, DSP. I couldn’t have done Gunness Focusing without that software.”

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About Kevin

Kevin Young
Kevin Young

Freelance Music and Tech Writer, Professional Musician and Composer
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.


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