Interstate 495/Capital Beltway, Inner Loop, Northern Virginia at about Milepost 50 near Braddock Road exit, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 (yesterday), approx. 2:00 PM

If you’ve ever driven in the Washington, DC area, you should be able to figure out what’s rare about this photograph. I’ll add two more details: road conditions are not unusually slippery (surface is wet, not icy) and this stretch of highway did not have limited access when I took this photo. 

This past Tuesday I was doing business near Washington, DC with a colleague from the Boston area. We then had to drive to Richmond, VA to spend the night because we had an appointment first thing Wednesday morning. There were reports of a major snowstorm coming. We had an afternoon appointment that a lot of people had to drive to in Fredericksburg, VA, about halfway between Richmond and DC along Interstate 95, and then I had to take him to a hotel near Dulles Airport.

Wednesday morning rolled around. Snow was falling in Richmond but not sticking to the road at that point. The guy in charge of our Fredericksburg meeting was telling me that guys from the DC area were bailing right and left, so we postponed. The Federal Government was closed. We went into our meeting, which took a couple of hours, and outside we could see snow falling pretty densely with large flakes. When our meeting ended, the parking lot had a little over an inch of snow. We had to head north, so we were a bit worried. Not terribly; we weren’t in a rush, I’ve driven plenty on snow and my passenger, who was willing to drive, lives outside of Boston - enough said. 

We get out of the lot. The road has no snow on it. On a local highway, I cross slush while changing lanes. And that’s the worst I drive in all the way up to the DC area. Snow on the sides of the road have blades of grass visibly sticking up through it, all the way up. We have to drop a couple of boxes off at a guy’s house, so we go back to a residential area. Still no problem driving, even on the side streets. I try to go into a local bank branch later that afternoon: closed, I’m assuming because of weather, because I’m well within posted hours. 

In the DC area, because so many people come from elsewhere, a whole lot of people are afraid to drive in weather. The Government and a whole lot of local businesses are closed, so hardly anyone’s on the Beltway. 

This sinply is not what anywhere on the Beltway looks like during daylight. In fact, it’s not what the Beltway looks like on a weekday between 6 AM and 1 AM. I was very freaked out. I had to snap a few shots, and this is the one where my windshield wiper is out of the way. At the time there was a light snowy drizzle. For most of the day, driving was unusually easy and quick because conditions were decent but traffic was unusually light. 

Unfortunately, yesterday evening I would run into the opposite situation. After I dropped my guy off at his hotel near Dulles - he couldn’t fly home early because the airlines had cancelled flights to New England - I headed north toward home. A little after I reached Pennsylvania, the roads got a bit slippery, but things didn’t get bad until I hit Interstate 81 just north of Harrisburg. This is a highway that goes through mountains, and it was snowing. Road conditions were what you would expect if Chris Christie was Governor of Pennsylvania and had it in for someone driving from Harrisburg to Hazelton (where the snow turned to rain). We’re talking a little under an hour and a half if conditions are good. I spent a fair amount of time driving in columns moving a little over thirty with a left lane that was white. I never saw evidence that any of the road northbound had been plowed. Southbound, oddly enough, was moving well. My best guess is that whoever ran the plow route was screwing someone else’s wife and not telling anyone where he was. 

The right lane, the one you can see, often looked considerably worse than this. 

The road cleared at Hazelton, leaving me another couple of hours to home, so I stopped at a Denny’s for dinner (it’s what I could find easily). I got home a little after eleven. Two days, starting Tuesday at 2:45 AM, less than twenty miles short of a thousand. I don’t like it when part of it is slow driving due to weather. 

