What nobody tells you and admits about Funktion One

Created: 21 January 2016

Everytime I read another interview with Tony Andrews, the man behind the famous Funktion One (F1) or hear him talking about the problems with global audio quality or even bragging about their own sound quality and how totally bad all other speakers are I get angry. He even mostly manages to make the stuff he says sound reasonable to the layman. Is that why I don't like the F1? No, it is because my music sounds totally crappy on F1! What? That is it? Well, yes, and no, i'll come to that. Far more it is because I don't like it if someone spreads wrong information and even more I don't like if something is hyped. I don't like it when people believe in something because of the hype and lack of better knowledge and experience.

Now, if you think I'm an idiot now because your are convinced that F1 one is great and you heard it yourself let me tell you two things:

First, I understand that so many people believe the F1 is a great system and are also rightfully convinced of that! It's simple: if you only hear totally crappy PA-speakers all your life and then hear a F1 you will probably think it's the fucking best system you have ever heard. How would anyone who hasn't heard better or not in a short period of time within each other know that in reality the F1 is only average. How would anyone know what they are missing on top of that? To be honest: There probably even was a time at the end of the last millenium when F1 were among the top players in the business, but they forgot to go on, they have long been passed by many others but the hype and other terrible systems live on.

Second, F1 does indeed have some unique properties, besides the look, which make them particularily attractive for a certain kind of music and a certain kind of music production. In fact it is of course electronic music. But not any electronic music. Due to their transient response, that is how quick they can react to the music, F1s sound particulary great with electronic music that is minimalistic and clean. The less different sounds, the better. Take a kick, a hihat, a lead and a snare, run it through an F1 at high volumes and you will experience something that maybe even no other speaker company can do. It, almost literally, blows your brain out and even makes it feel kind of good. The pressure and precision is just insane and it sticks out.

Wait? Wasn't that supposed to be a rant? Wasn't I to tell you how average the F1 is? Yea, I'll come to that. But I also wanted to make it a point that I actually understand what I'm talking about and do have a differenciated opinion about those speakers. Btw. I do know what I'm talking about because of a couple of other reasons. 1: I have been building, fixing, renting out PA-speakers and speakers since I was 15 years old, 2: I have been producing and writing music for almost 20 years, 3: I have organized several festivals and therefore chosen and worked with various professionals and their systems, 4: I'm a trained electronician, became physics teacher later, so do know my way around tech a bit. 5: I have played on F1s with my own music myself several times, one time at Boom Festival 2008, where F1 and Andrews himself is involved a lot. 6: I go to damn electronic festivals for over 20 years, fuck.

So now that you know I can appreciate the strengths of the F1 and probably believe that I do have some background, lets come to the point where I tell you why I can't stand those speakers and think that we should all burn them! Just kidding. I only want to raise some awareness.
Well, as I said earlier: My music sounds like crap on them. What does it mean? Now you say: "sure he hates them because they make him look bad". But look, why do I tell you that? I don't have to. I could just avoid this fact and piss all over F1 all the same. But I do tell you because my music can be used as a great example of the one great weakness of the F1-System. In short: Midrange resolution! You sure know what resolution is in a screen or a digital photo, it is how many pixels fit on the screen and therefore how well you can see details in an image. I and some others use this word for speakers just the same. How many layers of sounds can you play through these speakers at the same time and still hear them appart? And that is where F1 fails miserably. 

See, I always hated to produce my music so that, I quote mastering engineers and producers from all over the world: "it sounds great on all possible speakers and even smartphones and laptops". I mean, come ON! Why the fuck should I miss out the opportunity to create something wonderful, diverse, complex with miriads of sounds just so that you can listen to it on dumb laptop speakers? I've always made it a point in my production to just ignore a wide portion of crappy speakers on this planet and concentrate on the better ones. In my studio I have a pair of Dynaudio BM6A and Genelecs 1037B. Not the best speakers in the world, but those speakers have an amazing resolution. It's wonderful, you can play any song and you will hear new details that you never heard before. And this is how I make my music: For great speakers. I compromise very little for bad speakers with low resolution. And this is why my music sounds like crap on the F1. 

