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Rethinking the Ryman’s Reinforcement

The Mother Church of Country Music has a new Audio System.

Nashville, TN (November 15, 2018)—The Ryman Auditorium is nothing short of sacred ground in music circles, and with good reason. Since first opening in 1892, the venue has become a legendary must-play venue for artists of every genre, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971. But while the ambiance and vibes from generations of top-shelf performers permeate every inch of the venue, one thing that can’t stay historic is the Ryman’s audio system–which is why Opry Entertainment Group, JBL, Yamaha and AV integration firm Clair Solutions recently joined forces to overhaul the system.

Given the sensitivity of the venue’s historic interior, it was a tricky situation—the system had to respect the site’s aesthetics and also had to be installed around the Ryman’s packed calendar. “We installed the Ryman’s previous sound reinforcement system over a dozen years ago,” said Dan Heins, regional vice president at Clair Solutions. “It was a first-generation JBL VerTec system that served them well, but loudspeaker, amplifier, and DSP technology has come a long way since then. We’ve maintained a close relationship in the interim. The folks at Opry Entertainment Group are really passionate about great sound, and they wanted to be sure that they would be getting the very best system for the space.”

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Ryman Focuses with Carl Tatz Design

Given the venue’s recent history with JBL VerTec, the venue’s audio team was leaning towards JBL’s new VTX Series A12 System but wanted to hear the system in-place before fully committing to the installation. Clair Solutions developed an EASE model and optimized a design in collaboration with JBL engineers Raul Gonzalez and Nicholas Mourn. JBL, in turn, provided a demo system that Clair put in place on temporary lifts. “It was a real proof-of-concept,” Heins said. “We learned a lot from the demo and decided to go from eight boxes a side to 10. Although the main system didn’t change much from its original design, we learned from the demo that the under-balcony system needed a complete re-think. Given the particulars of the space, we ultimately went with a miniature line array with sub support.”

Today, the new system consists of 10 JBL -A12 three-way line array elements and 8 VTX-S28 subwoofers in a center hang. A pair of CSX-F35s provide side fill, and 10 VT4886 line array elements provide front fill. A total of three-dozen VT4886s paired with 8 VT4883 subwoofers provide audio under the balcony , and powering the entire system are Crown i-Tech series amplifiers with onboard DSP.

Ryman Auditorium Updates Audio with New Consoles

For the consoles, two Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 digital audio consoles were the preferred selection of the Ryman team based on their experience using the Yamaha PM10 console at the Opry House. “Based on our experiences with the PM10, we were confident with our decision to add the dual PM7 consoles, without a formal demo, due in part to Yamaha console familiarity and reliability,” states Jeff Hatfield, director of technical services for Opry Entertainment Group.

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“Finding a window in which to perform the installation wasn’t easy because the Ryman doesn’t really close,” Heins said. “We only had four days to remove the old system and install the new system – a Monday through Thursday, with a show the very next day. We worked with the Ryman engineers and did everything that could possibly be done ahead of time while the old system was still on line. For example, we put in conduit and upgraded the electrical system. We started on Sunday to give us an extra day to maximize the time we had to perform the installation. Things went smoothly, and we had the new system up and tuned in time for Friday’s Opry at the Ryman show. Importantly, we made it all happen without upsetting any of the Ryman’s historic interior or its sight-lines.”

Les Banks, production manager and audio supervisor for Ryman Auditorium added, “The bottom line, end result is touring engineers give it a thumbs up and say how greatly improved the coverage and clarity is. Truly a team effort between JBL and Clair Solutions.”

Clair Solutions •