Sound Takes Shape at Soundscape

MIAMI BEACH, FL—Every time a new building by renowned architect Frank Gehry goes up, people can’t help but take notice.
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MIAMI BEACH, FL—Every time a new building by renowned architect Frank Gehry goes up, people can’t help but take notice. The sweeping curves and undulating metal walls always create a sight to behold. In the case of Miami Beach’s New World Center, it’s an earful to behold as well.

The $13 million venue, which opened this past January, is now home to the New World Symphony. The site is comprised of high-tech performance and learning spaces, all wired for audio/video recording and Internet2 use, but the interior focal point is the SunTrust Pavilion, the 756-seat main concert space. For those who can’t get tickets to the orchestra’s performances, however, there’s always the great outdoors.

And they’re pretty great—outside the New World Center sits Soundscape, a unique 2.5-acre public park, designed by Dutch architectural firm West 8, that is an additional performance space of sorts. Rather than containing a typical bandshell or other outdoor venue, the park provides a space for visitors and passersby to take in orchestral concerts, video art and more, all shown for free on a 7,000-square-foot HD projection wall that is part of the New World Center.

While the screen is impressive, the park is called Soundscape for a reason, as it provides ample audio for audiences who take in a “Wallcast,” as they’ve been dubbed. Since the indoor venue and the space outside interact, it was only fitting that both had the same principal sound designer, Fred Vogler of Los Angeles, CA-based Sonitus, who worked on Soundscape with associate Tim Boot, and Rod Sintow and Kelly Prince of Florida-based systems integrator Pro Sound and Video.

Audio is brought to the outdoor audiences via a PA system comprised of 160 Meyer Sound loudspeakers, variously including M’elodie line arrays, MSL-4 and UPJ-1P VariO loudspeakers, and M1D-Sub and 700-HP subwoofers. Keeping a PA permanently out in a public space necessitates protecting the equipment from both the elements and the public, so front speakers and subs are hidden within planters next to the building, while a pair of line-array hangs and their related subs live within towering metal columns. A further 88 speakers and subs live 20 feet above the perimeter of the main audience area, encased within more steel tubes, and additional speakers are on hand within the projection tower and other areas as well.

Keeping tabs on all that is Meyer’s D-Mitri digital audio platform, making use of the company’s Constellation acoustic technology to replicate the acoustical space inside the performance hall. A total of 22 microphones are used within the New World Center to capture the nuances of the venue itself, and their information is then processed via DSP in an effort to emulate that aural experience outdoors.

While Soundscape has been a hit with both casual listeners passing by and those looking for a cheap night out—the system’s inaugural performance garnered a crowd of more than 1,000—it also has struck a chord with more musically learned members of the press as well. In a review of the site, Alex Ross of The New Yorker recounted hearing the installation tested a few days before its debut, where he watched a passing jogger stop in his tracks: “‘You gotta come hear this,’ the man barked into his phone. ‘It’s unbelievable.’ Walking behind him, I had the same thought.”