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Turnkey Acoustics for the Winter NAMM Show

May 13, 2014 10:32 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Interview with GeerFab Acoustics’ Eric Geer

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.

The big winter NAMM show this year culminated in the TEC awards with a host of sound experts in attendance, and they called GeerFab Acoustics to make sure the Anaheim Hilton’s Pacific Ballroom sounded right for that critical audience. Eric Geer is going to tell us how he got the room into acoustic shape and give us his plans for summer NAMM. That’s right here on the SVC Podcast.

Eric, it’s good to have you coming to us from GeerFab Acoustics in Milwaukee.

Correct, yes. Nice to talk with you, Bennett.

Great to have you here, and before we get into the job you did at the winter NAMM show, tell us a little about GeerFab Acoustics and what you do there.

Well, GeerFab Acoustics, I started it about five and a half years ago. You could go back to 2006. I did my first job at the Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee and then I went out to California for a couple of years and came back and started a company in earnest. My first project was a complete acoustic renovation of the Varsity Theater at Marquette University, which was a 1,500-seat theater and a lot of RPG product went into that. And that was a great way to start a company. And then I did go into the ‘quieting noisy restaurants.’ That’s the business that friends, relatives, and colleagues had been telling me for years that I should get into and I’ve done quite a few restaurants in the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin. Hospitals, I just completed a big hospital project for Ministry Healthcare and there will be more to come there. I’ve done some recording studios, [and] of course, the Pacific Ballroom out in Anaheim. I did a museum project for the state of Wisconsin, some offices, a private residence. I had not had to market in a couple of years. The jobs keep coming. [Timestamp: 2:10]

Well, once your name and the quality of your work gets around, the people will come to you.

That’s what’s been happening, yes.

They called you to the Anaheim Hilton’s Pacific Ballroom for the winter NAMM show. Big show coming up and they had a big problem. What exactly did they need you to fix in there for the winter NAMM show?

Well, it’s a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, 21ft. ceilings, and it’s all hard surfaces except for carpet, but carpet isn’t much of an absorber; [it’s] a very narrow-band absorber. So it was a very, very lively room, [with] lots of bass buildup issues and a lot of mid- and high-frequency smacking around the room. And one thing in particular was troublesome, which was a parabolic concave surface that ran the entire perimeter of the room starting from about 7ft. or 8ft. down from the ceiling and then curving concavely back to a vertical height of, oh, 2ft. or 3ft. And that acted like a slingshot just throwing those frequencies right back at everybody, including the engineers. [Timestamp: 3:13]

It must have been a nightmare for anybody having to run sound in the place, especially for speech intelligibility at least.

It was very, very bad, and I had experience in that ballroom, but it was just coincidental that earlier that year at the winter NAMM show, the MultiZorber, which is a small-scale version of the product that I used in the ballroom – or I could say this product in the ballroom is a large-scale MultiZorber, which is probably the best way to say it. The MultiZorber, which is distributed by Hal Leonard Corp., at the retail level won best in show and it came up on an agenda item in the middle of the summer and I reminded them of that and they said, “Why don’t you tell us what we should do.” And it worked out very well. [Timestamp: 3:53]

You had several things to fix in there and I know you only had a certain time window to get in and get it all done. What was the biggest thing to do when you looked at it and said, “This is the thing that’s going to eat up most of the time and take most of the people for the job.”

Well, I was fortunate in that I was working with an incredible team. The NAMM people—Pete Johnston, in particular—and the Freeman people—Wes Lane, Mark Powell, and Scott Rogers—we went with the idea of this lightweight, 2in.-thick panel that can be made very large; it ended up being as large 4x9.5. But the task for me was to figure out where, how many, and then work with Freeman on getting them up and that particular part of it was taken care of at a December meeting onsite, mostly with Mark Powell, and we dropped everything into CAD right onsite. When I left after a couple of days there, the job was done. It was all locked up into CAD and then I was able to manufacture them and they were shipped to the NAMM Show. They arrived the Saturday before the NAMM show for the TEC Awards. And the team that NAMM and Freeman put together, it was clockwork. I just let them do their jobs and do them well. The products came in off the truck on a Sunday, they went up to the ballroom, and they simultaneously rigged up the box trusses and hung these at the same time so that you would hang a number of them on a truss, the truss would go up, and you’d move on to the next truss because everything was mapped out with CAD. These large-scale MultiZorbers, they had grommets at the top and they were attached to the box trusses with zip ties. Once you do one, you can go right on to the other. But also the rigging points in the ceiling of this 30,000-square-foot ballroom were ideally laid out for what I needed to do. The rigging points were about 1ft. off the wall so that these 4x9.5 MultiZorbers were off the wall by about 8in. or 9in., which made a nice base trap all the way around the room. Because that extra dead-air space behind this wall of absorption and bass trapping, it couldn’t have been more ideal. And there were even rigging points down the length of the hall that we had hung an additional two rows of 4’x2’ panels to stop some of the early reflections. I was very fortunate that the hall itself was ready-made for what I needed to do. [Timestamp: 6:23]

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