Meyer Sound Constellation Unveils a New World of Possibilities for Covina's Performing Arts Scene
Nestled in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, the Covina Center for the Performing Arts is a distinctive venue with grand aspirations. With the capacity for a mere 99 patrons to attend theatrical performances (up to 130 for concerts), Covina now features a sophisticated Meyer Sound system encompassing sound reinforcement, audio show control, cinema surround and the groundbreaking Constellation electroacoustic architecture.
The audio quality and flexibility of Covina's new sound system have now brought the local creative arts scene to a whole new level by providing an optimal listening experience for all types of presentations, from Broadway musicals and hit plays to classical and R&B concerts.
"We were trying to create a system that could reproduce anything," says Bill Platt, the principal of Sierra Madre-based Platt Design Group, which handled the design and installation of the AV and Constellation package. "And that's what we have in Covina."
Because the acoustics that sound best for one kind of performance may not be ideal for others, Meyer Sound's Constellation is the answer for multipurpose venues like Covina. Constellation incorporates the physical acoustics of a space with powerful technology and expert services to create flexible acoustical environments. This advanced turnkey solution is based upon the company's patented VRAS technology and combines rigorous design, calibration, and certification methodologies with a flexible hardware and software package. Each Constellation system is designed from the ground up to match the specific needs and circumstances of the venue in which it is installed.
With Constellation, venues can customize the room acoustics to easily accommodate the acoustic needs of every performance and event. The VoiceLift feature in Constellation adds early reflections that are critical in bringing presence and immediacy to spoken word presentations, without having the need for anyone to use a microphone while speaking.
The Constellation system at Covina is programmed with a range of reverberation settings that allow the operator to adapt the room to different musical styles and speech presentations. "Our team designed the room for a short reverberation time of about 0.9 seconds adhering to a proper bass ratio," Platt notes. "From there we can add in Constellation's VoiceLift preset for drama or apply one of the three longer preset times of acoustical enhancement for various music performances."
When Constellation made its debut at Covina in the beloved comedy, The Odd Couple, the convenience and potential of the system became apparent to Patrick Copeland, staff sound designer as well as musical director for most productions of the resident Center Stage Repertory.
"We used the VoiceLift setting for that show, and the enhancement was seamless," says Copeland. "Voices were reinforced just as if they were naturally occurring early reflections. Everybody could hear clearly, even when actors turned away. We didn't have one complaint about not being able to hear and the actors appreciated not having to wear body mics."
The Constellation component of the installed system is built around two core DSP processors plus an expansion input-output frame. The acoustical signature is captured by cardioid and omnidirectional microphones spread throughout the proscenium, walls and overhead in the hall. Other Meyer Sound equipment supporting the Constellation system include Stella-4C installation loudspeakers, self-powered MM-4XP miniature loudspeakers and UMS-1P subwoofers.
Designed and manufactured to deliver an extremely flat frequency response, some of the Meyer Sound loudspeakers at Covina perform double duty as part of Constellation and the main loudspeaker system. The main sound reinforcement system has supported the presentations of Smokey Joe's Café, Kiss Me Kate and Enter the Guardsmen. The configuration comprises left and right, upper and lower theatrical towers of two UPJ-1P VariO loudspeakers and a USW-1P subwoofer each. Another pair of UPJ-1P loudspeakers is flown as upper and lower center loudspeakers. The system includes Wild Tracks hard disk playback for sound effects, with both playback and live cues seamlessly mixed and matrixed using CueStation software.
As part of the complete AV package, Platt Design Group also supplied a complete HD video projection system well-suited for film screenings, in which the Meyer Sound system can be reconfigured for full cinema surround with a few mouse clicks.
Also a composer and a recording engineer for his own company, Up 'Til 4 Music & Sound, Copeland has a studio located in the adjoining building. Platt provided a 64-channel RME MADI multichannel audio digital interface to connect Patrick's studio to the Covina Center's main patching system, allowing him to leverage the Constellation microphones and the processing power of the system for recording sessions.
Following positive feedback from the actors at the first show, a recent summer festival at Covina gave the Constellation system a workout in music presentations. "It performed perfectly for classical and acoustic vocal concerts," says Copeland, "and just as well when I used the system to enhance the voices when the singers were performing with recorded accompaniment on another night."
Copeland eagerly anticipates the full creative potential provided by the new system. "All the Meyer speakers sound amazing – everything is exceptionally clear and transparent," says Copeland. "And the system's flexibility has really impressed everybody. Since we're a multiuse facility, it's great to be able to tweak the system to work for anything that comes our way and so far we've really only touched the tip of the iceberg as to what this system can do."
For Platt, the abundant possibilities of the system were all part of the plan. "The amazing thing about the Constellation system here is its ability to follow a perfect bass ratio signature as the reverb signature increases. I have never heard anything work this well in other mechanical or electronic systems. One week you can use it as a Broadway-type theater imaging system, then the next week you can turn off the proscenium PA, bring in a piano for a recital, and throw in a "Carnegie Hall-like" algorithm."
The Covina Center also houses the Champion Circle lounge and cabaret. The intimate performance space seats about 50 and is equipped with Meyer Sound UPJunior VariO loudspeakers and USW-1P subwoofers.
A center for a broad cultural renaissance in the area and home to local art group Stage Arts Repertory, the Covina Center for the Performing Arts was established and privately funded by Chris and Retha Champion, and is currently managed by the Champion Family Foundation.