Whitinsville, MA (July 1, 2004)–For more than 90 years the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium has been a cultural and educational focal point on campus, hosting the performances of Segovia, Horowitz, Bernstein and Rachmaninoff, not to mention B.B., Ella and Dylan. But, the march of time and ill-conceived renovations had taken their toll on Hill Auditorium, and despite a celebrated history, its luster had ebbed over the years. For this reason, it recently received a massive $38.6 million restoration that addressed everything from architectural detail and lighting, to electrical wiring, ventilation, seating as well as acoustics. The auditorium now features a new EAW system, featuring DSA Series cabinets.
The consulting firm Kirkegarrd Associates was brought in to address the hall’s challenging acoustics. According to Scott Pfeiffer, senior consultant and project manager for Kirkegaard Associates, their primary goal was to address echo control, and improve isolation from outside noise. “The room was originally designed as a lecture hall,” Pfeiffer explained, “They were primarily interested in creating an acoustical environment that would allow a single person on stage to speak to the audience without amplification.”
But the results of multiple renovations had altered the room’s acoustics, largely for the worse. “Originally the hall had a bit of an issue with excess reverb,” Pfeiffer recalled. “In the 1940’s they replaced the wooden seats with padded ones, and while that cut down on the reverb issue, there were some problems with echo and first reflections into the audience. Due to the curvature of the room, the acoustics were somewhat problematic. Communication across the stage was difficult, and the sound was different in various parts of the audience. While it was a great place to hear a soloist, for ensemble concerts some people were hearing a concerto for violas, while others would hear a concerto for woodwinds.”
Kirkegaard’s Frans Swarte, the consultant behind the new audio system design added, “The rear wall was originally covered in horsehair and rather absorbent. But after being painted over many times, it became highly reflective. Part of the renovation was to go back to a softer surface.”
Having worked with steerable line array technology in the past, Swarte recommended EAW’s DSA Series cabinets for the hall. “We had done a demo of the DSA in a Chicago theater and were impressed with the steering control of the units,” Swarte explained. “The DSA had some distinct advantages for this project, offering a very short spacing of the HF units, as well as greater control and greater SPL at wider opening angles.”
The hall’s new EAW system comprises a total of six DSA Series cabinets that are mounted behind the scrim for low visibility. A DSA250 full-range cabinet and low-frequency DSA230 on either side are aimed at the main floor and mezzanine, while additional DSA250’s on top cover the balcony seating. The DSA system is augmented by a passive horizontal stage-lip array of Audax and Radia Pro speakers driven by QSC amplification. An Allen & Heath GL2200 console drives the mix.
In addition to dramatically improving imaging throughout the hall, the new audio overhaul helps to reduce noise leakage from the outer lobbies, as well as from traffic and street noise outside the building.
After a 20-month hiatus, Hill Auditorium reopened to an even more adoring public. The results of the restoration continue to garner rave reviews, and the venue’s sonic revamping has scored high marks from performers and patrons alike. Now, Hill can once again claim its proud place among the country’s most appreciated historic venues.