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Meyer Sound Spurs Excitement in San Antonio's SBC Center
Not content to play second fiddle behind Dallas and Houston, the city of San Antonio vaulted to the front ranks in the Texas arena race this year with the opening of the SBC Center. Home to the NBA's Spurs and the AHL's Rampage, as well the annual San Antonio Livestock Exposition, the SBC Center also hosts entertainment events ranging from the Rolling Stones and Cher to Sesame Street Live and the Harlem Globetrotters. In its move to the forefront of on-site technology, the San Antonio venue has installed a dazzling array of audio and video gear.
"We wanted a state-of-the-art facility in every respect," says Clinton Rathmell, the facility's director of audio-video engineering. "The sound system was a key part of that consideration. And with the Meyer system, all aspects of performance have been beyond our expectations."
The SBC Center, funded through a public-private partnership to the tune of $185 million, offers 18,500 seats for basketball and 17,000 seats in the rodeo configuration. Ellerbe Becket was the principal architectural firm, and general contractors on the project were Hunt Construction Group and SpawGlass Contractors. The Dallas-based consulting firm of Wrightson Johnson Haddon and Williams (WJHW) was charged with acoustical design, and specification of broadcast and sound systems; the Meyer Sound system was supplied and installed by the Miami-headquartered Pro Sound. The sound system design was a collaborative effort between Pro Sound and Meyer Sound Design Services, based on an original design from WJHW. Initial cluster configuration details were reviewed using Meyer Sound's MAPP acoustical prediction software.
"The WJHW specification allowed for design approaches using either the Meyer products or conventional systems," notes Scott Pearson, operations manager at Pro Sound. "But by utilizing the self-powered series – which eliminated amps and amp racks – it made our proposal for the Meyer system a more cost effective solution from a scheduling standpoint."
The installed system comprises four main clusters. The two clusters covering the (shorter) north-south axis of the seating oval each have four tiers of loudspeakers: three 650-P High-Power subwoofers on top of the rigging grid, underneath a row of four MSL-4 Horn-Loaded Long-Throw loudspeakers alternating with three DS-2P Horn-Loaded Mid-Bass loudspeakers, then a row of three MSL-4s, and finally pair of CQ-1 Wide Coverage Main loudspeakers for the front most seats. The (longer) throw to the east and west sides are handled by five tier clusters: three 650-Ps on top, then a row of three DS-2Ps, then two rows of three MSL-4s with increasing downward splay, and finally a single CQ-1. The delay ring of twenty-two UPA-1P Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers covers the upper seating bowl. Four UPA-1Ps under the scoreboard perimeter are available for floor coverage, with two additional UPA-1Ps installed directly below the scoreboard to fill the floor area directly underneath. The entire system is networked with Version 4.3 of the Meyer Sound Windows-based RMS remote monitoring.
System installation was scheduled for August, well in advance of the venue's planned November opening. But some last minute changes in the overhead steelwork postponed the installation time until mid-October, allowing only two weeks for installation and testing of the system. Fortunately, according to Scott Pearson, the added simplicity of the Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers helped facilitate a fast-track job that wrapped up inside the much smaller window. Final calibration of the system was carried out using the SIM System II FFT Analyzer under the supervision of SIM specialist Bob McCarthy.
"Using the Meyer self-powered speakers made it much faster and easier to test and tune the system," claims Pearson. "Basically, you are testing only one wire to each device, as opposed to testing a signal run through a processor and amplifier and testing all the speaker impedances. You don't have to worry about crossover points or aligning your low and high frequency transducers inside the cabinets."
One result of this simplicity, he continues, is that "it sounds good right out of the box. When we first fired it up, the people there from the arena thought it was the greatest thing they had ever heard."
Pearson maintains that the new Meyer Sound system, as integrated into the acoustical design by WJHW, makes the SBC Center a remarkably good-sounding venue for a large arena. The facility's own Clinton Rathmell concurs: "It's incredibly clean, and we have more headroom in the system than we ever imagined. Also, for a venue of this size, the clusters are small and unobtrusive, yet the performance is outstanding."
Because the SBC Center is primarily a sports venue, the sound system specification did not call for full concert level coverage of the main floor. Therefore, most major touring acts will bring in their own systems, though many will opt to use the Meyer Sound system for coverage of the upper seating areas. For the first concert in the venue, country superstar George Strait, the upper row of the clusters and the delay ring were utilized, and with gratifying results. "It sounded fantastic," says Rathmell, "and the next day in the paper we saw rave reviews for the sound. Acoustically it's a great venue for performances, and the sound system integrated perfectly."
With the new Meyer Sound system, team sound mixers at SBC Center now have ample power at their fingertips to help spur fan enthusiasm. But they are also learning a need to exercise prudent restraint, according to Clinton Rathmell. "After the first hockey game, we heard from some fans who said, 'It's okay to turn it down just a bit.' We don't have to push it anywhere near its peak to get the fans worked up."