LEICESTER, MASSACHUSETTS: The Leicester campus of Massachusetts' multi-campus Becker College is the 19th oldest campus in the United States. Indeed, the great John Hancock put his John Hancock... er, signature... on its charter in 1784. Now a prestigious private school, Becker's 1,700 students uphold its strong academic tradition, and recent years have witnessed tremendous growth in the school's athletic program. As such, the lone 37 year-old speaker cabinet, in the equally-old Leicester Campus Gymnasium, was proving more and more inadequate, and the school was forced to rent a better system for most events. When administrators approved a modest budget for a new system, the multimedia crew and athletic directors were overjoyed to receive a fabulous sounding and remarkably easy to control system, the logic, processing, and interface of which is provided by an Ashly ne24.24M matrix processor with intuitive Ashly remote control units.
"It looked homemade," said Alan Redstone of the failing loudspeaker that served the gymnasium for nigh on forty years. Redstone is the design and engineering mastermind for nearby North Worcester County's Wavelengths Pro Audio, the firm that won the bid to replace the old "system" on a limited budget. "It was antiquated," he continued. "They had to roll in a power amp to use it, and all of the cabling was literally falling to shreds. There was no input for recorded music, and vocals sounded bad enough that even listeners with no audio expertise immediately recognized that something was amiss. They use the space for basketball games, welcome rallies, banquets and speeches. They were forced to use their portable system on sticks just to get something passable."
Redstone gave the gymnasium eight Community R.5 horn-loaded, two-way loudspeakers split between two distinct zones. Four hang in a line facing the wall with retractable bleachers and four hang above mid-court and aim downward. Two QSC amplifiers power the speakers, and an Ashly ne24.24M matrix DSP provides input conditioning, speaker processing, and a brick wall limiter (so that no volume-hungry undergraduates undo the new system with exuberant gain).
A far cry from the clunky interfaces normally associated with gymnasiums, Redstone was able to give Becker the sort of polish characteristic of high-end corporate boardrooms or conference centers. He cut into the courtside brick to make room for a Lowell turnkey remote, an Ashly WR-2 four-position switch, an input panel, and an Ashly RW-8C remote level controller. The key sequences power the entire system, and the WR-2 selects the bleacher speakers, the center court speakers, or both. Four XLR inputs and an RCA input make the sound system flexible. Lastly, the RW-8C provides input volume control, as well as separate zone and master volumes. The actual Ashly ne24.24M processor and QSC amps reside high up on a training room wall, far from curious fingers.
"At Wavelengths, we almost always turn to Ashly for processing," said Redstone. "Of course there are quite a few companies making processors these days, but for the price, none of them match the functionality of Ashly. In addition, we receive tremendous support from everyone associated with Ashly. The engineering department is famously attentive. They respond immediately whenever I need them. And our New England Ashly rep, Perry Lengyel, is arguably the hardest working rep in the country. In fact, that's our nickname for him!"
The installation came off without a hitch, and Redstone arranged a meeting with Becker's multimedia department and athletic director - the individuals who would use the system on a day-to-day basis. "They were blown away," he laughed. "It's so easy to operate - just turn a key, plug in your inputs, and you're done. Zone selection and volume control are so transparent and intuitive that someone would know what to do the very first time they ever laid eyes on it. It's a pretty dramatic upgrade from the old cabinet that used to sputter and crackle in that old gymnasium."
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PHOTO CAPTION Wavelengths Pro Audio chose an Ashly ne24.24M matrix processor and other Ashly input panels and switches to facilitate transparent and intuitive processing at the new Becker College Gymnasium in Leicester, Massachusetts.