Offering a top-line rig adds credibility to our venue and lets artists know they can expect excellence in all aspects of production when they come to visit us.”
Marney SmithGeneral Manager, Hayden Homes Amphitheater
Hayden Homes Amphitheater in Bend, OR attracts top-tier touring artists with its stunning natural setting and superb technical facilities. Situated in the shadow of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and bordered by the pristine Deschutes River, the approximately 8,000-capacity venue stepped up its regional drawing power this year by upgrading the house system for the summer season to Meyer Sound PANTHER large-format linear line array loudspeakers.
A sampling of artists enjoying both the scenery and sound at Hayden Homes Amphitheater (HHA) this year includes Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, Elvis Costello, Ziggy Marley, and Neil Young.
The new system is supplied under a multi-year contract by Tacoma, WA-based Point Source Audio. According to Point Source owner Curt Hare, who serves as the systems engineer and handles FOH for bands without their own mixer, the improvements have been appreciated by artists and audiences alike.
“Everyone has loved it,” he reports. “I’ve heard some say it’s the best system they’ve heard on the tour, and others say it’s like working on near-field monitors. Words like ‘transparent’ and ‘three-dimensional’ come up, and some engineers have told me they are using less EQ and compression on their channel strips.”
The sonic improvements did not come without challenges, however. The wide-open views and riverside ambiance pose acoustic difficulties because HHA is located in the heart of Bend’s Old Mill District, a thriving commercial and residential development. Unlike other similar venues with stages facing natural hillsides, the HHA occupies an essentially flat space with only a minimal construction-graded slope of about 2%. And the adjacent river’s scenic value is offset by a tendency to reflect mid-high frequencies.
“The layout and topography of the venue make it difficult to contain the sound within the venue boundaries,” says Hare. “I had worked with their production manager, Mike Taylor, at the Northwest String Summit and other regional festivals, and he knew I had addressed these issues at a similar venue in Washington. So, he asked me to propose a new solution.”
Taylor was confident the new PANTHER-based system would provide powerful, high-quality sound, but he also needed to convince management that the sound bleed into adjacent neighborhoods could be significantly attenuated.
“We really needed to dial in a much tighter pattern,” he says. “Meyer Sound had the technology and the team to make it happen.”
Coordinating through Meyer Sound Director of Strategic Applications Michael Maxson, Hare worked with Meyer Sound Senior Technical Support Specialist David Vincent to plot system coverage in MAPP 3D with the goal of maintaining full-bandwidth uniformity inside the fence, then dropping off steeply. “They nailed it,” Taylor says. “Now the system does exactly what we expect it to do.”
The system comprises 12 per side arrays of PANTHER loudspeakers, with ten PANTHER-M cabinets over two PANTHER-W cabinets. Bass power comes from 12 1100‑LFC low-frequency control elements arranged in cardioid configurations, while six ULTRA‑X40 compact loudspeakers supply front fill and two Galileo GALAXY Network Platforms contribute to system drive and optimization. Ten MJF‑210 high-power stage monitors are available for artist foldback.
For visiting engineers who love analog, and for his own use when mixing opening acts, Curt Hare keeps his vintage Gamble EX56 parked at HHA for the season.
With artist satisfaction, audience excitement, and community relations all on the upswing, the move to a new PANTHER-based system has proven to be a wise one. “I was confident from the outset,” says Hare, “but we did a demo session back in May to show what we could do. Management was a bit surprised that there was so much engineering and scientific data available to deal with the noise issues, as little was seen from the previous vendor.”
The change was particularly welcome for Hayden Homes Amphitheater General Manager Marney Smith. “Community relations is a massive part of the equation here at HHA,” she says. “Curt’s efforts, combined with the Meyer rig, have made it possible to provide visual ‘heat maps’ of how the sound travels and make adjustments. The reduced sound transfer into surrounding neighborhoods is noticeable.”
The recognition among touring artists also has been gratifying, she adds. “I’m not the one who lets the tours know our house rig is now PANTHER, but I’ve listened in when our production manager relays the news. It’s delightful. Offering a top-line rig adds credibility to our venue and lets artists know they can expect excellence in all aspects of production when they come to visit us.”
Some other acts benefiting from the system upgrade at HHA this year include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Los Lobos, Indigo Girls, Cake, and Counting Crows.
Hayden Homes Amphitheater is owned by the Old Mill District with the summer season concert series booked and managed by Live Nation.