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Meyer Sound Shares in Astonishing Kremlin Transformation
Situated adjacent to the onion domes and spires of Russia's ancient capital, the vast State Kremlin Palace was built as a congress hall in the 1960s, and is best known as site of innumerable party conferences during the Soviet era. Western eyes glimpsed the interior only briefly in TV news, but today – along with everything else in Moscow – this epicenter of Cold War politics is being transformed by new ideas and new technologies. Recently, the sweeping changes included installation of a new self-powered audio system from Meyer Sound.
In the late 1990s, a decision was made to reinvent the 7,000-seat Palace, converting it to a first-class performance hall. Political speeches would be replaced by Russia's world-famous cultural icons — symphonies, operas and the ballet — as well as frequent visits from a wide variety of jazz, pop and rock touring acts. A new sound system moved to the top of the Palace's post-Soviet agenda.
The ambitious transformation project took over four years to complete, with intervening delays largely due to funding issues. But by the end of 2002, the renovated Palace was preparing to take its place among Europe's elite performance venues. Dave Dennison, an audio consultant working under contract with Meyer Sound, was on hand to commission the new system. "I tuned the system with both orchestral and rock events in mind," he says, "as the venue will break into the pop world, too. So it's got kind of a rock 'n' roll edge to it – very powerful in the low end, and a very flat frequency response."
This complete overhaul of sound facilities was initiated back in 1998, when Victor Kondakov, head of the sound department at the Kremlin State Palace, contacted Meyer Sound and requested assistance in carrying out a comprehensive acoustical evaluation of the room. A team of technical specialists flew in from Meyer Sound headquarters in California and proceeded to measure the room acoustics using a proprietary technique that generated detailed complex data – including frequency and phase response – that could be compiled into an accurate acoustical "fingerprint" of the room. The data files were turned over to the San Francisco acoustical consulting firm of Charles Salter Associates for further analysis and preparation of a report that could be used as the basis of a bid tender.
After evaluating proposals from several leading worldwide manufacturers, Kondakov chose Meyer Sound, saying, "Meyer is the only manufacturer to satisfy all the features and conditions required for the State Kremlin Palace. Furthermore, show me a single singer or musician's tour rider without Meyer Sound on it…"
Consultant Dave Dennison then began work on the system design, working in close coordination with ISPA Engineering, one of Meyer Sound's dealers in Russia and the main contractor on the project. Preliminary designs were periodically updated through the three-year interim delay, and finalized shortly before renovation work finally began in 2001.
The system as installed employs center, left and right clusters flown from the ceiling, together with groundstacked subs and front fills. The center cluster has three MSL-4 Horn-Loaded Long-Throw loudspeakers and three CQ-2 Full-Range Narrow Coverage loudspeakers, while the side clusters are a little more complex. The upper rows consist of six DS-4P Horn-Loaded Mid-Bass loudspeakers, and below them are two rows of three MSL-6 Horn-Loaded High-Q loudspeakers and then a row of three MSL-4s for downfill. Stacked each side of the stage are four PSW-6 High-Power Cardioid subwoofers, topped with two CQ-2s, while 12 UPM-1P Ultra-Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers handle front fill. "In many ways, it's a typical, traditional sound design for a hall like this," says ISPA chief engineer Mikael Rappe.
Delay lines have been set for the stalls and balcony courtesy of 26 UPA-1P Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers, and integrated via SIM System II FFT Analyzer. "SIM has also been used to align the clusters," adds project manager Yuri Terpeniyants. "The first step was to measure the hall for the best placement of the microphones that would, in turn, take the SIM measurements. Only then did we begin to use these readings to place the speakers initially."
Rappe points out that the sheer size of the venue, combined with architectural features, imposed daunting design challenges. "There are many reflections in the hall, and dead zones beneath the balcony. It's very big, with smooth walls, but these are typical acoustic problems on a site like this. Meyer's technology was built to deal with them."
"Actually, we've had ballet here right from the start," adds Petr Shaboltai, general manager of the Palace. "Because of its size, this was the second official stage of the Bolshoi. But it was designed as a congress hall, so we're very happy to have new stage lighting and sound reinforcement installed. The changes here have been welcomed by both touring artists and audiences alike. Whether the technology is Western or otherwise, the main thing is that it has to be excellent."