The sound system is flawless, crystal clear, transparent, and perfectly matched to the hall.”
Randall KlineFounder and Executive Artistic Director, SFJAZZ
Opened early in 2013, San Francisco’s SFJAZZ Center is the first performance and education complex in America that was built from the ground up exclusively for jazz. At the heart of the centre is the world-class Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which strikes a meticulous balance between the hall’s controlled natural acoustics and the transparent audio reproduction by Meyer Sound’s MINA line array loudspeakers.
The design of the audio system and the room’s physical acoustics presented a challenge to Sam Berkow, founder and principal of SIA Acoustics.
“SFJAZZ wanted the ultimate room for musicians to play in, for the audience to listen, and for engineers to record,” Berkow says. “To do it all in a relatively small space that allowed flexible seating for up to 700 wasn’t easy.”
As the hall’s natural acoustics are designed to carry the stage sound into the audience, this sound system’s role is about balancing and augmenting the natural stage sound while remaining sonically transparent. With that in mind, Berkow, SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline, and Production Manager Cecilia Engelhart selected Meyer Sound MINA loudspeakers based on their uncolored reproduction and linear response, regardless of output level.
“Overall, we strongly preferred the sound of MINA,” Berkow says. “With MINA, we could be confident that the sound from the speakers would match the sound from the stage. In particular, MINA’s acoustic manifold gives that very soft, silky high frequency sound that brings out the nuances of instruments like saxophones.”
Bolstering the dual arrays of 16-each MINA are five 500-HP subwoofers flown in a three-front, two-rear cardioid array. “The sub array works extremely well,” Berkow says. “It keeps off-axis energy from muddying the sound on stage; something which is extremely important for jazz”.
The complete Meyer Sound system also comprises eight JM‑1P arrayable loudspeakers, two UPJ‑1P VariO loudspeakers and four M1D-SM line array loudspeakers as side, rear, and front fill loudspeakers respectively, and a Galileo loudspeaker management system with two Galileo 616 processors.
“The sound system is flawless, crystal clear, transparent, and perfectly matched to the hall,” says SFJAZZ’s Randall Kline after the opening concert.”The sounds of the instruments were the most natural I have heard in a hall this size. I especially noticed the vibraphones of Bobby Hutcherson and Stefon Harris, which sounded intimate but powerful.”
The Miner Auditorium audio systems were installed by BBI of San Francisco under the guidance of Principal Mark Roos and Project Manager Pete Maiers. Architect for the SFJAZZ Center was Mark Cavagnero, and theatrical design was entrusted to Len Auerbach of Auerbach Pollock Friedlander.
For mixing consoles, Berkow specified an Avid Profile at FOH, an SC48 at monitors, and an ICON D-Command feeding a full Pro Tools rig in the recording/broadcast booth.
The SFJAZZ Center is the new permanent home of SFJAZZ, a non-profit arts organization founded in 1983 as “Jazz in the City.” The January 23 premiere concert was hosted by Bill Cosby, and featured performances by McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, and Joshua Redman, among other luminaries.