Dynamic Plate Reverb

Eli Faber, College of Engineering, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Joshua Cheng, SMTD, LSA; Adithya Sastry, SMTD, LSA; Kiera Saltz – Technical Audio Expert, Craftsmanship

Faculty Advisors: John Granzow, SMTD – Audio Electronics; Sile O’Modhrain, SMTD – Acoustical Engineering

DIYers in the audio engineering field have been making plate reverbs ever since their invention. We aim to create a plate reverb unit with flexible pickup positions via stepper motors, which (to our knowledge) has never been done before. We have already located a permanent home for the unit with the Tech Suite Manager Kiera, which would allow this unit to be used as a learning tool for students across departments in audio engineering and music fields. It will also be available for personal use by those certified in the Tech Suite. This project will culminate in a performance in the Performing Arts Technology showcase at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, in which we will demonstrate its creative capabilities.

The Dynamic Plate Reverb team is made up of three students who all bring different skills to the table. Eli, an Electrical Engineering major, will create schematics for the circuitry, and apply his knowledge of signal routing. Additionally, Eli has built a smaller static plate reverb in the past; Eli can draw on this experience to help set realistic milestones for the project, as well as create a template for the larger schematic. Josh has an extensive background in computer science and Arduino programming, which is useful for the mechanical aspect of the project. Adithya also has experience in computer science and can aid Josh in coding and debugging the Arduino program. Additionally, Adithya’s knowledge of acoustics will help us optimize the musicality of the plate reverb unit.

One challenge we face is that we are not all experienced in every aspect of this project’s development, but our different interests will motivate us to use our individual strengths to advance the project. Learning how to integrate one’s interests into a wider-scoped project is an important part of anyone’s professional development; this project will help hone that skill. Another challenge this project may face is that engineers are taught to optimize devices for cost, trying to find the cheapest components that still do the job well, whereas musicians are usually interested in maximizing the quality of the device. This potential source of disagreement will force us to engage in real world problem solving, compromise, and create a final product that we are all happy with.

We aim to create the first plate reverb unit with changeable contact positions. Reverberation is an acoustic phenomenon that gives listeners an experience of space and depth. With Eli a vocalist, Josh a pianist, and Adithya a drummer, the creative uses vary widely. Plate reverb units are devices that feed a signal into a metal plate, and record the reverberations that the plate makes through piezoelectric discs. These units have been used by countless artists, including the Beatles. Our plate has changeable pickup positions, through the implementation of CoreXY – used in 3D printers. This will give the user unlimited creative choices.

The project should span two school semesters. Soon after we receive funding, we plan to order materials, and reserve spaces such as the Brehms Technology Suite Workshop and Duderstadt’s FABLab. We have already found permanent housing for the unit.

We have divided our plan into six stages:

Stage 1: Prototype the base electronics/motors.

Stage 2: First working prototype of the plate, combining stage 1 mechanisms.

Stage 3: Damping mechanism.

Stage 4: Implement stage 3 on the unit.

Stage 5: Final testing/debugging.

Stage 6: End-of-year performance, and placing it in its home in Kiera Saltz’s office.

This project can be a learning tool for students interested in engineering (schematics), music (creative), or acoustics (understanding of auditory phenomena). If this project comes to fruition, the PAT department could utilize this unit to educate students. This project also has creative applications for personal music production.