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Wolf Trap Modernizes Its Loudspeaker System With HARMAN’s JBL VERTEC® Line Array Speakers

NORTHRIDGE, California — Located in Vienna, Virginia, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is one of the nation’s most important cultural centers. The Filene Center is Wolf Trap’s main venue, a uniquely beautiful, architecturally distinctive 7,000-seat indoor/outdoor theater that is host to an average of 90 performances a year from major and local artists. Opened in 1984, the rebuilt Filene Center II recently upgraded its aging delay loudspeaker system with HARMAN’s JBL VERTEC® VT4886 subcompact line array elements and VT4883 subcompact line array subwoofers.

“The older delay system was starting to show its inadequacies and required more and more maintenance, to the point where it had to be replaced,” noted Matt Snyder of Local 22 of IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the Its Territories and Canada. Snyder and the rest of the Wolf Trap audio crew were given the responsibility of designing and installing the new system although they were faced with a number of major constraints.

“First, the speakers had to fit within the existing space,” Snyder said. “Management would not allow the new speakers to intrude upon the design of the theater, meaning they could not be placed anywhere other than the alcoves for the previous speakers, which are extremely limited for a modern line array. Secondly, the lack of available power precluded the use of powered speakers and limited our amplification options. Also, we were looking to upgrade as economically as possible, which made the use of existing wiring desirable. Basically, the fewer the amplifier channels we needed to use, the better. In the end we were able to implement this system with just five circuits per bay.”

The coverage requirements of the Wolf Trap theater also presented a challenge. “We needed an array which could provide substantial vertical coverage–over 30 feet of elevation–yet also had a relatively short throw range; about 120 feet was needed for this installation,” Snyder noted. “The VT4886 line array elements proved to be ideal for this application. Their smaller size enabled us to put a large number of enclosures into each array, and we went with 9-element arrays in each of the six bays which cover the lawn area. The controlled axial shading of the VT4886 gave us the coverage pattern we needed.”

“The cardioid coverage pattern of the VT4883 subwoofer also worked to our advantage, as we had to minimize low-end spill from the delay subs into the main pavilion area,” Snyder continued. “The subwoofer’s dispersion pattern enabled them to integrate well with the mains, even though they were physically separated rather than used as extensions of the main line arrays. “The lower weight of the VT4886 and VT4883 was also a big advantage, as we could easily hang all the speakers without making any major structural modifications.”

Snyder was able to go into the project with a high degree of confidence. “JBL was good enough to send out demo units for our evaluation before the install, and we also used JBL Line Array Calculator II speaker configuration and acoustic modeling software to help predict the response of the system. Once the speakers were installed, we did final tuning with the aid of SMAART and SIM measurement and analysis software. We were extremely satisfied with the results.”

“The Filene Center is a unique space and one of the best-designed venues in the country,” Snyder concluded. “The JBL VERTEC line arrays turned out to be just what we needed for this project, and the improvement in sound quality is just what we’d hoped for.”

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HARMAN ( designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment solutions for the automotive, consumer and professional markets – supported by 15 leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon® and Mark Levinson®. The Company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 20 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems. HARMAN has a workforce of about 12,000 people across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and reported sales of $3.8 billion for the twelve months ending June 30, 2011.