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Meyer Sound Constellation Transforms Oregon’s Newport PAC: “It’s Like Having a Brand New Space”

The Newport Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Oregon has recently installed a Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system in its 398-seat Alice Silverman Theatre. With the upgrade, the venue joins the likes of Moscow’s Svetlanov Hall, The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and more than 50 other prestigious venues that rely on the variable acoustics of Constellation to deliver an extraordinary live experience.

“The result of Constellation is subtly but fundamentally transformative for both audience and performer,” says David Ogden Stiers, resident conductor for the Newport Symphony Orchestra (NSO), who has more than 20 years of experience at the PAC. “We have gone from an okay performance space to an actual, audible concert hall. Frankly, I was skeptical about the system at first—but am now totally won over.” 

The proposal of the Constellation solution initially came from acoustical consultant Russ Altermatt, who heard an impressive demonstration at University of California San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Music Center during an Acoustical Society of America conference.

“The flexibility of Constellation and the natural acoustical environment it created in the space were astonishing,” says Altermatt. “Constellation is able to simulate much larger rooms—I could not believe how natural the three and four second RT’s sounded. Newport would have to spend tens of millions to achieve that symphony sound with architectural acoustic solutions, but then the other performance groups would suffer.”

At the core of Newport’s Constellation system is a D-Mitri® digital audio platform that hosts all system I/O, signal processing, and control logic. The room’s acoustic is picked up by 18 miniature condenser microphones and processed by patented VRAS™ algorithms to deliver early reflections and reverberation to the room. This tailored acoustical enhancement is delivered using 40 Stella-4 installation loudspeakers, 26 MM-4XP self-powered loudspeakers, two CQ-1 loudspeakers, 10 HMS-10 surround loudspeakers, with low end from four MM-10XP subwoofers and two 500-HP subwoofers.

When needed, a Meyer Sound reinforcement system uses the CQ-1 and HMS-10 loudspeakers and 500-HP subwoofers in addition to one UPA-1P and two UPJunior VariO™ loudspeakers.  The integrated systems provide tremendous flexibility to support acoustic, reinforced, and cinema events. An Apple iPad provides an easy-to-use interface for the system operator to change settings.

“Performers now get an incredible amount of response from the hall, which not only allows them to hear themselves better, but also greatly enhances their perception of audience response,” says Mark McConnell, a former Newport mayor who chaired the project’s capital campaign. “The system is very subtle and extremely effective because the audience is never really aware that Constellation is there and working on their behalf. It’s like having a brand new space—there’s no comparison to what we had before.” 

Adam Flatt, NSO musical director, says: “From the podium, the sound has more life and color from the point of production. From there, the bloom carries to the audience—something that was lacking before. We now have a much improved ‘instrument’ in which to make music.”

The Newport PAC is home to a collection of companies known as the PACRATS (Performing Arts Center Resident Artists Team), which includes producers of music, theatre, and dance events. In addition to the PAC’s concert schedule, Constellation supports Broadway-style productions including Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks.  

The audio systems were designed and installed by Eugene, Ore.-based George Relles Sound.