Billed as “the largest and most acoustically calibrated venue in West Georgia,” Carroll County Schools’ new Performing Arts Center features an 1,100-seat auditorium, two meeting spaces, an exhibition space, and a large lobby. Designed primarily as a music hall, the auditorium is acoustically quite live, and its acoustics and architecture presented challenges for AV design consultants Southern A&E and installers Distex Audio Video. One solution provided everything the design and install teams wanted: Renkus-Heinz IC Live Gen5 digitally steered arrays.
“This is a new facility shared by all five high schools in Carroll County and the University of West Georgia,” offers Southern A&E Vice President of Electrical Engineering Frank Campo, Jr. “It also will be used for a variety of community and corporate events. The stage had to accommodate the largest school band, which has more than 200 members, so it’s pretty large, maybe 80 feet wide and 40 or 50 feet deep. Since this is a music hall, not a theatrical facility, there’s no proscenium. That plays with the acoustics and takes away places where we might hang a center array or LCR system.” “We didn’t want to hang a seven-foot-tall center array anyway,” adds Southern A&E’s Jason Leatherwood. “Aesthetics was a big part of it. The ceilings are nice curved wood, and we didn’t want to impact those sightlines.”
Instead, the Southern A&E team specified a pair of Renkus-Heinz ICL-F-DUAL-RN digitally steered arrays. With the double-stacked ICL-F-DUAL-RNs, they could define the opening angles for up to eight beams and aim them up or down. That enabled the team to address several issues, including lively acoustics.
“The auditorium was designed with natural acoustics so you could hear without a sound system, and it does that well,” explains Distex installer Brad Feirn. “If you’re playing piano or singing, you can hear it in the front or the upper balcony in the back without the sound system. Typically acoustic clouds and panels absorb sound but here they’re hard materials to make it acoustically live.” “We have some variable acoustic control using curtains on the left and right walls,” Leatherwood notes, “but that won’t get the reverb time down where we’d like. Steerable arrays helped us deal with the reflections, and that’s one reason we went with IC Live. Local rep Scott Hough of Griffith Sales assisted with the beam steering, and he did a great job.”
The lower-level seating is on a raised floor, which rises to a cross aisle, where front-of-house is located. Behind that, a section of raised seating continues to a wall, which extends eight to ten feet up to a balcony. “We split the beams and hit the upper balcony section and the lower riser section, keeping reflected sound off the wall,” Feirn explains. “With beam steering, just two IC Live arrays cover all the way to the back-and cover it very well.”
The arrays are tucked into recessed wall panels to the left and right of the stage. “With the black accents on the wood paneling, if you’re not looking for the speakers, you wouldn’t notice them,” states Campo. The biggest challenge was angling the arrays to avoid issues onstage, especially in the absence of a proscenium. Fortunately, Distex mounted the arrays on custom brackets, enabling them to be physically adjusted.
“Originally, they were positioned at a 30 degree angle,” Feirn details. “We used the mounting bracket to straighten them so they’re almost facing straight back. That helped a tremendous amount.” “We are hitting the side wall,” admits Leatherwood, “but the wall is in such close proximity to the speaker that you don’t notice.”
The stage acoustics will be further refined with the addition of movable acoustic walls, which were part of the system design. “They can put those up to effectively make the stage smaller when they’re doing lectures or have a small chorus singing,” offers Feirn.
Three Renkus-Heinz IC215S-FR dual 15-inch subwoofers, flown about 35 feet above the front of the stage handle the bottom end. Designed to pair with IC Live steerable arrays, IC215S-FR subwoofers can produce peaks of 136 dB SPL and handle low frequencies down to 43 Hz.
Even with wide coverage and steerable beam spreads, a few front rows needed more reinforcement, so the Southern A&E team added four Renkus-Heinz CFX42 compact, two-way stairstep speakers across the front of the stage. Completing the speaker complement is a pair of Renkus-Heinz CFX121 two-way Complex Conic loudspeakers, each with a 12-inch woofer and 2-inch titanium high-frequency driver, which serve as stage monitors.
A Symetrix Radius 12×8 DSP, chosen for its range of controls, ease of programming, and sound quality, manages the auditorium system and approximately 70 ceiling speakers in the hallways, bathrooms, and lobby. A Midas mixer handles large events, connecting to the DSP via Dante. For small events, four analog audio inputs enable connection of a laptop and microphones, which can be mixed using a Crestron touch panel.
The new building opened in August 2017, and the Renkus-Heinz system has already proven a success. “It’s hard to think of other products that could have fit these demands,” asserts Leatherwood. “The sound system works fine, it sounds really good, and the sound is as good in the back as it is in the front,” Feirn concludes. “They just love it.”