HASTINGS, MINNESOTA - JANUARY 2010: Just a half hour outside of the Twin Cities near the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers, Hastings, Minnesota blends the best of near-urban, suburban, and rural living. Hastings Middle School (HMS) has helped foster a uniquely engaged student body, with over 75% of students participating in the performing arts. Ironically, the school's 700-seat auditorium - an inheritance from the building's former life as the high school - balanced at the brink of disuse for years because aging audio/video and lighting components were failing on a regular basis. Resuscitation and intervention kept it limping along.
However, all of that changed at the beginning of academic year 2009-2010, after Burnsville, Minnesota A/V design/install firm Intermedia Systems Group (ISG), replaced everything that had been terrible and flighty with equipment that was transparent and rock-solid, right down to the amp rack, which now gleams with the
24/7-reliability of Ashly PE-Series amplifiers.
"There were a number of things that caused the undoing of the old sound system, not the least of which was a broken sprinkler pipe that deposited some 'moisture' on top of the old rack," deadpanned Joel Evermann, ISG project consultant. ISG is a cutting-edge audio/visual design and implementation contractor that services the commercial, house-of-worship, corporate, and educational communities in the greater Minnesota five-state region. "The school held the system together for a while with a lot of service calls. To make matters worse, the speakers were inappropriate for the space even when they were new - overlapping coverage patterns led to hot and cold spots all over the seating area. Something needed to be done."
The goals for the new system were tripartite, yet simple. First, ISG had to build something that was remarkably reliable, the polar opposite of everything the school had dealt with previously. Second, it had to be flexible enough to handle not just the middle school's musical, dramatic, and variety productions, but also those of the community and of numerous private renters. Third, and finally, it had to sound excellent, a goal that would be largely accomplished with even a modest improvement in speaker design and placement.
After the school's unrelenting nightmare of service calls, Evermann knew he had to deliver the most reliable amp rack he could, and that led him to Ashly. "The capabilities of Ashly's PE-Series were spot-on for what we needed in this application," he said. "We had used Ashly PE- and NE-Series amps in many previous installations, and they have been trouble-free. That, combined with their tremendous value for dollar, recommended their use at Hastings Middle School." Two Ashly PE 1800 (two-channel, 900W per channel @ 4 ohms) and one Ashly PE 3000 (two-channel, 1500W per channel @ 4 ohms) now grace the equipment rack.
The new amps power a complement of speakers that now cover the space perfectly, a far cry from the audible dips and peaks that used to characterize it. Yamaha Installation Series IS 2112 loudspeakers cover most of the seating, backed up from below by IS 1215 subwoofers. A delay ring of RCF loudspeakers covers the back third of the seats, an excellent sonic complement to the Yamaha units.
A Biamp Nexia DSP provides a modest amount of processing downstream from a 32-channel Yamaha LS9 console. "The LS9 provides auditorium manager Anne Blessing with some peace of mind," said Evermann. "Since the space gets used by so many entities, some of them directly connected to the school and some not, the fact that it's digital with complete scene recall makes transitions between users vastly simpler than it used to be. In addition, the new console has access management, so Anne can give users an appropriate level of access, but no more."
In conjunction with the audio overhaul, Intermedia, in a cooperative effort with SECOA, a theatrical lighting design contractor, revamped the auditorium's lighting system, which had also been at the cusp of crashing for a different set of reasons. They gutted the dimmer rack, rewired everything, and installed a modern complement of ETC theatrical controls and Source Four lighting fixtures.
After a few months to tool-up their version of Schoolhouse Rock Live, HMS recently hosted its inaugural event in their glorious new auditorium. "Everyone was thrilled! It was the sort of improvement that even folks with no A/V interest at all find obvious," said Evermann. "I attended and received unabashed compliments from Anne, the school's musical director, Kathy Warren, and the Hastings Middle School principal, Mark Zuzek. For my part, I was impressed by the overall sound and how well they managed their new technology."
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PHOTO CAPTION Three Ashly PE-Series amplifiers deliver 24/7 reliability and great sound to the 700-seat Hastings Middle School Auditorium in Hastings, Minnesota.