BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – DECEMBER 2011:
Although the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC) in Baton Rouge served as the United State’s largest ever triage center and field hospital during the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the 13,500-seat arena is better known as the venue to watch Louisiana State University Tigers basketball. Built in the early 1970s, the PMAC’s original sound system was cutting-edge for its time, but a botched renovation in the mid-1980s left the PMAC sonically lacking… for decades. Although inspired by the Tiger’s roaring fans, the PMAC’s nickname, “The Deaf Dome,” was an apt, if less flattering, descriptor of that sound system. To provide the team and its fans with a spark of inspiration, an anonymous donor provided the funds for a first-rate, modern sound reinforcement system. Tim Landry, principal of audio integrator Tim Landry Sound Construction (Mandeville, LA), provided the donor with a system design centered on thirty-four Ashly Audio KLR-5000 amplifiers, Ashly Audio processing, and Sound Bridge loudspeakers.
“The sound system that went in during the 1980s was a terrible design executed terribly,” observed the characteristically candid Landry. “For example, the original design called for five speakers each in four separate horizontal arrays. For reasons unknown, the installers changed it and put two speakers on top and three on the bottom of each array. It changed the entire nature of the system. Tilting of the clusters disastrously affected the outer speakers. Beyond that, the boxes were arranged in ways that the manufacturer never intended, which led to bizarre frequency interactions. As a result, some seats were covered poorly and some seats were not covered at all.” A system of physical relays meant to facilitate scene changes for different types of events went south quickly. “You could just tap the thing and amps would blink on and off,” complained Landry, who, prior to the renovation, helped maintain the crippled system with jumper wires (literally) and bubble gum (figuratively).
In recent years, the school raised funds to upgrade several aspects of the aging PMAC facility. It replaced the seating and ceiling. It installed a new efficient HVAC system. The school even installed a brilliant new Daktronics scoreboard. “It was time to get some excitement into the building,” said Landry. “And the sound system was the obvious fix. Fortunately, a generous and well-to-do LSU alum donated the money to do it.” The donor’s only request? Install a sound system to beat all sound systems! To meet that request, Landry rented several loudspeaker systems anonymously and evaluated their performance in the PMAC. The clear winner was Sound Bridge.
Landry drew up the original plans with a well-known, but pricey amplifier manufacturer in mind. “But then I spoke to Ashly,” he recalled. “I have a lot of respect for Ashly’s gear and the people behind it because in all the years I’ve been installing Ashly amps and processors, the only units that ever failed went underwater during Katrina. Even still, two of those units came back to life and are working to this day! Anyway, Ashly said the new KLR-5000s amplifiers would be coming on line, and they seemed perfect for the job.” Landry ordered thirty-five of the new amplifiers, thirty-four for the system and one for backup. “On system critical installations, I always include a backup unit,” he said. “But when Ashly is involved, I have yet to need it!”
For processing, Landry turned to the Ashly ne24.24M. Two units provide all of the processing for the PMAC. “There are two modes,” he said. “One for the student operators that contains some limiting to prevent them from blowing anyone’s eardrums out and a second, more liberal setting. We called it ‘Terrance Turbo Mode’ in honor of the system’s primary operator. Terrance has a key that effectively removes that limiting and gives him full access to the full 165,000 watts of power surging through the KLR-5000s. Terrance is very pleased.” In addition, the ne24.24Ms replace the old physical relays that caused so many problems. Now the operators can select which clusters play via the software.
The logistics of the installation were particularly demanding because LSU books the PMAC with an event almost every day. “We definitely had to work around their schedule and not the other way around,” said Landry. “I admit I was a bit nervous about receiving serial numbers one through thirty-five on the KLR-5000s, but, as I said, I’ve come to trust the folks at Ashly. They really came through and made sure we had the units when we needed them – it would have been a bloodbath if they hadn’t. And the amps worked flawlessly from day one and continue to do so.”
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