The Egg Hatches New Meyer System
A new surround sound system by Meyer Sound, installed late in 2002, marks a turning point in the 24-year history of The Egg, an architecturally daring center for the arts in Albany, New York. In prior years, with precious few exceptions, live music performances coming to the Egg either had to load in their own production or have a system hired in. Unfortunately, confronted with the hall’s wide seating arc and uninspiring acoustics, the temporary rig du jour rarely gave full satisfaction.
With the Egg’s new Meyer Sound system, however, that scenario has altered dramatically. “The difference has been nothing short of phenomenal,” claims Bill Darcy, technical director for the venue. “What I notice now is that acts come in and just go to work. They’re not asking for alternate gear, to bring in something else, or complaining about not having coverage here or there. They’re not looking for anything more than what we have as far as racks and stacks.”
Formally christened in 1978 as the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Performing Arts Center, the elliptical structure was quickly dubbed The Egg by locals and is now marketed under that moniker. Two theaters share space in the Egg’s cement shell: the intimate 450-seat Swyer Theater and the 982-seat Hart Theater, the latter being the preferred hall for nearly all amplified music events.
The recent retrofitting of the Hart Theater’s audio facilities was a tortuous, two-year process that – not unsurprisingly in state-bid situations – involved a number of players. The project started with an analysis by the prestigious acoustical consulting firm of Jaffe, Holden, Scarborough Associates. Their recommendation was to either make major structural changes to the room, or install a thoroughly up-to-date sound system. The latter course was found to be more cost-effective, though it would require complete rewiring of the room and some structural work to accommodate the loudspeakers. Overall project coordination was assigned to Sage Engineering Associates with Specialized Audio-Visual (SAVI) chosen as the design firm for the audio system. All electrical work was contracted to the Comalli Group, with audio system installation sub-contracted to Dalbec Audio Laboratories. Meyer Sound loudspeakers were supplied by Theatrix Inc. with logistical coordination by Bruce Wallace.
In initial discussion with SAVI, the technical managers from The Egg expressed an immediate preference for Meyer Sound loudspeakers, as SAVI’s Mike Cusick explains: “One of the mandates was to have a system that would impress the most discriminating of touring shows, so when the production people saw it they would say, ‘Yes, that’s nice, we can accept that.’ Meyer was one of the few that could live up to that desire. In addition, there really is no space in there for a central amplifier room, and Meyer was the only company on the list with a full line of self-powered speakers.”
Cusick then worked on configuring arrays of Meyer Sound loudspeakers that would provide even coverage over the wide, shallow seating arc – and do so without exciting reflective surfaces. His solution was a left-center-right system (also configurable as a left-right-left stereo system) employing three clusters each with three CQ-2 Narrow Coverage Main loudspeakers in the top row and two CQ-1 Wide Coverage Main loudspeakers hung underneath. Twelve UPM-1P Ultra-Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers across the rear of the theater are normally configured for three zones of stereo surround. Seven UPM-1Ps on custom brackets that allow easy removal and replacement for the three stage front configurations provide front fill; two more proscenium-mounted UPM-1Ps provide front corner fill. Deep bass reinforcement comes from two 650-P High-Power subwoofers. Six UPA-1P Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers are available for on-stage use; these are normalled to the front-of-house console primarily for use with dance events. In addition, ten UM-1P Narrow Coverage Stage monitors and a USW-1P Compact subwoofer are offered for use with the separate stage foldback system. Meyer Sound’s RMS allows all loudspeakers to be supervised with a PC at a remote location.
“It’s a sweet system,” says Mike Cusick. “It really lends itself well to use with the traditional center cluster only, when all you need is subtle reinforcement for classical music, opera or theatrical performances, where you want to preserve the image coming from the stage. But at the same time, it has all the power you need for full-out rock acts like Bruce Hornsby.”
Darcy already has stories to tell about how the new system is changing perceptions of the theater as a place to hear music. “In the first few weeks we had a small opera company up here from New York City,” he recalls. “Two of the singers had been here before and remembered what it was like. Acoustically, it’s pretty dry, and that’s not what an opera singer likes to hear. So I had my engineer roll in just a little on the surrounds to create the natural reverberation of a concert hall. They were tickled to death with it.”
Though owned by the state, the facility is leased to a non-profit group charged with programming and productions. Shortly after the system was finished, the group’s board of directors met at the Egg, and Darcy ushered them in for an audition. “It was great to have them sit down in the middle and, when I put on a classical CD and poured in some of the surround, I just watched their faces light up. Now they fully understand what we can achieve with our new system in this hall.”
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