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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: The Sound of Green

May 11, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Point Park University, Pittsburgh

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Working with Associated Architect and Acoustician John Sergio Fisher of John Sergio Fisher & Associates—based in Los Angeles and San Francisco—the team spent time discussing reverb time and how the geometry of the studio would almost guarantee flutter echo without proper acoustical treatment, as well as how to isolate external noise such as environmental background noise and sound migration from other studios. The team eventually established an NC rating of 25.

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These discussions also eventually led to selecting Bag End PS18E-IF4 powered subwoofers, two in opposing corners of each studio. The subwoofers had to be custom-configured so that they could be installed in a non-traditional down-firing position, which Bag End accommodated, along with placing hanging hardware on the back of the cabinets. Coupled with the two adjacent walls, the subwoofers capitalized on the diagonal room dimension to accommodate the long wavelengths.

"The end result is that a wonderful combination of room shape, acoustical treatments, choice and locations of loudspeakers and subwoofers has yielded superior sound delivered at much lower and healthier levels than were experienced in the older existing studios," Nash says. "Everybody loves the richness of the sound in the studios. The Bag End product is flat down to 8Hz. Instead of the chest-thumper experience that you get from a typical subwoofer, which again we felt was not appropriate for these rooms, we get a nice, warm, and rich low end that's delivered at a much lower sound level."

One of the new studios is a performance studio with its own theater seating system and theatrical lighting and rigging package. Here, they created a dual-mode system using a Biamp Systems Nexia PM DSP that allows the studio to switch between its daily operation as a dance studio, where the loudspeakers are working in stereo configuration, to a theater setup using a Midas Venice 240 24-channel mixing console. The Nexia switcher only gives the faculty "caveman" controls—that is only the necessary controls instead of a complicated plethora of controls.

"One of the problems that we and our colleagues and peers have experienced within the last decade is the move toward removing controls from face panels in favor of accessing them digitally or through a remote control," Nash says. "It's problematic in that in a dance studio, a dance teacher shouldn't be a technician. A dance teacher should be focused on the students and delivery of the curriculum. So a rackmount mixer with a dozen knobs on the front is just a recipe for disaster. Many times we've recommended against a client going with a rackmount mixer with lots of knobs. Invariably it's pulled out, or the knobs are taped over within months."

That said, those managing the project eventually selected the Biamp product because it would provide a digital signal processor that could allow multiple inputs to be managed, but it wouldn't give the user—the faculty—too many control knobs on its front panel. Instead, in conjunction with a voltage control module, they can only adjust the volume, bass, or treble. Everything else—source selection, compression, and limiting—is happening behind the scenes.

This outfit in the new complex has been so successful that existing studios in the older portion of the university's dance program will be retrofitted with the same system.

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