After 35 years on PBS—making it the longest-running music program on American television—“Austin City Limits” (ACL) moved to a new home in 2011 at the ACL Live, which was recently named the “Best New Major Concert Venue” by Pollstar. A state-of-the-art HD production studio married to a 2,750-seat live music hall, ACL Live is equipped with a Meyer SoundMICA® line array loudspeaker system.
“Austin City Limits” shows claim ACL Live at the Moody Theater for 45 days a year, with acts ranging from Janet Jackson and Steve Miller to Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson. “The consensus is that we have a great sounding room,” says ACL Live’s general manager, Tim Neece, after the first weeks of shows. “Overall, the response from both patrons and artists has been extremely positive.
“We haven’t had anybody who wanted to fly their own system, even when it was right outside on the truck,” Neece adds.
To satisfy the extraordinary audio demands, in addition to arrays of eight-each MICA loudspeakers, the Meyer Sound complement includes six 600-HP subwoofers along with six UPJ-1P VariO™ loudspeakers, six UPJunior VariO loudspeakers, four UPQ-1P loudspeakers, and 21 UP-4XP loudspeakers for fills and delays. An integrated Galileo® loudspeaker management system employs one Galileo 616 and one Galileo 408 processor. Since accurate sound on stage is critical for the tapings, the foldback system offers 12 MJF-212A stage monitors.
The acoustician and sound system designer was Steven Durr of Nashville-based Steven Durr Associates, who consulted with long-time Meyer Sound associate Bob McCarthy. The system was installed by Austin’s Big House Sound.
The local press has been notably appreciative of the audio quality. In his review of Texas icon Willie Nelson’s gala concert with full orchestra, Ed Crowell of the Austin American-Statesmanwrote, “The sound was perfect…Every instrument could be heard in crisp, clear tones, from the violins to Nelson’s rapid-fire turns on his old acoustic guitar.”
Steven Durr also remembers Nelson’s concert as an auspicious occasion. “There was hardly a dry eye in the room. It reminded me that we’re not really in the sound business, we’re in the emotion business. Our job is to take what’s on the stage and connect it to the audience with the least interference. The audio equipment doesn’t make that happen by itself. You have to apply experience and knowledge, though in this case we certainly had the tools at hand to get the results we wanted.”
Built at a cost of $40 million, Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater is part of a larger development that also includes condominiums and a W Hotel property. Development owners are Stratus Properties, Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, a private equity fund whose investors include Willie Nelson and former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. KLRU, Austin’s public television station, participation in the project was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Tex.