Because of course NASA has a “Large Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility.” This video popped up on Reddit a couple of days ago, and I just had to share it. First, a little about the facility. It’s located at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, and is a part of NASA’s Space Power Facility.
What is the room for? This is what Professor Wikipedia had to say:
The Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility has 36 nitrogen-driven horns to simulate the high noise levels that will be experienced during a space vehicle launch and supersonic ascent conditions. The RATF is capable of an overall sound pressure level of 163 dB within a 101,500 cubic foot chamber.
So essentially it’s there to test spacecraft with the noise levels it would experience to see if it holds up.
But as it turns out, it also makes a hell of a reverb tank.
Those of you who play guitar probably already understand the appeal of reverb in your guitar sound. For those of you who don’t, I’ll do my best to explain it. When you’re playing a guitar with no reverb, when you hit a note and stop it, that note ends and there’s no remaining sound from it. It almost makes it sound as if you’re playing in an enclosed soundproof chamber or a tin can. When you add a little reverb, it simulates the effect of playing in a room or hall with lots of room for the sound to bounce around. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure the best way to technically explain it, but Professor Wikipedia can help with that too:
Reverberation, in psychoacoustics and acoustics, is the persistence of sound after a sound is produced. A reverberation, or reverb, is created when a sound or signal is reflected causing a large number of reflections to build up and then decay as the sound is absorbed by the surfaces of objects in the space – which could include furniture, people, and air. This is most noticeable when the sound source stops but the reflections continue, decreasing in amplitude, until they reach zero amplitude.
Basically it adds texture to the sound. Many reverb pedals on the market today are digital, meaning the reverb is all simulated, but you can get actual reverb tanks that feed the signal of your guitar into a series of springs inside the tank that bounce the sound around and feed it back, recreating the sound of being in a large room. If you’re still confused (and I don’t blame you if so), here’s a video that explains it and shows it pretty well.
That reverb tank is a pretty typical. Generally they’ll be small enough to fit inside an amp, or sometimes you can get external reverb tanks that are about the same size as a small amp. But generally, none of them have more than 100,000 cubic feet of space in them… So the RATF may just be the largest reverb tank in the world.
And if you ask nicely, they’ll even let you play guitar in it.
That photo is from @EverydayAstronaut. He didn’t share any video of himself playing that guitar inside the RATF, but that’s okay. A guy named Rich Evans did film himself playing in there. Here’s what it sounds like:
What a song to play inside the world’s largest reverb tank…
They also played around a bit with some drums inside the RATF:
Jeez, that’s the most ridiculously slow decay I’ve ever heard.
Now for those of you wondering why he brought his own amp instead of just plugging into the wall, you should know that those giant horns aren’t built for that. They’re there to generate the high-intensity sounds they use to test the aircraft. You have to bring your own amp if you want to play inside.
Although part of me kinda thinks the real reason is that this has happened there in the past: