It’s safe to say that an auditorium or any large venue meant to host performances is pretty much nothing without good acoustics and speech intelligibility stemming from digital audio, but that was precisely the challenge one Singapore school faced with its 19-year-old auditorium.
The Singapore American School (SAS) is an independent, non-profit, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool through grade 12.
The auditorium’s acoustics were extremely inadequate, leaving performers unable to hear each other on stage. Furthermore, it was difficult for the audience to hear instruments or voices during unamplified performances. With SAS offering a diverse curriculum in the performing arts and utilizing the auditorium frequently, the school needed to find a solution that would vastly improve its acoustics.
SAS aimed to find technology that was cost effective and flexible. The school consulted with Singapore’s Coda Group for a solution that would meet it needs. The Coda Group recommended the Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system, the first of the venerable audio company’s advanced active acoustics systems to be installed in an Asian day school.
The Constellation system is built around a D-Mitri digital audio platform that hosts patented VRAS acoustical algorithms.
Acoustical ambience is captured by 38 microphones, and the enhanced acoustical response is delivered through via 200 speakers over the auditorium’s stage and audience, including MM-4XP self-powered, UP-4XP, UPM-1P loudspeakers, UPJunior and UPJ-1XP VariO loudspeakers, Stella-4 installation loudspeakers and UMS-1P and UMS-1XP subwoofers.
The digital audio new system also integrated seamlessly with a Meyer Sound direct reinforcement system provided earlier by the Coda Group that employs M1D line array loudspeakers and M1D-Sub subwoofers.
Spectrum Audio Visual of Singapore was hired as the systems integrator for the installation. The project proved to be challenging, as precise placement of the loudspeakers and ambient sensing microphones was critical to achieve the desired effect. The integrator also had to pay careful attention to cabling, as one polarity reversal among dozens of loudspeakers could cause confusion and lost time during the calibration procedure.
While placement of the loudspeakers posed a challenge to Spectrum Audio Visual, other aspects of the installation went smoothly due to the loudspeakers’ IntelligentDC technology, exclusive from Meyer Sound. With IntelligentDC, power for the amplifiers is delivered as DC voltage from a remote rack-mount signal distribution and power supply unit, so the integrator only needed to run a single five-conductor cable for balanced audio and power.
All of the loudspeakers in the Constellation system are self-powered, with amplification and processing built into the enclosure.
The Constellation system provided the school the flexibility it needed by allowing complete control of reverberation times as well as control of the balance between early reflections and late reverberations in addition to rebalancing frequencies within the reverberation envelope.
This allows for the custom tailoring of presets that, for example, can reinforce early reflections for greater speech intelligibility or accentuate bass frequencies in late reverberations for an enhanced “cathedral” effect. This enabled SAS to optimize the acoustics for any type of event or performance.
“Much as you can operate lighting to get someone’s attention on something, you can also change the focus of what they’re hearing,” explains Paul Koebnick, assistant theater manager and teacher at SAS. “Students responsible for sound operations can change the sound settings in the middle of a show.”
The Constellation system has enabled performers to hear others on stage clearly, and audience members no longer struggle to hear details of conversations or performances on stage.
Because the digital audio solution required no architectural changes to the auditorium, it also proved to be less expensive than drapes or resonant chambers.
Perhaps most importantly, the Constellation system has allowed students to explore the science of acoustics. The advanced digital technology that makes up the Constellation system offers an educational opportunity for students who are studying theater technical systems to develop and apply calibrated sound settings to different types of performances.
The digital audio system enables students to learn principles behind processor sound sampling and optimizing reverberation, helping them build an understanding of how acoustics affect the experience of drama, musical theater, and other types of performances.
“As a school, we have a bold vision to be a world leader in education, cultivating exceptional thinkers, prepared for the future,” says Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent of SAS.
“Constellation allows us to be that world leader; it truly is the epitome of excellence. Our students and our staff are tremendous performers and talented individuals, and they work very hard to perfect their craft. The acoustic system shines light on their art. This auditorium is a special place; these kids are going to do amazing things in their lives.”