By John Murray • July 30, 2014 Since the early 1980s, the term “time alignment” has been tossed around pretty freely, and with dubious degrees of accuracy. Note, however, that this was far from the first time the concept was noticed. Indeed, the engineers who provided the loudspeakers for the first “talkie” film, Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, noticed that the “taps” of the tap dancing scenes came out of the high-frequency (HF) horn and folded-horn low-frequency (LF) woofer at different times. Ever since, designers have been trying to time-align loudspeakers. The phrases “time align,” “time aligned,” and “time alignment” are trademarks of E. M. Long, the inventor of the famous UREI 813 monitor loudspeaker used in recording studios. Thus for purposes of this discussion, we’ll use generic term “signal alignment” to avoid having to use those ®’s and ™’s. Most folks believe that signal alignment between drivers in a loudspeaker cabinet is a matter of measuring the difference in distance to the front of the cabinet from each of the driver’s voice coils. Then, by adding delay to the driver closest to the cabinet delay that corresponds to the difference the signal of all drivers will then be aligned properly. However, this is not correct! We must understand both filters and phase to properly signal-align HF and LF drivers. All filters “rotate” phase, causing a positive “phase-shift” to the frequencies that pass through them. Because 360 degrees of phase-shift equals one wavelength, and wavelength can be described in terms of distance or time, any phase-shift at a given frequency can be described as a signal delay of an exact length of time. For example, because 1000 Hz is 1000 cycles per second, one wavelength (or cycle) is 1/1000th of a second, or 1 millisecond (ms). Therefore, 360 degrees of phase-shift at 1 kHz is 1 ms of delay. Then 180 degrees of phase-shift (1/2 wavelength) is 0.5 ms of delay and 90 degrees (1/4 wavelength) is 0.25 ms of delay at 1 kHz. For 2 kHz, because the wavelength of a cycle is one-half as long, then the phase-shift delays would all be one-half the time of delay. At 20 Hz, 180 degrees of phase-shift (1/2 wavelength) is 25 ms, or 28.25 feet of delay at the speed of sound. Read the rest of this post 1 2 3 About John John Murray Principal, Optimum System Solutions John Murray is a 35-year industry veteran who has worked for several leading manufacturers, and has also presented two published AES papers as well as chaired numerous SynAudCon workshops. He is currently the principal of Optimum System Solutions, a consulting firm based in Colorado. Comments Have something to say about this PSW content? Leave a comment! Cancel reply Scroll past the ”Post Comment” button below to view any existing comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Website This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Tagged with: Audio Basics Drivers Engineer John Murray Loudspeaker World Measurement Reference Articles Sound Reinforcement · all topics Subscribe to Live Sound International Subscribe to Live Sound International magazine. Stay up-to-date, get the latest pro audio news, products and resources each month with Live Sound.