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Meyer Sound M'elodie Moves Into Freight & Salvage's New LEED-Certified Home
The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse is a haven for folk, traditional, and roots music and a Berkeley landmark of 41 years. Since 1988, Meyer Sound has been an active supporter behind the Freight's unqualified success as one of the Bay Area's best listening rooms, equipping the performance venue with state-of-the-art audio systems. As the Freight moved into an 18,000-square-foot eco-friendly building this year, Meyer Sound continued to work closely with its staff as well as the project teams involved, from sound system design through installation.
"We are not so much a venue but a community organization that includes incredible artists, their fans, and now their students," said Steve Baker, the Freight's executive director. "For our new facility, it was essential that we maintained the standard we set in our older facilities as a serious listening room where people could appreciate the music."
The Freight's target was achieved in the form of a new $12 million performance venue and teaching facility designed by Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects. The new space was created around traditional and acoustic music and ecologically "green" principals, achieving LEED certification. Architects Logan and Wong had also worked with Meyer Sound on the Pearson Theatre, for which the architectural firm was awarded an Architecture Merit award from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in 2008 and a design award from the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco in 2009.
Theatre and AV design consultants Adam Shalleck and Ian Hunter of The Shalleck Collaborative worked closely with Logan and project architect Tai-Ran Tseng to create a seating layout for the listening room that would optimize the audience experience by marrying room acoustics with a Meyer Sound solution. Acoustical consultants David Schwind and Jason Duty from Charles M. Salter Associates provided analysis and recommendations for the Freight, spending hours recording concerts and interviewing staff and musicians. The resulting design highlights a snappy brightness for acoustic instruments while minimizing echo through the incorporation of a concrete floor deadened by the placement of reclaimed wood in an uneven pattern on the room's walls.
"No matter how good the place looks, if the acoustics aren't right, the venue cannot be successful, so we and the Freight were very fortunate to have Meyer Sound's superb expertise and technology," said Logan. "They worked with us in creating a very quiet room with reverberation in an ideal range for reinforced sound, and sophisticated, clear audio distributed evenly, with great sightlines and fantastic sound to every seat. Meyer Sound's outstanding technology was a critical element of the project that was anticipated and integrated at every design phase."
"The room is open yet recalls the previous smaller Freight venues while achieving all the sound design goals," said Mike Chase, design engineer for Pro Media/UltraSound, the sound system installer. "It's casual, but truly a 'live' room." He claps his hands and the room responds immediately, sharply. "It's designed to diffuse sound and also to enhance it in a way that works like no other room I've experienced. It's the balance between a recording studio, where a bright echo could kill the subtleties, and a live room where too much dampening can soften the energy of a live performance. Meyer Sound did an excellent job of tuning the sound system to the room."
The listening room has a capacity of 440 persons and is equipped with 16 M'elodie line array loudspeakers, two 600-HP subwoofers under stage, four stage-mounted M1D line array loudspeakers for frontfills, and five UPJ-1P VariO loudspeakers for sidefills to ensure consistent quality across the entire room. Monitoring can be arranged in any combination of four UM-1P and two UM-100P stage monitors. The design team and Meyer Sound collaborated closely to ensure that the mechanical air handling system had no impact on the listening experience.
Meyer Sound's Galileo loudspeaker management system is used for drive and processing. Strategically placed MM-4XP miniature loudspeakers flood the lobby and Stella-4C installation loudspeakers are ceiling-mounted to sprinkle sound through the offices, viewing areas upstairs and an outside entry alcove. A Soundcraft Digital Vi4 console controls the audio mix.
"As with all Meyer projects," said Ian Hunter, "the end result is stellar, the depth of the sound field is amazing, and the system provides even, clear coverage throughout."
"It's very rare for acoustics to be a primary consideration in the early stage-planning of an architectural space," said John Meyer, Meyer Sound's CEO and co-founder, "so it was exciting for us to collaborate with the architects, theatrical consultants, and acoustical consultants to create a music venue that is as acoustically exceptional as it is visually stunning. The Freight & Salvage has a history of being devoted to live music, and now they have a venue that reflects their values by ensuring that every seat in the house is a great seat. We are very proud of the results."