F1 hates music with millions of details and layers and sounds, F1 are low-resolution speakers, only music with low resolution will sound truly great on them. A lot of music, especially often electronic music, is produced for low-resolution speakers simply because of the fact that every experienced electronic music producer knows very well that most PA-speakers suck donkey balls and therefore they match their music to the crappy speakers to make it sound well even on your kitchen radio. Of course many also truly like it extra clean, and like that "low resolutionish sound" because of their taste or their sub-genre, or they simply grew up knowing nothing else. But in any case, if you take that kind of music and play it on F1 which are tuned in well it can sound quite great because of their transient response especially in bass. 

But once you play music with a lot going on in the midrange or which is simply aimed for high-quality speakers it will shockingly show their weakness. But at that point where that happens, people are too much believing in the quality of the F1 system that they will blame themselves, the dj or the producer. So does Andrews himself.

By now you know everything you need to know, but if you are bored let me tell you some more things. Andrews, in interviews and lectures, never stops blaming the audio itself for the shitty soundquality at festivals or even through his own speakers. He ends up stating technical facts that are just plain wrong. For example at a lecture at Boom 2010 he sayd FLAC is a lossy file format and should not be used by DJs. In fact FLAC is a lossless file format with the exactly same audio quality as a CD. Or he, like many others, still believes that an MP3 file can never be good enough, which is as also very arguably wrong if you make a distinction in the conversion quality. At the same lecture at Boom 2010 he demonstrated very poorly the difference between an mp3 and CD by playing a 128bit mp3 file Throug a small F1 and then comparing it to a CD. Of course the difference was easy to hear. See? He said, proud to have made his point. The thing is: Of course he was right, everyone can hear a 128bit mp3, but it has been shown many times over that even professional listeners can't hear the difference between a 320kbps mp3 and a CD. (Wanna try?). So I then asked him why he didn't demonstrate a 320kbps mp3 file converted in the best algorythm. His answer? "because we wouldn't have heard the difference"... think about that answer for a moment... I mean, seriously? What the fuck was that supposed to mean? There are really only two things: Either he just said that his F1s were not able to transmit it or that he actually just unproved his own point by saying a well encoded HQ mp3 can not be distinguished from a CD. Either way it was embarassing.

Furthermore Mister F1 is a big hater from everything DSP (digital signal processing). You need to know: modern, truly great PA speaker makers, have actually understood that there are physical limits to a speaker, to a membrane, to an enclosure made of wood or any compound used today and they have started to use computers (DSPs) to correct that physical limitations before the sound even goes into the amplifiers. The results are remarkable. He thinks it's crap. Just because its digital. Andrew has a very narrow minded and incomplete view of the digital world and has no idea how amazing the possibilities are today. He probably heard some crapy DSPs 20 years ago when they still were crap and then he forgot that, you know, computer technology exploded and all.

But there is even more to come: There is one more reason why F1 is not only average but even obsolete: Sound distribution. Modern systems, called line arrays (of course he hates them too), are able to distribute the sound evenly over a wide area. That means the front row won't have bleeding ears just so that the last row can hear anyhting at all. It means that the volume is much more constant everywhere. That is done with those speaker-bananas you see hanging at big concerts. Those bananas have a actually a nice trick up their sleeves. All those single speakers are actually providing sound for one slice of the dancefloor. It's ingenius. The top most ones point to the back of the floor and the lower ones to the front. The top ones play of course much louder than the lower ones because they have to go farther. But not only that. In some systems the subwoofers don't just point forward but also BACKWARDS with their phase inverted! They on purpose cancel out the sound that goes to the back and through precise phase shifting it no exactly 180° they actually can even shape the distribution of the bass over the dancefloor and make it less not only in the back but even on the sides. All digital of course. A modern Line Array can drasticall reduce sound-pollution around the dancefloors. It's amazing technology but decades ahead from what F1 does and ever will do, because it is digitaly controlled. F1 technology is 1990s technology.

So what speakers are great speakers in my opinion? For our festival we rented first a d&b Q-system with Subs from their J-System and later a Kling & Freitag Sequenca. If we had more ressources I would try a full d&b J-System. But to be honest I've heard line arrays from Martin, Dynaudio, Clair and JBL all sounding better than an F1 without a lot of effort. That is why I say F1 is average at best. But hey, being average with 1990s technology isn't bad. And if you just want to beat your brains out with kicks and hihats I can totally recommend it. Just don't ever think they are truly good speakers. Because good speakers can do more than that.


