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Behind-the-scenes of eTown Hall and Recording Studio, Part 2

Apr 17, 2014 12:10 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

In Boulder, Colo., live music every week from one of the most green performance venues in the country. eTown plays host to some of the biggest name musical artists and it was SIA Acoustics that handled the room treatment, sound system and recording studio. Sam Berkow is going to give us a behind the scenes look at it all right now on the SVC Podcast.

Sam Berkow from the SIA Acoustics LA office. Thanks for being back with us for Part 2 talking about eTown, the site of a weekly live music performance and a national radio show, recording studio and a roof full of solar panels. SIA Acoustics got it started from the ground up making the performance venue itself sound right and then installing the whole sound system for the shows. Sam, what did you go with and what was the general design idea when it came to the sound system for eTown Hall?

We always look at the ability of the system to cover the audience seating area; we look for a configuration. But because it’s a relatively simple-shaped rectangular room and because it’s not very big, there were a wide range of products that we could use. The client doesn’t very often have shows where there are rider acceptances. This isn’t a big issue. People come to eTown to be part of the eTown experience, so most bands don’t have very much in terms of demands for the PA. They’re happy to have a console they know and a speaker system that works well. Nick and his team came out and we spent a lot of time listening, and because the emphasis was on acoustic music, they selected the Alcons line array, which was an usual choice. The high frequency device is a hybrid ribbon. It’s not really a ribbon, it’s not really electrostatic, it’s sort of a hybrid between the two and it gives a very, very, very detailed, high-frequency response. We used that speaker in another project in the city of Doha in the country of Qatar, believe it or not, for a jazz and Lincoln Center venue that we opened there about a year and a half ago and found it to be an extremely responsive system with a particular emphasis on transient response. Given that Nick plays the bass, the guitar, the mandolin, peddle steel, there’s lots of acoustic instruments and these hybrid ribbons aren’t asked to reproduce super high volumes and seem to work really well at moderate levels. They really work nicely. So that was the main house system. The console, we wanted to pick something that sounded good, that offered plug-in capability, that had an easy tie to the recording system, that most people would know and we picked the Avid SC48 which is one of those great tools that is just a tremendous value. eTown owns a number of high-end preamps and when the need arises for specialty preamps they just bring some up from the studio to enhance the SC48. But it really provides a very, very workable solution for this size venue. [Timestamp: 3:40]

Very easy to operate.

Very easy. I think that particularly users fall into two classes. One, people who don’t know how to set up the system but can operate the channels very easily; so setting up an EQ, a compressor, a delay, pan and gain is almost instantly obvious. The second users want to set up busses and sends and do things and the patch base, fairly straightforward, but because everything is patched almost the same way all the time at eTown, it’s really a very simple system for a user who doesn’t know it to come in and spend 20 minutes and they’re pretty much ready to run a show. [Timestamp: 4:28]

How do you connect all of that to the stage end of things?

There are a couple of different ways to do it. One way is there’s a fiber or CAT-6 connection that goes from the console back to a stage box. We take it back and go to a splitter system. There’s a four-way split. One split goes out to an external loading dock where if someone wanted to pull up a recording truck they could. One split goes to front of house. Another split goes to the monitor position and the last split goes down to the recording studio. [Timestamp: 4:59]

Alright, so you’ve got everything where you need it.


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