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Audio at the Musical Instrument Museum, Part 1

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has a theater where the acoustics are superb, but hiding the main house speakers caused a problem with front fill.

Audio at the Musical Instrument Museum, Part 1

Apr 8, 2014 10:24 AM,
With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has a theater where the acoustics are superb, but hiding the main house speakers caused a problem with front fill. Jerry Delgado of Sennheiser demoed the Anakonda flexible speaker array and it was an instant hit. Now he’s here to tell us the story, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Jerry Delgado from Sennheiser, welcome to the SVC Podcast and we’re talking about the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, an interesting place.

Thank you, Bennett. It’s good to be here.

I’ve never been to a musical instrument museum, but I’ve seen some pictures of the place and they must have some fascinating exhibits. Of course, the centerpiece of the whole place is the theater where all kinds of performances can happen.

Yeah, that’s correct. Actually I haven’t had the opportunity yet to go through the museum part itself, but I go to the theater all the time and yeah, it’s a really, really wonderful space for small or medium or even larger-sized acts. [Timestamp: 1:19]

Being a musical instrument museum, they probably have a huge variety of those instruments being played in live performance so the acoustics in the theater have to be able to support just about anything.

Yeah. That’s absolutely correct. They do, you know, really there’s no way to pigeon-hole it as to what kind of acts go in there. They do all sorts of things and a lot of acoustic stuff because of the theater itself and how it’s designed. [Timestamp: 1:44]

I noticed that the main house speakers are built into the walls and you don’t really see them, that’s aesthetically pleasing but it also creates a few problems. How did the design of the theater require something of a new approach to front fill?

Well actually the way it all went down is I went down there with the Anakonda demo thinking that that could be a possible solution for them. I went basically to ask them, “Do you have front fills? Are they effective? Do you have problems?” And when I showed them this, first of all they all kind of fell over laughing because it’s not exactly your typical solution. But pretty quickly they kind of got a feel for what it could provide them and then with just two units they felt that they wanted to get a better demo and that’s when I came back with six units to do a real, live demo for them. [Timestamp: 2:35]

I saw some pictures of that and you don’t even know that it’s a speaker array. I guess maybe that’s why they named it after a snake because you can walk right up on it and not even know it’s there. You’ll be wondering where the sound is coming from and then you realize it’s not just part of the trim on the stage. It’s actually a speaker array.

Yeah, that’s correct. Actually one of the big aesthetic reasons to go with Anakonda is that, because it can basically disappear on the stage and now the performance becomes the focal point and not the little speakers in front of you. The fact that you can even paint them or use the socks that come with it to match or blend into the stage, I mean you really can hide the whole thing and not even know it’s there. [Timestamp: 3:18]

You can run one into the other. You can daisy chain these together. How long is each array and how do they connect together?

There’s actually a couple of ways. So the units are two meters long or 6.6ft. and they either interconnect to each other or you can put a small piece or a long piece of NL4 interconnect cable – speaker cable – and then you can daisy chain them that way as well. [Timestamp: 3:39]

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Audio at the Musical Instrument Museum, Part 1

Apr 8, 2014 10:24 AM,
With Bennett Liles

Since they extend across the front of the stage, I guess they were originally using some other speakers for front fill that were sort of built into the front of the stage and I guess the coverage was a little spotty on those.

Yeah. What they had was some little speakers inside the front lip of the stage that were hidden behind the actual stage face front. What happened is that the person sitting in front of that speaker, he got to hear it really good – probably a little too good – and then the persons next to him or behind him did not get that same performance. When you put the Anakonda, because it has such a wide dispersion, it’s even across the board. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting right in front of it or right next to it or right behind it, you still get the same affect. [Timestamp: 4:28]

Yeah, what’s the angle on those? What sort of coverage do they have?

The pattern is 160 degrees by 10 degrees.

Well, that would open up all kinds of possibilities like maybe even a TV studio audience monitoring situation where you want to minimize the amount of the PA picked up by the audience mics.

Oh, yeah. I mean that’s the thing about the Anakonda. When people ask me what’s the purpose for this, my answer always is whatever you can think or dream of putting a speaker that doesn’t really fit a traditional speaker application, this will fit into any shape you need. It will give you nice, wide coverage without blowing anybody out. It really is kind of a chameleon. [Timestamp: 5:07]

So what have they got in each one of these things? You open it up and what have you got inside?

