NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: Although the Country Music Association is perhaps best known for its annual CMA Awards show, the organization is constantly working to support and promote country music. The CMA's headquarters in Nashville is a hive of activity and is frequently visited by the genre's biggest stars and its most promising freshmen. Recently, the CMA decided to convert its atrium into a small-scale performance venue for intimate concerts, parties, and meetings. Morris Light & Sound of Nashville installed its sound reinforcement system, relying on the Symetrix Jupiter 8 processor paired with the Symetrix ARC-WEB Internet-based interface to provide system conditioning and intuitive user control that is accessible from the staffs' smartphones.
"The idea was that, say, Garth Brooks or some other big name could stop by the CMA and play a small acoustic set as a 'thank you' to the staff," explained John Mills, vice president of audio with Morris Light & Sound. "In addition, they could bring in a new up-and-coming artist in an intimate setting to introduce him or her to industry members. When not in 'concert mode,' they wanted the sound system to be able to accommodate meetings and to provide background music for staff lunches and informal gatherings." Originally, the CMA called in Morris Light & Sound, which has traditionally been focused on live sound production but is shifting into the installation market, to talk through some ideas about the new space.
"First, you have to appreciate the acoustics," said Mills. "The room is about twenty-five feet wide, one-hundred feet long, and about thirty-five feet high at its peak. The floor is stone, the walls are tile, and the ceiling is glass. Some ideas that had been floated for them involved a few 'mini' line arrays that I personally think sound pretty good in the right application. In this case however, their very wide throw was going to put all kinds of energy on the walls. That's the last thing a space like that needed."
"The more we talked," he continued, "the more apparent it became that the CMA wanted this system to serve a multitude of functions. It wasn't just going to be for concerts. When I noticed that everybody at the meeting had an iPhone or some other type of data phone, my mind went to Symetrix processors and their ARC-WEB user control."
Symetrix ARC-WEB allows integrators to custom design a control interface that is deployed on the Internet. Approved users (via a password protection scheme) can access the system controls from an Internet-connected computer or from a smartphone. "In addition to providing a handy means to control the system," Mills said, "ARC-WEB would also be a more visually-appealing solution. They didn't want technical-looking control panels all over the walls, and when I suggested they could control the system from their phones, they were impressed." Morris Light & Sound was then hired to design and install the new atrium sound reinforcement system.
The eight inputs of the Symetrix Jupiter 8 at the CMA headquarters are occupied by the building's public music service, a local CD player, a local iPod input, and the output from a Midas Venice F16 R mixing console. The Midas rolls out from the equipment rack closet to mix shows and patches into a discrete multi-pin connector on the wall. The eight outputs of the Symetrix Jupiter 8 send stereo appropriately equalized and delayed signal to three zones, mono to a fourth zone, and mono low end to a self-powered ElectroVoice ELX 118P subwoofer. Each of the four zones occupy approximately twenty-five feet of the room's one-hundred foot depth, the mono zone covering a narrow area constricted like an hour glass by elevators and bathrooms. ElectroVoice ZX1 wall-mounted loudspeakers powered by a single ElectroVoice CPS 4.10 amplifiers deliver the full-range content.
From the Symetrix ARC-WEB that Mills set up, which is accessible from any of the approved staff members' smartphones or computers, users can select one of four system modes. The first mode selects background music only. The second combines background music with a mic input for simple meetings. The third engages the subwoofer and dials the rest of the system in for concert mode. Finally, the fourth mode dials up the EQ on the background music for a party. Within each mode, appropriate inputs are selectable and their volumes are adjustable. Although it will seldom be used, Mills installed a Symetrix ARC-2e hardware control panel in the equipment closet so that the show can go on even if there's trouble with the WiFi.
"Symetrix' audio quality was the first consideration, and it's first-rate," said Mills. "But the implementation of ARC-WEB was a very close second. It's true that there are other systems that can deliver some measure of control via a touch panel PC or some other high-tech solution. But ARC-WEB offers two advantages over those alternatives. First, it was remarkably easy for me to program it. It literally took me ten minutes, whereas the other systems I'm certified in would have taken several hours. Second, the interface is completely foolproof for the user. It's an Internet site! As long as the building's Internet is up and functioning properly, ARC-WEB is guaranteed to work. There are no dark communications protocols to navigate or foul up." Mills was also pleased with the Jupiter's easy network integration, which allows him to make integrator-level adjustments from anywhere in the world.
Morris Light and Sound is a full-service, live production company serving worldwide clients for over 25 years. Their vast knowledge of touring gives them the ability to see projects from a fresh point of view compared to many install-only companies. Check out their website at www.MorrisLightAndSound.com
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