Meyer Sound at Dartmouth College

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The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College regularly presents more than 100 music, dance and theater performances each year, as well as film screenings and other events. The center's management recently upgraded the audio component of its 900-seat Spaulding Auditorium to include a new Meyer Sound system based on the M'elodie ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.

“The Spaulding Auditorium is a wonderful room for a chamber orchestra or Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello,” notes Keely Ayres, senior production manager for the Hopkins Center. “But it wasn’t intended to hold amplified sound.”

When planning for the new M'elodie system, the Hopkins Center’s production management team—which includes Ayres, Doug Phoenix and Jim Alberghini—had to ensure that major acoustical treatments remained intact to preserve the room’s original aesthetics. “We couldn’t change the look intended by the designer or the expectations of those who paid for the construction back in 1962,” says Ayres. A system of legacy, unpowered Meyer Sound products—mainly MSL-2 high-power and UPA-1 compact wide-coverage loudspeakers—had served the auditorium for the past two decades. After testing various replacement systems, Ayres and his team chose M'elodie.

Rainbow Production Services of Hampstead, N.H., supplied the Meyer Sound system. “We prepped and aligned both systems beforehand,” says system co-designer Scott Tkachuk, Rainbow Production Services' director of touring and events. “We then played live and recorded music through one system, took it down and did the same with the other. When all was said and done, the M'elodie system sounded much more transparent and natural.”

The Meyer Sound system configured by Tkachuk, with assistance from Meyer Sound's Design Services department, incorporates left and right arrays of seven M'elodie loudspeakers each, plus three UPM-1P ultracompact wide-coverage loudspeakers filling in the front-center and outside corners, and four 600-HP compact high-power subwoofers. A Galileo loudspeaker-management system drives all components. The system was aligned and optimized using a SIM3 audio analyzer.

The Spaulding Auditorium’s 120Hz bass resonance posed a challenge for the system design. “We originally flew two 600-HP subwoofers on each side with the arrays,” notes Tkachuk, “but we found that by putting one down on the floor and feeding it from a separate output of the Galileo, we could get the response in the room flattened out.”

“The biggest difference is that now, anywhere in the house you sit, you get the same experience,” says Ayres. “No matter where you are, words are clearly articulated and you hear a precise tonal balance of instruments. You can tell if a bass player is performing sloppily because you hear a distinct bass line, not just a blob of low end sound.”

“I was particularly impressed by the sound of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet with [Brazilian composer and vocalist] Luciana Souza,” adds Phoenix. “The group brought their own high-end microphones, and the sound of each guitar, as well as Luciana’s voice, had phenomenal clarity and detail. When Sonny Rollins appeared a few weeks later, the sound was also astounding, possibly the best I’ve ever heard in this hall.”

For Ayres, the critical test came when the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir, augmented by Chicago-based guest musicians, appeared in concert. “It had sounded good with the previous system, but during the first concert on the new system everybody was just blown away," he recalls. "We had a brass section, a Hammond B3 organ, a full rhythm section and 60 voices, all going at once. But you still could pick out a clear bass line, the unique timbre of the B3 and the sound of individual voices. It was an amazing experience.”

For additional information, visit www.meyersound.com.