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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Pumping Up the Crowd

The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jun 4, 2009 4:33 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

Pumping Up the Crowd

TeL Systems in Ann Arbor, Mich., updated the 40-plus-year-old PA system in the University of Michigan’s Crisler Arena. Implementing a budget-friendly design, the TeL Systems team installed a new compact vertical line-array system from Electro-Voice.

Time had come for a change—the 40-plus-year-old PA system at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan men’s basketball team, was acting its age. Karl Couyoumjian, president of TeL Systems in Ann Arbor, also happens to be a longtime season-ticket-holder at Wolverine basketball games, and he says he had constantly heard friends in recent years complain it was time to do something about the creaky PA system in the 13,500-seat arena. Thus a process got under way that culminated with the installation of a new compact vertical line-array system from Electro-Voice (EV).

Updating the audio system at Crisler Arena was a unique opportunity for TeL Systems. “It was the original system that was put in when the building was built in 1967,” Couyoumjian says. “It’s not very often that you run into a 40-odd-year-old system.”

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University of Michigan Assistant Athletic Director Rob Rademacher concedes that, for years, the old system had been held together through a series of Band-Aid solutions. Over time, TeL Systems had designed and implemented several short-term fixes for the arena’s audio system, but it wasn’t until late last year that the university’s athletic department finally agreed to a complete overhaul.

TeL Systems won the job based on the quality of the system it was able to design for a friendly budget. Basing the proposed system around XLD series loudspeakers from Bosch/EV and using a lot of advanced DSP techniques, the company devised a way to cover the space of the large arena with smaller boxes than others were proposing. The company had to wait about a year and a half before its design could be implemented, as the university weighed alternative options.

When work moved forward, TeL Systems used both an EASE (Electro-Acoustic Simulator for Engineers) model (generated by EV reps C.L. Pugh of Columbus, Ohio) and EV’s Line Array Prediction Software (LAPS) to devise Crisler Arena’s new audio system. EASE shows the SPL at different frequencies that different combinations of loudspeakers will generate in the free field. LAPS lets a system designer focus on just the configuration of EV line arrays and the ways the individual loudspeakers will interact with one another.

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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jun 4, 2009 4:33 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

Pumping Up the Crowd

NCAA regulations dictate a certain minimum height for the lowest element that hangs above the game floor. TeL Systems successfully placed every element higher than the bottom lip of the scoreboard, save for two Electro-Voice FRX+940 and two FRX+660 two-way loudspeakers that hang from the bottom of the scoreboard and provide downfill for the arena floor.

“In the line arrays, what’s crucial is the angle of the boxes, the number of boxes you’re using, and the overall position of the arrays,” says Peter O’Neil, audio engineer at TeL Systems. The EV line arrays represented a cost savings over competing designs that employed bigger loudspeakers, and the longer line of smaller boxes allowed better vertical coverage. Hanging above Crisler’s central scoreboard, the loudspeaker system was designed, by and large, as a point source. “In some modern arenas, you will hear arrival times at different times in different places in the arena, and we were able to minimize that by having everything as close to the center as possible,” O’Neil says.

Everything starts with the four EV QRx 218S subwoofers, which hang in a column above the center of the scoreboard. The system’s delay is timed back to the subwoofers. By using delay and physically placing the boxes a certain way and spacing them properly, TeL Systems was able to get directionality out of typically omnidirectional subwoofers.

“We were able to take the bass and steer it into the seating area of the arena, rather than having it reverberate off the roof structure,” O’Neil says.

Hanging from the arena’s ceiling very close to the scoreboard are four curved columns of EV XLD281 boxes. The two arrays pointed at the sidelines each contain 12 boxes, and the two covering the baselines each have 10. According to TeL Systems, other contractors had proposed putting boxes closer to the seating, angling arrays more steeply, and filling gaps in coverage with additional sub­systems.

TeL Systems says its system has no problem reaching Crisler Arena’s top row.

“I think it was a pretty classic example, that you can be sold on this notion that bigger is better, so more speakers, bigger speakers,” O’Neil says. “And at first glance, we brought in a smaller format line array, and we had the documentation to show that it was going to work really well in this room, but I think people who aren’t really that knowledgeable of this stuff, they just tend to think, you know, more, more, more. … I think that once we were able to show them the analysis that our system would work, they went with our design, and they have been exceptionally pleased.”

An EV NetMax N8000 matrix controller serves as the system’s DSP hub. Implementing EV’s Finite Impulse Response (FIR) technology for the first time in Crisler Arena, TeL Systems found that it produces improved linear-phase performance at crossover points, removing the audible notches that often plague frequency-crossover points between drivers. DSP is located not only in the NetMax, but in the Dynacord PowerH 2500 and PowerH 5000 amplifiers that sit in a penthouse above the arena’s ceiling. These 21 amps contain EV RCM-26 modules. The FIR filters live in these DSP modules, which serve as redundancy for the system’s DSP. If one amp or RCM-26 module fails, the arena’s DSP does not.

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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jun 4, 2009 4:33 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

Pumping Up the Crowd

The NetMax system is connected to IrisNet software that lives on the facilities office’s control computer. Via this software, the Crisler Arena employee who runs the sound system can perform a full system check of every component—every driver, amplifier, cable, and connector—before each game.

NCAA regulations for basketball and other sports dictate a certain minimum height for the lowest element that hangs above the game floor. With the old system, certain components hung below the scoreboard. TeL Systems successfully placed every element higher than the bottom lip of the scoreboard save for two EV FRX+940 and two FRX+660 two-way loudspeakers that hang from the bottom of the scoreboard and provide downfill for the arena floor. The comfortable height of the compact line-array system meant that the scoreboard could be lowered somewhat, giving spectators better sight lines to the scoreboard.

In advance of the line-array system’s installation in late September of last year, the university turned down any big events that might otherwise have taken place at Crisler during the time period. Despite that, TeL Systems and its hired guns still needed to work the night shift, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., to accommodate the schedules of the teams that were already holding practices on the floor during the day. Two EV employees visited the arena to assist during overnight commissioning: Stuart Schatz did tuning commissioning, and Chris Aelits programmed the NetMax system.

In addition to the six TeL System employees, there were also about the same number of riggers working on the installation. In order to hang the heavy line arrays from a single point, TeL Systems turned to rigging manufacturer Polar Focus. That company devised a custom chain pulley that keeps the arrays steady from a single hanging point.

Aelits programmed two EV TPI-8 wired touchpanels, which live in the arena’s facilities offices, to call up presets for three types of events. First is the packed arena, a phenomenon that’s recently become more common for Michigan basketball games. Second is a practice mode that pushes audio to the floor only. This mode allows practicing athletes to plug an iPod into a Sonance iPort IW-1 docking station and control the system’s volume from the arena’s facilities office or from a portable rack on the floor. Finally, there is a setting that allows a university employee to press a button on the touchpanel and reconfigure the settings for commencement ceremonies that are held in the arena. According to O’Neil and Couyoumjian, a competing contractor who does live-event work for the university, the school was pleased with Crisler Arena’s new system upon driving it during commencement. (An Allen & Heath GL2400-32 32-channel mixer drives the system.)

While the old system was really only adequate for announcements, the new EV line-array system has allowed the athletic department to expand the content of its game-related audio. The Michigan pep band now alternates with a DJ who plays music intended to enliven the crowd.

“Everybody’s got headsets,” Couyoumjian says. “They’re producing a show much like most arenas, and it’s pumping up the crowd.”

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