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AES, Berger Visit Shure’s Performance Listening Center

Russ Berger (left) addresses members of the AES Chicago section at Shure.

Almost 70 members of the AES visited Shure’s Performance Listening Center (PLC) in Niles, Ill. to tour the facility and hear Russ Berger, the room’s designer, reveal back-story details about the multipurpose studio’s three-year design and construction process.

“Internal acoustics were a top priority here at the PLC,” Berger told the group. “Working within that framework, our goal was to provide a visually appealing space that sounded natural. Parameters that had a direct impact on the acoustics of the room included its dimensions, volumetric relations and surface finishes.”

The PLC was officially opened in 2005 as a central component of an ambitious expansion plan bringing an additional 65,000 square feet to Shure’s world headquarters in suburban Chicago. It is used to conduct critical listening tests and evaluate product prototypes, and as a space for demonstrations, training, recording sessions and rehearsals. The room features an evaluation studio and control room, plus a 14-seat critical listening theater.

Berger pointed out to the AES members that the PLC’s bamboo flooring and glass-fiber ceiling panels are examples of the dual-purpose materials he chose for their aesthetics and acoustical properties. Located in close proximity to Shure’s tooling and model shops as well as railroad tracks that run adjacent to the building, the PLC was, according to Berger, a special challenge in terms of noise control.

“To overcome external noise and achieve absolute isolation, the PLC had to be designed as a ‘room within a room,’” Berger explained. “The floors are literally detached from the main structure. The entire facility is on floating slabs and wall framing.”

The PLC’s main room is large enough to accommodate a small band, full drum kit and baby grand piano. It’s complemented by an isolation booth and control room, which houses recording and playback gear, as well as the engineer’s and producer’s desks.

With monitoring provided by three ATC SCM 50 ASL active enclosures falling under the guidance of a Grace Designs m906 5.1 controller, the control room eschews a traditional mixing surface in favor of computer-based functionality. It incorporates Sony Vegas 6, Sound Forge 8, Steinberg Nuendo Version 3.1 and WaveLab 5 software. Recording hardware includes a pair of Prism Sound ADA-8XR 8-channel AD/DA converters with FireWire, as well as two Grace Designs m802 8-channel microphone preamps with remote control, all of which resides in a portable rolling rack.

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