I’ll now include another photo from the trip. This has nothing to do with driving but has to do with the purpose of the trip. Why I’m telling this story will not become apparent until you see the photo. The guy I’m traveling with works for a loudspeaker company. We were requested by a design and installation company to assist them with a product demonstration, so we shipped the speaker in and went over to demonstrate it. Technology in this area has gotten way more sophisticated in the last several years, so these systems do things most people (including a whole lot of people within the industry) aren’t aware can be done at all, including keeping loudness pretty even as you get away from the speaker and minimizing the effects of room acoustics. We’re demonstrating a single box just for proof of concept, and we’re forced to demonstrate it from a table top rather than elevated, where it would perform substantially better and eliminate problems we can’t from this height. Also, when these speakers are stacked and electronically combined, they can accomplish the aforementioned even loudness and reverberation reduction functions much more effectively than a single box can. So we demonstrate the box on a table top and the people from the facility prefer it to the ceiling-mounted system they have, and the system that preceded that one, as is by itself on the table top. Not ideal, which is why they still want the full system, but an obvious improvement in terms of sound and intelligibility. Perhaps more surprisingly once you see the photo, the speaker can fill the room by itself without being pushed anywhere close to its maximum. This is by no means an inexpensive box, but you’re about to see why.

I’ve never tried anything like this before. Not at a distance like that with a single box. 

In case scale is at all ambiguous, the box is 18 1/2 inches tall. 

Views: 86

Comment by alsoknownas on March 22, 2018 at 12:25pm

I think this means I can get smaller speakers for the stereo system than I am used to having.

Is it still called stereo?

Comment by Anna Herrington on March 22, 2018 at 12:39pm

That Beltway shot is incredible! And I even live on the west coast.... but will never forget driving in the endless traffic of the Beltway when I have, years ago.... seriously crazy drivers, too.

....and what aka said  ; )

Safe journeys ~

Comment by J.P. Hart on March 22, 2018 at 1:06pm

Play it loud my friend!

Comment by koshersalaami on March 22, 2018 at 2:01pm

Anna, Thanks
JP, On occasion
Depends on what you’re doing I guess and where you shop. A lot of the industry turned to audio for video, at which point it went to surround, but it was never as good an investment for basic sound for the simple reason that you can get better sound out of two good speakers than five mediocre ones. If you’re not specifically doing movie sound where there are effects from the back speakers, adding more speakers actually reduces quality because now you’re superimposing a third space. You start with the space on the recording. You add that to the acoustics of your room, which is usually not that big a deal. With surround, because you can delay back speakers, you’re now often artificially creating a third space. 

 You can go smaller than you think, which has actually been true for at least 45 years but it wasn’t common knowledge - you had to know where to find them. There are trade offs when you go small, at least if you’re going to go high quality when you go small. One is that you need more power to reach the same loudness because large speakers tend to be more efficient. Another is bass: it’s easier to produce bass with size, but again there are trade offs, and producing it with a smaller speaker can sometimes make the bass tighter and more accurate sounding. Another may be cost, depending. You can go really small if you use a subwoofer for the bass. 

The speaker in the photo is a different thing altogether because it sounds good and full range but it does tricks that you just don’t need in a room at home. Most living rooms are neither big enough nor hard enough to reverberate a whole lot, so you don’t need to counteract that, and people normally listen closely at one or two seats, so you don’t need equal loudness and equal intelligibility at what is typically at least a few hundred seats. If someone charged full retail for the speaker in the photo (which I think most dealers don’t), you’re looking at more than $13,000, which may sound ridiculous but they save money elsewhere. Amplification and room equalization (you’ll know what that is) are built in, and in detail (full parametric), and this design can save the necessity for both additional speakers elsewhere in the room (along with their amplification, installation, wiring, processing, and design) and room treatment, which can get expensive. 

Comment by alsoknownas on March 22, 2018 at 2:13pm

I'm thinking that since my idea of splurging is to check out a DVD at the library, which is free, that more than one $13K speaker probably won't happen.

My goal is to drown out a certain noise that seems to happen every time a particularly important part of the dialogue is happening.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on March 22, 2018 at 2:47pm


Comment by koshersalaami on March 22, 2018 at 4:00pm

There would be zero point to putting that loudspeaker in a house unless it was a damned big house. You can get sound that good in a single room for way, way, way, way cheaper.


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