Boston (August 9, 2006)–Fenway Park is not “an” original; it is “the” original–the oldest baseball park in the major leagues. The home of the Boston Red Sox dates to 1912, and thanks to the commitment of the team’s current ownership group, it should continue to thrive well beyond its 100th anniversary.
Renovations have been commonplace over the years, and even more so of late, with a new sound reinforcement system implemented as part of a project this past off-season that saw new seating sections built on the grandstand roof and the club level reconfigured and remodeled. The changes increased the ballpark’s seating capacity to almost 39,000, seats that are completely filled virtually every game.
The distributed sound system, which serves the entire stadium bowl as well as interior club spaces, was designed by Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW) of Dallas, with installation and custom engineering services provided by Boston Light & Sound. According to WJHW Senior Consultant Mark Graham, the distributed system approach was taken to provide solid, full-bandwidth coverage at every seat in the house, replacing the previous point-source cluster design.
The new system includes more than 200 zones of loudspeakers that offer coverage to defined seating sections. All loudspeakers were supplied by EAW, including the development of several custom models to meet specific needs. For example, on this project, EAW designed and built a custom dual-8-inch-woofer version of its stock MK8196 two-way loudspeaker, and these are flown from the new upper deck canopy as the front-firing cabinet of two that cover 10 rows of seating.
Coverage to the main grandstand’s upper and lower decks is provided by groupings of loudspeakers, while the huge center and right-field bleachers and specialty areas like seats atop the Green Monster and outdoor plazas are handled by carefully selected and placed individual loudspeakers.
All those loudspeakers are driven by QSC Audio power amplifiers, rack-mounted in two air-conditioned rooms behind the left- and right-field grandstands. One room hosts 56 amplifiers and the other has 48, and with only a couple of exceptions, each amplifier drives two loudspeakers.
QSC CX Series amplifiers are the most predominant models, with QSC PowerLight 4.0 amps driving the low-frequency needs of the system’s larger loudspeakers. “This is what we typically do when using QSC amplifiers on projects of this nature,” Graham noted. “The PowerLight Series can really deliver the extra power.”
QSControl.net ties the system together, integrating QSC’s amplifier and loudspeaker management, configurable digital signal processing and digital audio transport into a unified system. It starts in the new audio control booth on the grandstand club level, where a QSC BASIS 904zz processor works nine BASIS 904zz and 914lz processors in each amplifier room. (Another small amplifier room, for the interior concourse system, also includes a single BASIS unit.)
The BASIS processor in the control room assigns the audio to CobraNet bundles, which are then distributed via fiber optics to the BASIS/amplifier packages in the remote equipment rooms. In addition, system control data is routed in the same manner to each location, but on separate fiber optic runs. Network switches at both ends facilitate the conversion of the data and audio program for fiber transport.
“Fiber optics provides much greater immunity to common problems of longer cabling runs, such as hum and buzz,” explained Mark Rowinski of Boston Light & Sound, who took the lead in implementing QSControl.net. “But we also built in analog audio and control lines, so that if there’s a problem with the fiber, it can be quickly switched via the control room BASIS unit. There’s a seamless transition between the two – you can’t hear a difference.”
A PC in the control room hosts QSC Venue Manager software, which provides monitoring and control of every power amplifier in the system as well as access to setting and changing system processing that’s established in the BASIS processor network.
Rowinski noted that the equipment delivery was early enough to allow the amplifier/processor racks to be assembled and interconnected at the Boston Light & Sound shop, with all key processing parameters also framed out and saved by the time it was time to be transferred to the stadium.
The new control room, a late addition to the project that was put together by Boston Light & Sound in about a month’s time, is fronted by a Mackie Onyx 1640 16-channel mixing console built into the work-surface at the operator’s position, with the sound quality of the board’s microphone preamps being a primary factor in its selection. The console is fed a variety of input sources, including PA announcer microphone, a computer-based music playback system and CD/CDR players.
By Opening Day of the 2006 season, the system proved ready to go, tested and optimized and providing dramatically upgraded performance for a sold-out crowd of Red Sox faithful.