Originally Posted by Samc
How did engineers tune systems before tools like Smaart?
An experienced engineer can do a lot with his voice and a microphone that he understands...
I couldn't agree more, and for many years that was the only option. My standard working method was to play tracks that I knew really well and a single SM58
for a vocal.
But I would also point out, when I started (and I think the same is probably true for you), live sound systems were bass bins, mid bins and top boxes. The first all in one systems like Turbosound TSM3's and Hill M4's and M6's were just appearing. In theatre's, stage sound was a colection of speakers running around the procenium, for PA events there were two stacks, one on the left and one on the right. Now for music shows there are line array's, central clusters, delay towers, sub array's, front fills. In theatre's all the best shows have localized delay systems and often surround feeds.
Even after Simming systems, it still comes down to an engineer taking a listen and making decisions on what does or doesn't work, the FFT tools only allow us to take measurements that can show us why things may or may not be working. In many situations things like Smaart are of limited use, but they are another tool in the arsenal, hence why it is so important to know what measurements you are taking and why.
I did a show with a system that had been installed last year, two main stacks, front fills and some flown cabs for the theatre circle. It was a "gun and run" job, multiple bands. The person responsible for doing the install had set up various delays on the Front fills and the flown speakers and whilst ultimately the show didn't sound too bad, the eq on both the mains and the channels was no where near as effective as it should have been. There wasn't any time for "rig tunning" and we didn't have a Simm system, but I suspect that there was some pretty major comb filtering going on that was causing the issues. If the rig had been properly measured it could have been even better.
You can always tell if a system is well set-up, small changes in eq, compression and levels are audible, bad systems (in my experience) are blunt and lack this type of subtlety. Of course YMMV!