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Live Sound

PA for National Spelling Bee Starts with an “L”

Providing audio for the annual event meant creating a system for the house, but also a monitor arrangement to put young competitors at ease.

National Harbor, MD (August 14, 2018)—A Bee descended on National Harbor, MD’s Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in May, but it wasn’t a swarm. Instead, it was the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which has been held at the site since 2011. Providing audio for the ESPN-televised event once again was Frederick, Maryland-based Showtime Sound, which fielded a system overseen by Chris “Cap” Capaletti.

This year, a record-breaking 516 spellers from around the country vied to make the final round, culled from 11 million students nationally and internationally. That resulted in a live audience numbering in the thousands, so Capaletti laid out a line source array system comprising six L-Acoustics Kara per side for the main left and right hangs, with two smaller arrays of five-Kiva II addressing the far sides of the audience.

Five coaxial X8 boxes were deployed as stage monitors, while four KS28 subwoofers were positioned backstage behind the furthest upstage scenic elements for LF reinforcement.

60 Seconds: Jeff Rocha, L-Acoustics

A second truss flown out in the house featured four more arrays of four Kara each for delay. The entire system was powered by a dozen LA12X amplified controllers housed in four LA-RAK II racks.

“L-Acoustics’ hardware design helped substantially,” says Capaletti. Four of the X8 speakers were arrayed across the front of the stage for contestants waiting their turns, but the fifth solved a unique challenge: “We want to have the speller’s monitor below them, so they can be looking down from the stage and at the judge speaking to them, so it feels natural,” Capaletti explains.

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“But every year, the space between the front of the stage and the judge’s position gets tighter and tighter. The X8 is the perfect size for this situation—it fits right into the space but still gives the speller a very natural-sounding voice to listen to. It’s one of the many little things that L-Acoustics gets right that makes a big difference in a show like this.”

Scripps National Spelling Bee •

Showtime Sound •

L-Acoustics •