The sound industry is awash with tools and technologies, but there are very few products out there that can legitimately claim to make you a better sound engineer. As a number of local end users revealed to ETECH, however, the Sound Measurement Acoustic Analysis Real-Time Tool – more commonly known as the Smaart software platform by Rational Acoustics – can do exactly this, provided you invest time into learning how to use it properly.

Rational Acoustics’ Smaart analytic software can deepen your engineering skills


Although it has subsequently undergone all manner of tweaks and improvements – including a complete reboot of its code-base – even when it was first developed in 1996, Smaart was greeted by audio engineers as a revolutionary tool.

It was the first piece of affordable measurement software that allowed engineers to view and optimise their sound during a live performance, without having to send a test signal through the system. Not only did this make crucial tasks – such as analysing room acoustics and the output of loudspeakers, amplifiers and other audio gear – easier and safer to execute, but provided engineers with greater dynamic control over their systems.

As Kyle Freemantle – senior audio technician at MGG Productions – explains, “My primary use for Smaart is in the live sound realm, wherever there are two or more sources of audio covering the same audience area. Whether it’s a small intimate gig or a large-format international concert, Smaart is always the tool I refer to for time and phase alignment, as well as for measuring the frequency response of a sound system.”

Konstant de Vos, the head of audio at MGG, adds that “in the warehouse, we use it to keep track of each cabinet by testing with phase traces and responses, to see which cabs have worked harder or are not performing as well anymore”; while Ruan Joubert, the technical director of Surgesound, says that he uses Smaart “on everything that can be measured. Loudspeakers, processors, mixing desks, amplifiers – anything that has an output.”


The software features a dual-channel FFT platform that allows engineers to view the frequency content of signals and measure the response of electrical and electro-acoustic systems. The Real-Time Mode allows engineers to configure as many single-channel engines as they require, each with the ability to produce its own Real-Time Analyser (RTA) and Spectrograph.

The RTA mode features fractional-octave banding (up to 1/48th octave resolution), as well as the ability view peak-holds, target curves, THD, calibrated plots and“live averages” from one or many inputs. The Spectrograph boasts a scrollable 1000-plus line history and real-time adjustable dynamic range.

The Transfer Function (TF) provides phase, magnitude and coherence plots, and allows for simultaneous live TF engines, even from multiple interfaces. This mode also features up to 1/48th octave smoothing for both phase and magnitude plot displays and FIFO and Integrating Averaging, while Delay Tracking automatically measures and adjusts TF delay for every measurement cycle.

With the Impulse Response (IR) Mode, Smaart provides a powerful set of tools for measuring and analysing impulse-response data, both in terms of time and frequency. Time-domain analysis tools include logarithmic, linear and Energy Time Curve (ETC) views of the impulse, octave and 1/3 octave band-pass filters and reverse-time integration curves, as well as automated calculation of common parameters such as EDT, RT60 and clarity factors. Frequency -domain analysis tools, on other hand, include spectrum analysis of arbitrary time ranges and a Spectrographic view of the impulse.

Since 2009, Smaart has been owned, operated and developed by Rational Acoustics. This company, formed in 2008 by Jamie and Karen Anderson, Calvert Dayton and Adam Black – a team involved, at different times, in the product’s development since 1999 – has recently released Smaart v8, the current technology standard.

“One of the primary goals of Version 8 was to give people a tool that they can adapt for any situation they’re involved in: something that can be as simple as they need it to be, or as advanced as they expect it to be,” says Chris Tsanjoures, Product Manager and Smaart Instructor at Rational Acoustics.


However, as impressive as the underlying technology contained in Smart v8 may be, Jamie Anderson is keen to stress the importance of the training aspect to Smaart’s success. “To put it frankly,” he says, “this tool is just a useless squiggly line generator without the theoretical and practical knowledge to use it.

“One of the most significant aspects of the Smaart platform is the training and support program that Rational Acoustics has developed along with its worldwide distributor network. Today, there are over 25 certified Smaart instructors worldwide that conduct on average over 70 seminars and multi-day training classes per year, in over 10 different languages on six continents across the globe.”

These thoughts are echoed by Joubert, who says: “As the guys at Rational Acoustics put it: Smaart is just a tool. How you use it and interpret the measurement data given by Smaart will give you insight into how your sound system is performing and what you can do to make it better.”

Joubert’s desire to make sense of the data led him to becoming a certified Smaart instructor at the end of 2013. As he explains: “We at Surgesound, as the distributors of Smaart software in South Africa, hosted a bunch of training seminars, and I made sure I was at every single one of them. I formed a relationship with Jamie and the guys at Rational Acoustics. I was eager to learn and experimented with and used the software a lot.

“In 2013, Jamie came out to do two training courses, and at the end of the two courses he expressed that he would like to hand over the baton for the African continent to me. I was, and am still, very honoured and excited to be a Smaart instructor. At the time, Surgesound was already looking after Africa in terms of distribution and support – so it was a natural fit for us to take over training. It is an amazing thing to be part of. There is such a great international community surrounding the brand and the Rational Team are cool people with a very cool product.”

According to Joubert, one of the key benefits of Smaart training is “the peace of mind of knowing that what you are doing is right,” and Adriaan van der Walt – the project manager of Multi-Media Event Trading – agrees, encouraging other users to “Go for the training! It is a fantastic tool in the field and in the warehouse, too, and knowing the software well gives one the confidence to achieve great results.”


Although, in Van der Walt’s words, Smaart can be “quite intimidating at first”, our respondents indicated that using the software can lead to significant gains in both the quality and reliability of any sound rig or set up. As De Vos puts it, “I struggle to comprehend how I ran events before Smaart. Setting up PAs now makes me realise how much headroom a system can have when setup and aligned correctly.”

Freemantle develops this point, saying, “When talking about microphones and instruments, there’s an age-old notion of ‘fix the source’. The same can be said about sound systems, assuming all the mechanical aspects, such as splay angles and the rigging of a line array or sound system, are correct. Smaart can assist you in studying the effects of the room, correcting the phase and timing differences between multiple sources, all of which are important to ensuring that the engineer who is operating the mixing console has the best possible platform to work with.”

Van der Walt, meanwhile, picks up on the idea of enhanced consistency and reliability: “Smaart has made things more predictable in the sense that I can achieve a very similar sonic footprint irrespective of the brand of sound system. It also takes away any guess work because you get very accurate readings, which assists in make better decisions.”

Finally, Joubert lays bare what is, arguably, the greatest benefit of learning and using the Smaart platform. “I know the golden rule of audio engineering is to trust and train your ears, but I find it very helpful to use Smaart to help me to do this: to give me more information regarding timing, polarity and usable frequencies. The software gives you a visual display of what you are hearing, and two senses are better than one.

“Getting to know about sound system measurements has deepened my perspective on how sound works,” he concludes. “Once you start down this rabbit-hole, there is a new world that opens up: you get to know the nature of sound. Sound is physics – but unless you know how it works, sound can seem like magic.