The system is based around a center cluster design with a main array of eight M2D compact curvilinear array loudspeakers augmented with two 600-HP compact high-power subwoofers, one on either side of the array.
Award-winning Broadway sound designer Brian Ronan's chief hurdle in designing the all-new sound system for the Rent musical was intelligibility. To ensure that the audience enjoys vocal intelligibility over a driving rock band, Ronan put Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers at the heart of the show’s sound system.
Achieving the required clarity is fairly straightforward on the orchestra level of the 1,200-seat house, but not as easy in the steeply raked 500-seat balcony. “The Nederlander [New York City] is a room with two very different sounds upstairs and down,” Ronan explains. “It's fairly predictable and consistent on the orchestra floor, a nice combo of reflective and absorbent surfaces. But the balcony is a very reflective space, which is subject to drastic changes in response due to humidity.”
Despite the differing needs of the upper and lower parts of the hall, Ronan had little time to experiment on the long-running show. “It’s very unusual to replace the system on a running show,” Ronan explains, “because producers face the expense of lost ticket sales, labor and increased weekly rental. However, they had always felt they could improve the sound, so when the musical director brought up the subject, they decided to take the hit.” Ronan was allotted one week to strip the old system, install the new one, rehearse with the band and cast twice, and then reopen.
“I had taken a class this past summer on Meyer’s MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction program,” Ronan says, “so I knew that Meyer Sound would be able to help me analyze the room and make logical choices based on the MAPP predictions. I contacted [design services manager] Todd Meier at Meyer Sound on a Friday, and by Sunday evening, Meyer’s [technical support representative] Mike Maxson had visited the theater to hear what would be expected of the system. Monday we ‘MAPPed.’ We knocked it right out, and by Tuesday, I had a rental order together. I would not have been able to turn the system around on such short notice without Todd’s and Mike’s help. Additionally, I found MAPP invaluable; I plan to make it a regular part of my survey routine.”
Design in hand, Ronan turned to the Mt. Vernon, N.Y., office of Production Resource Group to provide the equipment he needed. The system Ronan settled on was based around a center cluster design with a main array of eight M2D compact curvilinear array loudspeakers. “I knew I wanted a single array in the balcony to cut down on reflections, and I chose M2Ds for their power and size. The 90-degree spread took care of the whole balcony.”
The cluster was augmented with two 600-HP compact high-power subwoofers, one on either side of the array, with another four 600-HP cabinets used for floor subs. “The new 600-HPs tucked under an overhang in the stage for a perfect fit,” Ronan says. “They gave much-needed bottom to the balcony and added punch to the orchestra level.”
Ronan also used four CQ-1 wide-coverage main loudspeakers for some of the stereo effects and to act as mains on the orchestra floor. The cabinets were hung on the proscenium, two at about the height of the actors’ heads and two higher up for the balcony. “The CQ-1’s 80-degree [horizontal] spread filled in the orchestra level with nice, smooth coverage,” he says, “and I know and love that horn.”
As for the response of both insiders and audience, Ronan says it is “overwhelmingly positive. The comments from the audience have been great, and the producers are reassured that their investment was worthwhile.”
For more information on the Meyer Sound gear installed, visit www.meyersound.com.