Meyer Sound MILO Provides Texas-Sized Solution for Red Raiders Stadium
It's been said that in a good season, college football fans in Texas quite possibly outnumber the rest of the country's NFL fans. Whether that's a bit of hyperbole or not, it's fair to say that Texas is home to some of the game's more rabid devotees, for whom college games are every bit as crucial as the major leagues.
The Red Raiders of Lubbock's Texas Tech University are one of the state's higher-profile college teams: a Big 12 team that swept the Holiday Bowl last year in San Diego, and played in the Cotton Bowl this year. The team's coach, Mike Leach, was recently the first coach to make the cover of the New York Times Magazine, achieving the distinction of being named one of football's best offensive coaches. Home for the team is Jones SBC Stadium, a 55,000-seat venue that underwent a $90 million renovation last year, including replacing the stadium's patchwork sound system with a new system built on Meyer Sound's MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers.
The stadium's original design dates from the 1960s, and while it's not all that out of the ordinary, it presented a few logistical challenges that led James Bush, the venue's production manager, to opt for the single-source approach, where the entire system resides around the scoreboard. "The stadium's got a clubhouse facility that's about ten stories high on one side, and lower on the other," Bush explains. "Finding the right locations for a traditional distributed system would have been a heck of a challenge, and it would've ended up being cost prohibitive."
It was equally clear early on that nothing from the stadium's existing sound system would play a part in the renovation. "We had a whole amalgamation of previous systems working more or less together – sometimes more, but more often less," Bush remarks. "For the most part, it amounted to a bandage where a tourniquet was needed. We ended up gutting the whole thing. It was good to have the opportunity to put in one manageable system."
Rather than fight his way through trying to make a distributed system work, Bush opted for the somewhat unconventional approach of installing a line array system. The choice of an installed line array at only one end of the field was met with at least some degree of skepticism. "I wasn't aware that no one had really done a line array as a permanent installation in a stadium before," says Bush. "I'd seen them in concerts all the time and it never even crossed my mind that no one would have tried it (in a stadium). We've got a big DiamondVision screen at the north end of the field, and it just made sense to stick one (array) to the left (of the screen) and one to the right. I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel or anything."
The arrays on either side of the screen each consist of five MILO cabinets with one MILO 60 high-power narrow coverage curvilinear array loudspeaker underhung to cover the areas closer to the array. A primary challenge in single-source systems is providing intelligible sound all the way across the length of the venue. However, Bush knew that Meyer Sound made the unique SB-1 parabolic long-throw sound beam specifically for this purpose. The SB-1 delivers a narrow, focused beam of highly intelligible sound covering nearly a five-octave frequency range further than 300 feet. Texas Tech's stadium uses two SB-1 cabinets to provide coverage to the far end of the field. "It's a pretty long throw — some 280 feet — to the other end of the field, and the SB-1 came to mind as the ideal complement to the MILO array," Bush remarks. He also specified four UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers to cover the near-field seats. "Those seats are about 25 feet up in the air, so we put the UPAs down close for near fills."
Another priority in planning the new system was to have all system components equipped with Meyer Sound's RMS Remote Monitoring System to make it easy to keep an eye on the system's status in real time. "That's one issue we'd been snake-bitten by in the past," Bush recounts. "It's pretty remote up there at the top of the stands by the PA sound booth, and when one of the speakers cracked back into whine mode, we didn't notice it right away. Needless to say, we got a different kind of feedback later on after the game. So I really wanted to put everything on an RMS system so we could track what was going on, and mute something if we had to. That way we're not getting stung fifteen minutes before game time. Plus, then you eliminate the guesswork of trying to hear over the crowd to determine whether a speaker's on or not."
Installation of the system was handled jointly by the Dallas and Oklahoma City offices of Ford Audio Visual. Ford AV's Paul Riley sees the self-powered advantage and sonic quality of the Meyer Sound loudspeakers as being key to the job. "The Texas Tech football stadium install was greatly simplified by the Meyer Sound self-powered products," Riley says. "Very little EQ was needed and the system exceeded predictions and everyone's expectations."
Meyer Sound Design Services staff was brought in to aid in the planning phases, utilizing MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction software to work out the optimal loudspeaker configuration. "I really expected we'd need about twice as many MILO cabinets, and maybe four Sound Beams, and when (Meyer Sound's) Todd Meier and I MAPP'ed it out I was a bit surprised," Bush recalls. "I've used the MAPP software enough to know I can trust it, but I'll admit I still had some doubts, and so did some other folks here. I think the Athletic Director had my diploma and a letter of resignation under his desk until after the first game," he quips. "I figured I was either going to come up shining, or be escorted out in a tote bag."
Audio on the field is picked up by a selection of Shure U2 wireless systems, using both handheld Beta 87 transmitters and Shure U1 body pack transmitters with Countryman E6 headset mics and Shure MX185BP lavalier mics. A 24-channel Midas Siena mixing desk is set up to provide a variety of separate mixes, a luxury greatly appreciated in the stadium's corporate suites. As Bush explains, "some of them want to hear the local broadcast, others only want to hear the announcer, and so on. This way, we can give them a choice of up to 16 different feeds, so everyone's happy."
As Bush reports, the MILO system has exceeded even his own high standards. "We're getting a base level of around 94 to 96 dB (SPL), and getting 103 to 104 dB over the whole stadium with a variance of less than 4 dB," he reports, "and that's just headroom. ' The system covers the entire arena gloriously and is exceeding my expectations and specifications."