Ben Stowe, CTS


Ben Stowe, CTS

Ben’s love of electronics and technology led to years of schooling in Electricity, Electronics, Robotics and Lasers. Ben supported himself through school by building and selling strobe lights and other electronic devices. He built his first DJ show largely from scratch and scrap, often repairing broken items others had thrown away because he could not afford to buy new equipment. He holds a Minnesota electrical license, and his AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. His relentless passion for education has led to a number of other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS. His love for education inspired him to begin the ProAcademy educational sessions, focused on increasing understanding of AV technologies within the industry. Ben has been involved in a number of technical writings, lectures, presentations, as well as research and development assistance with a number of manufacturers for products, industry wide. He is also a regular contributing author to industry magazines in the United States and Europe. Ben’s presentations have been featured across the world both as a part of industry leading trade shows, and as a presenter for various groups and functions. Some of these events include BPM in the United Kingdom, Mobile Beat, the ADJA National Convention, Wedding MBA, and a national tour as a headlining presenter for an industry magazine. The United States Armed Forces branches have also called upon Ben to provide engineering and training assistance. His highly informational, slightly nerdy and always funny presentation style have made him a favorite at events, while his sincere desire to help people with their application of technology have made him a favorite with them after the event. Ben serves the industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993.




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The 600 MHz Countdown

September 6, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
If you use a microphone, wireless speaker system, wireless video system or any other device operating in the 600 MHz band the clock is running out for reliable use of that system. The FCC has stated that we must vacate that band by July of 2020, but for some counties it must be sooner. When the FCC forward auction was complete and the spectrum repack plan announced, it was widely believed that we would have plenty of time to adjust. This was based on historical repacks and conventional knowledge. It stands to reason that a company that calls itself the “Un-carrier” would be anything but conventional. T-Mobile is already lighting up sites with 600 MHz coverage, even though it doesn’t have a phone to use with them at the moment. That’s not far behind though, they have announced the LG V30 will be arr... [read more]
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How to EQ a Room

August 23, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
It seems that I may have been in a select few that watched the adventures of Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) as he solved problems for people in the Equalizer. I was slightly vindicated when Denzel Washington picked up the character in the 2014 motion picture release of the same name and the rest of the world finally heard of it. For some reason, whenever I hear the term equalizer, even in an audio context, I think of that show. In essence, that’s what our audio equalizers do for us. They solve problems. Specifically, they address frequencies that might be building up in a room, or lacking in our system, etc. There are several ty... [read more]
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Audio Bit Depth and Sample Rate

August 9, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
In today’s world, nearly all audio is digital at some point between it’s capture, reproduction and amplification. There are terms that are often tossed around, but seldom understood. Bit Depth and Sample Rate are two such terms, and both are fairly self-explanatory when we break them down. Sample Rate determines how often a digital slice is taken of an analog signal. A higher sample rate means more slices are taken per second. The Nyquist theorem states that the sample rate should be twice that of the highest produced frequency. The human hearing range is approximated at 20 Hertz (Hz) to 20,000 Hz, therefore, a sampling ... [read more]
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Wye Cables….Why not?

July 26, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
A DJ recently posed the following question on an industry chat board, “If it’s such a bad idea why do so many Djs do it?” I think the simplest answer to the question would be that there are a lot of things people don’t understand, and in the absence of good information they do things that shouldn’t be done. This isn’t exclusive to DJs, not even by a long shot. If it were, we wouldn’t have the Darwin Awards or those great shows on TruTV documenting poor decision making at it’s finest.   The topic that prompted him to post that question was whether or not you could/should sum the outputs of a mixer using a wye cable so... [read more]
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Cheating death as a DJ

July 12, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
This might be one of those times where you might be tempted to kill the messenger, but the irony is that I’m trying to keep you from killing yourself. Literally. Just about everybody who works in the sound industry has seen (and used) the 3 prong to 2 prong electrical adaptors, often called “Cheater Plugs”. More often than not, they were not used for their intended purpose, but instead for a dangerous and illegal one in lifting the electrical safety ground. Usually when this is the case, they are employed as a Hail Mary effort to eliminate a hum, often caused by a ground loop. Eliminate the ground, eliminate the ground loop. However, in solving... [read more]
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Subwoofer Placement

June 28, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
One of the great quandaries for a DJ is where to place their subs. Often there is no clear right answer as several factors must be considered. Often we must weigh aesthetics, architectural allowances, desired output and coverage and room acoustics. Acoustics and wave propagation can often confuse people, and maybe primarily because sound waves are invisible. We’ll start very simple and make some of these things visible with the help of EV LAPS 3.37, which is an acoustic modeling program. It assumes a purely anechoic environment, that is to say that the room plays no role in the measurement. We are simply predicting the interaction between known speakers at given frequencies. The stage size is 40 wide by 20 deep, and that is really just to illustrate spacing better. We are going to model 270 degrees of... [read more]
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Selecting a microphone for the right reason…it’s pattern!

June 14, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
When selecting a microphone it’s important to understand the various pick-up patterns and how which will perform best in your application. Let’s look at the 3 most common for DJ use. Cardioid. So named for it’s “heart shaped” pattern, this pickup pattern is most sensitive on-axis, meaning looking straight down into the top of the microphone, and begins to taper off as you get off-axis, or moving towards the side. It has maximum rejection completely off-axis, which can be very useful in situations where you have monitors or other high ambient sound levels. This means the mic will pick up the person speaking or singing directly into... [read more]
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No Peaking – WHY to not crank it!

May 31, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
Most of us are familiar with the complimentary lightshow audio equipment like mixers, and amplifiers provide. How exciting and pleasing it is to see colored LEDs (typically a stoplight variety of green, amber and red, but sometimes more creatively colored) bouncing up and down as we rock the dancefloor. For those with vintage tastes, a needle on an analog VU meter serves the purpose. But besides pleasing our inner geek, what are those lights there for? It takes a little more inner geek to wrap our heads around it. Typically, these meters represent “VU” (Volume Units) or “dBU”, which is a voltage ratio reference. For those that want to toss and turn a little tonight, here’s the geekery. A value of “0” in VU is defined as one milliwatt (mW) of power cycling at 1000 Hz flowing across 600 ohms... [read more]
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Active or Passive Speakers

May 17, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
Fundamentally the question really is, where do you want your amp? A passive loudspeaker must be connected to an amplifier, whereas an active loudspeaker has an amplifier built into the enclosure of the speaker. Each has it’s pros and cons. You are still carrying an amplifier with an active speaker (it’s just now inside the speaker). Also with an active speaker, you run 2 cables instead of one (audio signal, and another for AC power). So, which is right for you? Well, the convenience of having an amplifier built into the loudspeaker can be really nice. It allows each loudspeaker to be used and placed independently, whereas ... [read more]
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Can you use a mic cable to run a DMX signal? The short, and only correct answer is “no”.

May 3, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS
Can you use a mic cable to run a DMX signal? The short, and only correct answer is “no”. Here are the physics. A DMX signal is a digital signal comprised of 1s and 0s being transmitted at a rate of roughly 250,000 per second. Each piece of binary data must remain legible to the receiving end, or the data is no longer useful. 1s must remain 1s and 0s must remain 0s, and they must arrive with the correct timing. Thus, a cable is designed with the electrical characteristics ideal for this type of signal (capacitance and impedance most notably) and it then must be properly protected with appropriate shielding. This does not mean that a DMX cable is superior and should then be used for both DMX and analog audio. Here again, analog audio cables are designed with the best set of electrical characteristics ... [read more]