How the PsyTrance scence evolves...

Created: 06 April 2009

Some while ago the mushroom magazine sent some email in order to get some opinions from labels and such. I got to read those and one question actually triggered my mind. Mushroom didn't respond to it, but I'd like to share my thoughts here:

Mushroom Question:

What do you think about the scene evolution? For example techno has
become an ingredient of Trance parties, what do you think is the
development? Will the scene split? Will a part of it melt with the
Techno scene?

SubConsciousMind- Answer:

What actually is the "scene"? Some say "Trance scene" others "Psychedelic trance scene" others call it the "psychedelic movement". In my opinion such borders are always fluent, definitions never precise. So to elaborate on this lets stick to the core of "it" which is coming from the sixties and call it "The psychedelic movement". That way it's clear, but still relatively open to development and change.

If we go from this premise "psychedelic movement" and ask about the influence of techno (or anything) on the scene we consequently have to say: Whatever new style there is, as long as it is "psychedelic" it should have its place in the scene. We only need to remember that this is a psychedelic movement after all.

Well, a psychedelic movement is not just fun, it's not just distraction and party. It's an ideology, it's a quest for mindexpansion and gaining consciousness, a journey away from adaption to being ourselves, it's a lifestyle, it involves spirituality and after all it is based on the hippy movement and its ideas.

Consequently we should think more boundless, not restricted to styles. The psychedelic idea of the movement is important and the music consequently should support that. But how is it today? Is the techno which is involved into psytrance parties psychedelic? Is the psytrance which is involved in psytrance parties psychedelic? Sometimes? Is it enough? Why not include any music with psychedelic effects? Psy-minimal, Psy-techno, Psy-rock, Psy-jazz maybe even Psy-country? Any style can be psychedelic if the artist intends to do it that way.

In the end all that should count is to follow the original ideas. Don't we want to create a new world? A world with room for emotions, sensitivity, borderless spirituality, freedom or simply spoken: Us being ourselves? A world where we can open our senses, hearts and touch each other without fear? Music can even support that. Especially mindexpanding music, psychedelic music so to speak.

But the declaration of "psychedelic" isn't easy and certainly can't be done by just naming styles even if there are tendencies of more or less psychedelic styles. It's difficult, some music opens us up other rather closes us down just as some drugs do. But anyways: This has to be judged on a song by song basis and not generally by style. There is minimal which is more psychedelic than full-on-trance and dark-psy and the other way round. We should remember that every song, just as every person, needs its own chance to be looked at. We don't judge people by their nationality or their age, why should we judge music by its style? That wouldn't be very mind-expanded, would it? In a truly psychedelic movement every psychedelic song should have its place, no matter where it comes from.

In this context another subject needs to be raised. A lot of people talk about the influence of other musical styles onto psytrance and the develoment of the scene, but what about the drugs? Speed and cocaine are some of them. They and the songs attached  to them (made under that influence) are obviously not compatible with a psychedelic movement. Actually drugs like cocaine are typically used from bad politicians, bankers, those who actually create the world we, the people in the psychedelic movement, don't want. When used regulary these drugs basically disconnect from heart, soul and emotion. These drugs (not the people using them) actually change the atmosphere, the vibe, around the consumers in a way which seriously disturbs sensitive people and makes it a lot more difficult, if not impossible, for them to enoy themselves and actually have psychedelic experiences. Nevertheless today the impression arises that the use of cocain and similar has become normal in the psytrance scene. It seems that many psychedelic trancers have forgotten that cocaine and speed are totally unpsychedelic.

Why do I talk about this here? Simple: Why bother about techno within the Psytrance scene if cocaine is influencing the scene on a far deeper basis? Why do we let these drugs and they way they affect people have so much influence on the scene? What is the deeper reason for all that anyways? Why do people use drugs who shut off or control their feelings?

Will the scene spilt? Maybe that is not the right word. It's to assume, to hope, that whatever new style enters the psychedelic movement will be converted into a psychedelic variant of it and will be assimilated sooner or later. People who are not interested in the original ideas of the psychedelic movement (anymore) might take the opportunity to leave the scene into another direction and hopefully take the unpsychedelic drugs with them. All this, in the future hopefully results in a truely psychedelic scene full of psychedelic styles with very strong and conscious ideas.