SubAligner By Nathan LivelyMar 01, 2022
Article written by Omar Colom and Laura Massas
“...no one told me that they were having trouble practicing at home. Turns out, sound engineers don’t like to practice. They like to do shows.”
I love this. Nathan Lively spent months building something to improve the abilities of his fellow audio engineers, but no one told him they weren't using it so he went back to the drawing board and improved on his design.
Phase Invaders turned into SubAligner. It just goes to show that tools of the trade are only great if people use them! We love how an attempt to help one aspect turned into another great tool based on what users wanted and needed.
Continue to read below and learn more about SubAligner, how it can help you in the field, and maybe, just maybe give Phase Invaders a try. Enough from me and the team, let us know your thoughts in the comments or tell us about your experiences with SubAligner!
Check out the interview below.
Responses provided by: Nathan Lively
Q: What drove you to create the app?
A: Research and general interest. I interviewed 20 live sound engineers and asked, "What are you struggling with right now? What's your biggest challenge?".
The number one response I got was reading the phase graph and specifically subwoofer alignment. This has been something I also struggled with so I decided to go for it. Long story short, I spent six months and $5k to build the game, launched it, and three months later took it down because no one was using it. I went back to my research and discovered I had made a critical mistake. My solution, Phase Invaders, assumed that what people wanted was a way to practice at home, but no one told me that they were having trouble practicing at home.
Turns out, sound engineers don’t like to practice. They like to do shows. So I went back to the drawing board, did more research, and came back with a new product that could be used to solve the problem in the field at the greatest moment of need.
Q: What other apps have you developed?
A: Phase Invaders, SubAligner, and a few little Excel calculators.
Q: Who are your target users?
A: FOH Engineers and System Techs with little to no time (or resources) for a full system alignment.
Q: Do you work in the industry, if so, what sector and what’s your technical background?
A: Yes. I still work on corporate events and run an online school for sound engineers.
Q: What was the process for you to code and test this app?
A: Step 1, learn MATLAB. I have almost no experience in software development and never really saw that as part of my path, but when my technical cofounder quit and we were stuck at home during quarantine I just decided to give it a shot. I had already built a kind of prototype in Excel. I saw other projects like RiTA being built in MATLAB so I decided to try it. I opened it up, wrote my first line of code, got a bunch of error messages, started looking around for answers, and just moved forward a tiny bit each day. Six months later I had several hundred lines of code and an MVP.
I have had almost no shows to test it on so I have been asking friends to meet me over Zoom while they test it in their warehouses or venues. I'm looking for more beta testers so if you have access to a couple of speakers send me a message from within the SubAligner app and we'll set up a Zoom date.
Q: What was the process to unveil and launch to the public?
A: I've been talking more and more about it over the recent months and it is open to the public, but I have not planned an official launch, yet.
Q: How long did the total process of creating your app take?
A: 6 months for the MVP.
Q: How did you get the word out there about your app once you launched?
A: Mostly personal invitations. If I'm talking to someone and they mention having a challenge with sub alignment and it seems like a good fit, I'll pitch it to them.
Q: What’s your approach to user experience and design principles?
A: I read Rocket Surgery Made Easy, which provides a really easy to understand approach to user testing. I also hired a designer on Upwork who helped a lot with cleaning up the interface.
Q: Does your app work offline?
A: Not yet, but that is one of the top feature requests.
Q: Is your app the same thing from when you first created it or has the idea evolved?
A: Pretty much the same, but I expect it to change once sound engineers go back to work and I can get more beta testers.
Q: What platform is this app on and how should people new to your app be using it?
A: Any web browser.
Q: Can you break down each part of your app and what people can and can’t do with it?
A: It does one thing: subwoofer alignment. You put in distance values and it spits out an alignment recommendation for delay and polarity. If you are familiar with the L-Acoustics Preset Guide Pre-alignment delay values or Merlijn van Veen's Absolute/Relative Method, it's the same thing, but scaled to any speaker pair. After Phase Invaders I wanted to see if I could make something very simple, yet very powerful.
There are a handful of other helpful features. There's a built-in magnitude and phase graph so you can see what the recommended solution looks like. You can also download those traces and import them into your audio analyzer so that you have a comparison for your live measurements in the room. It includes guidelines on gain so you know how much you can safely turn up your sub without causing misalignment. There's even suggestions for filters in case you want an alternative alignment solution that uses less delay or has less overlap.
Q: How’s the feedback, the audience response, since launching your app?
A: Good! People who experience challenges with sub alignment totally get it. There are currently 586 total trial users, but only 1 person has signed up for a paid account, so I still have some work to do on product+market fit. The biggest feature request is just adding more speakers to the database. The long term goal is for SubAligner to include every common speaker model so that you can walk into any room and use it immediately.
Q: What features are being used the most since launch?
A: Sub alignment recommendation and the graphs. People seem to really enjoy the visual aspect.
Q: How do they buy the app? Are there additional features?
A: Subscription in the app. No additional features, yet. The free trial gets you 20 alignments.
Q: What’s next for the app?
A: More beta testers! Also adding more speaker models.
Q: Best advice you could give to someone reading this article?
A: Read The Mom Test. It will save you years and $$$.
Well AVE community, we hope this has been helpful in introducing this app to you or shedding light on some of the capabilities if it’s something you already use!
Stay tuned for the next app highlight soon!
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