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Laoban Soundsystem Infinite Baffle Press

laoban with its face off
Laoban Soundsystem Infinite Baffle with its face off

Over on my personal blog,I posted some comments about the Laoban Infinite Baffle:

The latest soundsystem, Laoban Infinite Baffle, that Matt Hope and myself have built, is now on display as part of Kunsthalle Kowloon organized, and Fabricatorz supported, Border Show 2011. There have already been write-ups by CNN and The New York Times, some in print, with more coming soon. Thanks to all who came out to the opening and supported the show. Next up is that we want to ship this work to other art spaces, shows and events around the world. It would take about a month to ship anywhere in the world, and you have a great news-getter for live events in front of your favorite gallery, space, or show. Contact us.

Matt Hope, Robin Peckham, Venus Lau and I worked super hard last week to make the Laoban Soundsystem Infinite Baffle reali-D (that’s the 2.0.11 realidad for kind readers of this reBlog).

laoban with its face off
Robin and Matt Framed

Also, Robin sent us some PDFs of discussion about the pieces from press outlets CNNGo review, CNNGo Chinese, SCMP Preview, and NYT Preview.

laoban plain and simple
Infinite Baffle Bare, Picture by Matt Hope

There will be more, surely :)

UPDATE: Here are some interview questions about the system via Matt:

1. Where did you get the inspiration for your artpiece and how does it echoes the theme of Border Crossing?

The inspiration for The Infinite baffle came from the idea that a standard shipping container could be transformed into a simple acoustical device by blocking the open mouth with a wall of speakers. Within the field of audio engineering the ‘Infinite baffle’ is a form of speaker cabinet design in which the driver unit is completely enclosed- cut off from the surrounding space, this differs from the ‘open baffle’ or ‘bass reflex’ ( speaker boxes with holes and vents whereby tuned air is allowed to pass more easily). The primary purpose of ALL speaker boxes is to separate the in phase and out of phase sound waves with some kind of barrier or enclosure- essentially a wall. The innards of the shipping container that usually house consumer goods is transformed into pressurised audio container. . . quarter of a wave length of out phase with the surrounding output. . .

2. What is (are) the challenge(s) of turning a cargo container into a giant speaker?

The first challenge was to research and establish the exact ISO dimensions of a standard shipping container, these parameters are regulated by an international body that all countries are supposed to adhere in order for global trade to function. The Infinite baffle must fit inside any standard container regardless of it place or manufacture. Upon installation a temporary seal or gland will be applied to join the two structures in order to separate the in phase and out of phase sound waves. Incidentally the length of the container will tune the output , the infinite baffle will have an acoustic cut-off frequency of 57 hertz. Thus the volumetric capacity of the container will determine its sonic range. . . The audio fidelity of this device will not be hi fi, large metal boxes do not make the ideal acoustic space. Shipping containers were designed to keep out the elements and thieves, prior to containerisation in 1968 nearly one 3rd of all goods were ‘lifted’ . lost or stolen in transit

Here are some answers to the same interviewer I put together, so mix up the two answers :)

1. Where did you get the inspiration for your artpiece and how does it echoes the theme of Border Crossing?

Matt Hope ( and I ( did previous work using a trash compactor as a temporary space to make events, but also to serve as an instant readymade:

We have many battle plans ready, both individually and together, and we have done several projects with shipping containers. So we responded to the creative constraints of the shipping container
context Robin and Venus provided and combined that with our interest in manufacturing in China and making sound systems. The last big system we made is the Laoban Soundsystem used as part of Get It Louder in Beijing:

You can’t get much more literal about shipping than a shipping container, right? hahaha.

There is also something humorous about border shows to us. When we were in grad school at UC San Diego there always seemed to be tension between the wealthy San Diego side of the border and the poor, seemingly dangerous side of the border, Tijuana. The tension between the border in Hong Kong and Shenzhen is way less than the paranoid one-way valve of the USA/Mexico border in San Diego. Hong Kong and Shenzhen are optimized for business and the Chinese government is allowing an increase in economic and human throughput whereas with the USA/Mexico border, the US is building crazy electrified fences and keeping big guns on people who try to illegally cross. Its an interesting comparison to do see the social activist art work being created by Ruben Ortiz and others in San Diego/Tijuana versus the more economic/shipping-minded themes in this show, although you could make some similar claims if you wanted to go there.

So, the main front of the container is a piece Matt designed up and we had fabricated in the south of china. It will be delivered on-site and we will attach it to the front of the speaker for use next week. No
shipping containers will be hurt with our project. Rather, the shipping container is being augmented and put into the service of sound production rather than using its normal function of shipping goods across the border.

3. How different will the experience be when your soundsystem is fabricated in a cargo container?

Well, its actually attached to the entrance of the container. Its really empty. So, we are converting the shipping container into what is normally considered a speaker box, which has a function in tuning
the bass and providing a resonance chamber for the sound. The front baffle we are manufacturing has 40 speakers, and the empty space will resonate from that sound. The doors are movable so we can shape where the sound will project out of the front entrance of the container.

We originally wanted to build the entire sound system into the shipping container and make it so the sides are removable. We can do that project later and with more money. In some ways, its better that
we are not changing the shipping container at all, which the entire container holding a traditional soundsystem, would do. This is just bolt-on, turn-on.

The interesting thing for Matt and I is that we haven’t actually seen the fabricated piece other than mediated pictures and renderings. So, always when you build a new system, its a new experience to hear how it *really* sounds and make sure it all fits together.

Matt in particular has a lot of experience manufacturing things in China, so we are pretty confident it will work well and make some thunderous bass.

2. What is(are) the challenge(s) of turning a cargo container into a giant speaker?

Matt can speak more to this, but now when we make sound systems, we design them with computer software and Autocad, then have a manufacturer make them in Guangdong. The speaker makers have a lot of experience with this type of production. For this project, we are having a metal fabricator make the front of the speaker with all the parts ready for assembly. They will deliver to the shipping container and we will complete the installation and test it all out.

It always takes a lot of work making sure everything fits in really well, coordinating the fabrication and then getting Matt and I to Hong Kong to complete the project.

Its just a lot of coordination, not to mention getting lots of people to the event and music to play through it. We really want to ship it to other cities around the world. If you have a space, email us!

3. What will be played during the show and why?

We treat these projects as vessels for sound. Matt and I will DJ on them, and we have some other guests from the PRD lined up to give them a go. Art shows are always different from throwing parties because often people want to talk more, have some drinks, swoop in and out. However, Matt and I like to throw parties and see what can unfold. The other side of that is hiring DJs who are often in it for the check and not the love. We always want people who love to play and have a go on the system to get a chance on it.

Also, in line with our Laoban Soundsystem project, all the plans will be given away on our site and we will capture as much as we can about the event. We want to do more events with this system all over the planet.

For this event, we will treat the earlier time in the night as art event and transition to more fun later on.

We have been calling this project the Laoban Container or Laoban Infinite Baffle. If you are a DJ or make music, come check out the show and plugin to our new soundsystem!

Published in Matt Hope Qi Hardware Robin Peckham