Texas High School Music Programs Aim Higher with Meyer Sound Constellation
The award-winning music programs at two Texas high schools—one in the community of Spring and the other 140 miles away in Temple—are getting a boost from their new Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic systems. According to the schools' music faculties, Constellation's astonishing flexibility and natural acoustical characteristics not only enhance the value of the auditorium as a community resource but also improve the learning experience and even lend a competitive advantage to the school's choirs as they prepare for interscholastic competitions.
Meyer Sound's Constellation acoustic system is a new approach to room acoustics, combining advanced digital and transducer technologies to enable venues to alter their acoustics instantly while remaining virtually invisible to the eye. The active acoustic systems—a keystone element in the auditorium renovations at both schools—were specified by BAi, an Austin, Texas-based acoustical consulting firm. Hairel Enterprises of Conroe, Texas was awarded the installation contract for both systems following a competitive bid process.
Constellation's enhancements at Temple High School's 1,200-seat venue quickly earned praise from James Pfeiffer, director of fine arts for the Temple Independent School District. "Constellation really opens up the room to whole new realms of what we can do," he claims. "We can instantly adjust the acoustics for any type or size of ensemble, from a full choir with orchestra to a large band, to a small jazz combo, or a pop choir of 12 singers. It transforms the auditorium into a tremendous resource for all the schools in Temple and our surrounding community. It just gives us enormous flexibility."
At the heart of the Temple system are the primary Constellation processor and three VRAS reverberation processors. Acoustic energy throughout the room is picked up by 22 miniature cardioid microphones and, after processing by the patented VRAS reverberation algorithms is redistributed throughout the space by a total of 95 self-powered Meyer Sound loudspeakers and 12 subwoofers. The system was configured to provide six presets that allow the room reverberation to vary from its nominal 1.3 seconds to 3.5 seconds for choral music. A stage system supplies early reflections to create an active electronic orchestra shell.
The overall effect, states Pfeiffer, is a dramatic transformation of both the sound and the utility of the space. "It naturally balances the sound in the auditorium, so you hear the same thing in every seat. And it works everywhere, even when the performers are up in the balcony. It's really hard to describe. You have to hear it to appreciate what it does."
Constellation at Spring High School is similar in many respects, though scaled down to a 700-seat auditorium. The primary processor and two VRAS processors work in conjunction with 24 microphones, 52 mid-high loudspeakers, and eight ultra-compact subwoofers. Six presets allow the room's mid-band reverberation time to vary from 1.5 seconds with the system off to the longest setting of 4.2 seconds. This "very long" setting was included at the request of David Landgrebe, Spring's assistant choral director.
"Our choirs compete in regional competitions usually held at a newer church that has the acoustics of a European cathedral," Landgrebe explains. "You don't get a chance to warm up on stage, so for some younger singers that really throws them for a loop. Being able to create that very live acoustic here for rehearsals definitely gives us an advantage in preparing our students for the event."
The Constellation systems at both schools includes the voice lift feature, which augments the early reflections from the stage to better disseminate vocal sounds throughout the auditorium—reducing the need for a conventional PA system. Both schools have found the effect particularly useful for dramatic presentations and musicals. "It projects voices into the room much better," comments Landgrebe," and that helps negate the problematic wireless microphone issues we'd have to deal with otherwise."
The comprehensive acoustical redesign at Temple was directed by BAi President and Principal Consultant Charles Bonner, with assistance from Senior Acoustician Andy Miller. BAi Principal Consultant Richard Boner headed the team for Spring High School, also with Miller's assistance.
A range of compact loudspeaker models were chosen for the Temple installation, including 26 Stella-8C and 31 Stella-4C, 20 MM-4XP, nine UPM-1P, and nine UPJunior VariO loudspeakers along with 12 UMS-SM subwoofers. The Spring installation used 20 Stella-8C, 20 MM-4XP, and 12 UPM-1P loudspeakers, in addition to eight MM-10 subwoofers.