I haven’t had the opportunity to open one yet, but what I do know is that there’s eight one-inch Neodymium cone drivers in there with a 0.75 voice coil; about 150 watts and 64 ohms per snake. So the idea is you put more of these together, it drops your ohm load down and it starts to sound really, really good. [Timestamp: 5:32]

Okay and they’ve got the NL4 connectors just like you have on a lot of amps.

Yeah, they’ve got a male and a female so that they can interconnect together. It really doesn’t matter which end you put it in. You can put it in either end and it will work just fine.

How are they running these things on the stage? Where’s the amplifier and what sort of cable run do they have going out the edge of the stage?

The amplifier is actually right off the stage right behind the actual stage itself and they went with our KA40 amplifier from K-array. The other option would be to run it off of one of our subwoofers, the KMT12 or KMT18, but for their application, since they already had sound reinforcement, a subwoofer was kind of superfluous really. They didn’t need it. So they went with that amplifier which does provide a lot of power and DSP for the Anakondas. [Timestamp: 6:20]

I was thinking that with the previous arrangement they had in the theater most of what you weren’t getting, unless you were in just the right seats, was the high frequencies so what kind of frequency response have you got on the Anakonda?

Frequency response, according to the specs, is 150 Hz to 18 KHz. Now it’s really, in my opinion, about 250 is really where it really starts to drop off, so really the low frequencies are handled by the house system, by the subwoofer, but the high frequencies really take over on the Anakondas. [Timestamp: 6:50]

Have you put these into other venues? I know there’s probably no end to the possibilities where they can go.

Yeah. You know right now the front fills for theaters seems to be a really great application for the territory I cover. However, I just put them out with a rental company here in town who’s probably going to use it to put it in trusses or to put them in tents and things like that where they need to do some support but not have a big P.A. system. I’ve also heard a lot of people want to use them for weddings because again they kind of disappear into the background and you just don’t see them. [Timestamp: 7:27]

What are they, IP55 rated so you can actually use them outdoors?

Yeah, you can use them outdoors. They will take direct jets of water. Now you can’t go swimming with them, but pretty darned close.

And you mentioned the KA40 amp. What sort of DSP features do they have in the theater to custom tailor the sound?

You know, the presets are all built into the amplifiers, so the amplifier will run a variety of different K-array products. As far as DSP is actually concerned, the biggest component that it gives you is six bands of EQ. There’s also limiting and some other DSP functions in there, but the primary use for the amp aside from power is to just dial in the preset and K-array has basically taken care of voicing it for you and getting it to sound right. [Timestamp: 8:14]

I don’t know how much they adjust it. Maybe when I talk to the Musical Instrument Museum people in part two they can tell us, but you’ve got to have all sorts of things happening on that stage and some adjustments may be necessary to best suit the performance.

Yeah, that’s actually going to be a great question to ask either Jim or one of the other guys over there at the MIM. I do know that they use some other processing on top of what the KA40 amplifier provides, but that’s more to tailor it to the particular environment that the theater is. [Timestamp: 8:42]

I looked at the videos from InfoComm and some of the others and the demos are very interesting. You could walk up to an exhibit where you have these things installed and think, “Where is all the sound coming from?”

Absolutely. I can tell you stories. I mean typically speaking, we’ve done a couple of tradeshows, little regional ones, where we just throw it on the floor and then people walk on it or they kind of go, “Where is that sound coming from?” It’s always a conversation starter because think about how many times you’ve been able to pick up a speaker and have it flop around. It definitely is something that makes people wonder who came up with this crazy idea. [Timestamp: 9:18]

Yeah, I don’t think there are any other speaker arrays that you can actually tie in a knot.

No, there’s really not. Not that I’ve seen anyway. It’s kind of hard to do that with a line array.

Very good. Jerry Delgado from Sennheiser and the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, one of the more eclectic venues around. I guess you can probably see just about any type of instruments played in performances there and the Anakonda front-fill arrays look like just a piece of trim along the front of the stage. It was great having you here, Jerry. Thanks for telling us how you came up with that for them.

Sure thing, Bennett. It was my pleasure.

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