NEW ORLEANS, LA—The only building in the country to have produced both United States and Confederate money, the Old U.S. Mint, part of the Louisiana State Museum network of National Historic Landmarks and architecturally significant structures, is focused on music these days. Built in 1835, the building features permanent exhibits highlighting the role of New Orleans in the history of jazz, a photography gallery spotlighting the new generation of New Orleans musicians and, on the third floor, a performance space with adjacent recording studio.
A Euphonix MC Control and two MC Mix fader panels provide control of Pro Tools in the control room of the Old U.S. Mint’s recording studio. Akustiks, LLC. in South Norwalk, CT provided the acoustic and AV systems design for both the live space—designated the New Orleans Mint Performing Arts Center, presenting New Orleans and Louisiana music and entertainment—and the production studio. Louisiana-based PSX Audio Visual Technology was the AV systems integrator, and Theater Projects supplied the lighting and theater design.
According to Akustiks principal Russ Todd, “The idea was that there would be some adjustability to the room. There are some innovative acoustic panels that slide over some of the historic windows that were maintained in the buildings. These acoustic panels have both diffusion and absorption integrated into them, so you can vary the acoustics depending on your taste.”
Sound reinforcement is provided by an installed Meyer Sound rig featuring UPQ-2P, UPJ-1P and UPM-1P cabinets plus 500-HP subs with a Galileo 616 handling system management. EAW MicroWedges provide on-stage monitoring. The sound and lighting systems are configured to support both end-stage and in-the-round set-ups.
The control room is used to record, webcast and archive video and audio of the busy schedule of live performances in the adjoining venue, which are presented by the Louisiana Museum Foundation’s Music at the Mint. The studio also provides digitization and preservation services for the Louisiana State Museum’s historically significant jazz music collection.
“We took a typical control room approach. You’ll see some of Peter D’Antonio’s RPG panels,” says Todd.
Sam Brandt, senior consultant and AV systems specialist at Akustiks, reports that the choice of live sound console—an APB-DynaSonics Spectra-Ti40P—was partially informed by the recording studio equipment choices. “There were no operators or technical staff at the time of design, so we were trying to keep everything analog on the front end to keep it simple. Plus, it allowed us to use some quality mic preamps on the recording side,” he explains.
The collection of six API 3124+ and two 3124mb+ four-channel mic preamp units, 32 channels in total, feeding an Avid Pro Tools HD1 system is one of the centerpieces of the studio. “There’s a three-way passive transformer split to two mixing locations in the theater and to recording. That was another reason to have an analog front-of-house console,” says Brandt.
On-stage sources are captured by a package of microphones encompassing AKG, Audix, Beyerdynamic, E-V, Royer, Sennheiser and Shure dynamic and condenser models. There are also Countryman Type 10 DI boxes available.
There is no window into the performance area, says Brandt. “So there’s a 58-in Panasonic plasma monitor display on the wall with a multi-window processor. They can have multiple camera views or pull up Pro Tools.”
A Euphonix MC Control and two MC Mix fader panels provide control of Pro Tools. Monitoring is via a pair of Genelec 8240As with a single 7270A subwoofer.
The control room additionally features an isolated room from Eckel Noise Control Technologies of Cambridge, MA. In addition to supporting vocal and instrument recording and overdubs, the room also enables voiceover recording for the museum’s audio and walking tour guides.
Constructed of heavy gauge steel with integrated acoustical material, the room is 5 feet wide by 11 feet long and 9 feet high, with a large horizontal window offering sightlines between the performer and the engineer. The walls are 4 inches thick while the ceiling is 7 inches thick to accommodate a special low volume, low noise, recessed ventilation system.
Eckel doesn’t have an especially high profile in the pro audio world, although it is a significant supplier of VO rooms for applications such as books-on-tape. The company, in the acoustics business for more than 60 years, is a prominent supplier of anechoic chambers and audiometric enclosures in North America and worldwide.
The National Park Service hosts free interpretive performances and lectures on subjects such as the roots of jazz in the performing arts center at the Old U.S. Mint almost daily, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Museum. Akustik included a self-contained video panel and sound system behind a sliding panel on the wall opposite the windows to handle the presentations. “We decided to go with a large display rather than a projector. There are Meyer Sound speakers that go with it,” says Brandt, noting a pair of UP-4XP speakers and an MM-10ACX mini sub.
One aspect that Akustiks didn’t have to worry about much was isolation between floors in the building. “The event hall is where they used to wash the coins; it has a massive concrete floor that was sloped, with a drain in the middle,” says Todd. “So we just built a floating floor—because they love to dance in there—on top of the floor to level it out.”
Eckel Noise Control Technologies