"Richard Dalbec, owner of Dalbec Audio in Troy, aims one of his custom-made loudspeakers on the stage at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Dalbec's speakers are used at the Music Hall, the Egg in Albany, and various nightclubs, schools, and churches."

Shaping Sound (abridged)
Troy Man Makes waves with his loudspeakers.

By Michael Lisi
Gazette Reporter

For Richard Dalbec, it's all about the size and sound.

As in how to get a bigger, cleaner, crisper sound from a loudspeaker while making the speaker smaller.

That's been the challenge Dalbec, owner of Troy-based Dalbec Audio Laboratory, has set for himself. He has been at it since he was a teen-ager, designing speakers to improve sound quality while reducing the size of the speaker cabinet itself.

His work has finally started to pay off.

Dalbec's loudspeakers are at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Agnes S. Macdonald Music Haven Stage in Schenectady's Central Park, Union College's Nott Memorial Chapel and the Van Dyck Restaurant & Brewery, among other venues.

His speakers are used at several area colleges, more than 20 high schools, and 30 Capital Region churches. And Dalbec is set to design and install the sound system for the new minor league ballpark being built at Hudson Valley Community College for the Tri-City Valley Cats.

Important Showcase

But his latest accomplishment is his most impressive.

A set of six Dalbec designed speaker enclosures were installed in the 962 seat Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre at the Egg in August.

"The Egg is a very important showcase," said Maycock. "We've received a number of very favorable comments."

"We've been very satisfied with the results," said Peter Lesser, the Egg's executive director.

Dalbec's speakers, each containing two 12-inch speakers and a horn for high frequencies, delivered crystal clear sound for the Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster during her Nov. 3 Egg performance.

Despite their small size, the speakers, suspended above the stage, were powerful and precise, allowing fans to hear MacMaster's bow rub against her strings at times between songs.

To subsidize his speaker development work, Dalbec opened a small retail shop at 58 King Street in Troy to sell speakers built by him and other manufacturers, do speaker repair and rent sound systems to area bands, clubs and for music events.

Opening Store

While his store brought in some revenue, it wasn't easy for Dalbec at first; without a track record, Dalbec had a difficult time winning commercial job bids for his speakers.

Things developed slowly; Dalbec got his first commercial break about seven years ago, winning a contract to install an audio system at Gloversville High School. Word about the system - which Dalbec said featured high performance loudspeakers - spread and Dalbec soon found himself with work.

Dalbec's next sound challenge came in 1996, at the Troy Music Hall. Looking to improve the hall's amplified sound, Lesser, then the Music Hall's executive director, asked Dalbec if he had any ideas how to handle the tricky situation.

The Music Hall, built in 1875 has near perfect sound without amplification. But the Hall's high ceilings and design can result in a muddy, washed-out sound mix when music is amplified. There is also a four-second reverberation in the gallery seats (the second balcony tier), making it difficult to hear what's going on.

Dalbec placed small speakers in the windows above the gallery to help the sound there; he also put speakers in the organ lofts to upgrade the sound in the balconies.

It's a big hit. You can hear someone scratching a pick up there," said Dalbec proudly. "You want the sound system to sound like it's not there."

On stage, Dalbec has a small set of speakers with specially built cabinets that direct sound so that it disperses equally around the Music Hall.

"They have designed a cabinet system that really works with our venue," said Laura Kraft, the Music Hall's executive director. "Less is more here."

Despite his successes, Dalbec is still fighting for recognition.

Some performers won't rent or use his systems, or will augment them with more speakers, thinking they are too small to cover a venue with sound - a continuous source of frustration for Dalbec.

Dalbec's custom speakers run from $1,500 to $3,000 each, he said, depending on size and power.


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