EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN – NOVEMBER 2012: Football is central to the Michigan State University experience, and nearly 80,000 students and alums pack its Spartan Stadium at home games. Wearing green and white, they arrive electrified with school spirit and roar in a collective voice that, in most cases, drives the MSU Spartans to victory (they win nearly seven out of every ten games that they play at Spartan Stadium). Consistent with its importance to the school’s soul, MSU has regularly expanded the facility since it was first constructed with just 14,000 seats in 1923. This year, Spartan Stadium received a multi-million dollar audio/video systems upgrade, which included the Big Ten’s largest video board (5,412 square feet) at its south end, two auxiliary video boards at its north end, and a sound reinforcement system centered on Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers. Apart from fills, just six Danley Jericho J3s provide all of the new system’s full-range coverage with point source fidelity, excellent pattern control, and tremendous return on investment.
Led by Director of Audio Engineering Larry Lucas, Anthony James Partners conceived and designed Spartan Stadium’s new sound reinforcement system. Pro Media/UltraSound installed it under the guidance of Senior Designer and Engineer Demetrius Palavos, who managed the project from the germ of an idea to system commissioning and beyond. “There is definitely a shift occurring at the collegiate level that follows the shift that has been underway at the professional level for some time,” noted Palavos. “Everyone is recognizing that fans are routinely exposed to high-end home entertainment systems and car stereos. Even headphones and iPods offer a full-frequency experience. Such experiences have raised expectations for game day. School officials are now recognizing the need to meet those expectations at the collegiate level.”
At the same time however, budgets remain tight given the stark economic realities of shrinking endowments, state-mandated austerity measures, and charitable gifts that are, well, less charitable than they might have been a few years ago. “Danley systems have a lot to recommend them,” said Lucas, “but their most obvious advantage is an unprecedented return on investment for the client. Danley fidelity and coverage would be excellent at any price, but the actual price tag is tremendously low relative to that kind of performance. We were lucky at MSU because the Danley Jericho J3 had just become available during the designing stages.” Danley Sound Labs pioneered the Jericho series as a point-source alternative to the ubiquitous line array. Using Tom Danley’s unique insights and approaches, the J3 delivers appropriate SPL by distance while completely sidestepping the destructive interference that regularly degrades line array fidelity.
Whereas Spartan Stadium’s previous sound reinforcement system resided in the south end zone, Lucas designed the new system to fire only from the north end. “Previously, additional energy spilled out of the north side and into the community of East Lansing,” explained Lucas. “By placing all of the loudspeaker elements at the north side, we could be sure that any excess energy would spill out onto the campus instead.” Lucas’ design used the two smaller scoreboards on the north side as rigging points for the Danley Jericho J3s and Danley TH-812 subwoofers that support them. The scoreboards are approximately 200 feet apart, and the coverage from each effectively splits the stadium in two. “Firing 500 to 600 feet to the south end zone seating was the most complicated and difficult throw,” said Palavos. “It’s a balancing act to get that right and to still get even coverage and SPL at mid-field, beneath the clusters and the upper deck.”
The system affixed to the northeast scoreboard is a mirror image of that affixed to the northwest scoreboard. On each, a pair of stacked Danley Jericho J3s handle the far throw, whereas a single J3 handles the intermediate throw for the near- and medium-sideline stands. On each scoreboard, three vertically-stacked Danley TH-812 subwoofers collapse the low-frequency beam to provide throw. Ten smaller Danley SH-46 loudspeakers provide fill for areas on the north side of the stadium that are in the “shadows” of the larger boxes, such as very near the scoreboards and under the near balconies.
The system’s front end is straightforward. A Yamaha LS9 provides user control of input source selection and volume. Its output feeds a pair of Peavey MediaMatrix NION processors with Dante cards, which in turn feed HP ProCurve network switches over fiber. At each scoreboard, Lab.gruppen 7000- and 9000-series amplifiers power the Danley TH-812 subwoofers (with crossovers provided by the MediaMatrix NIONs) and the Danley SH-46 full-range loudspeakers. Prior to amplification for the Danley Jericho J3s, signal first enters a Danley DSLP48 processor. “In its processor, Danley has optimized the crossovers and processing necessary to get the very best performance from the J3,” explained Palavos. “You can’t really recreate that in another manufacturer’s processor.” All rack equipment is housed in environmentally-controlled conditions, which include both air-conditioning and heat. “Michigan starts its season humid and hot and ends it cold and snowy,” observed Palavos. An analog backup over fiber allows the system to operate even if the MediaMatrix NION or its Dante network go down.
Although never easy, tuning the new system at MSU was less challenging than it might have otherwise been because the Danley products are honestly specified and sound good out of the box. “In such a complex environment, having a well-designed and engineered product is essential,” said Palavos. “Danley does a good job of engineering up front, which means there is less time required at commissioning to get the system optimized. One of the surprises to the MSU staff was that the quality of their source material needed to be improved! With the previous system, they couldn’t hear what was lacking. But with the new Danley system, it was obvious.” Early reports indicate that the system measures +/- 3dB to each of the nearly 80,000 seats, a testament both to the Danley Jericho J3’s accuracy and to the skill of Lucas, Palavos, and their colleagues.
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