Boston’s Berklee College of Music is regarded as one of the world’s premier institutions for the study of contemporary music, with many alumni who have become music industry luminaries such as Quincy Jones, Keith Jarrett, John Mayer, Steve Vai, Aimee Mann, and Melissa Etheridge. While a superb faculty is largely to credit for nurturing these great talents, the school’s exceptional facilities for rehearsal and performance also underscore an atmosphere of excellence.
The 1,215-seat Berklee Performance Center has historically been the crown jewel among the live venues on campus and was diligently served by a celebrated Meyer Sound system for nearly 20 years before Berklee decided to perform an upgrade. To maintain the pristine sound quality that the theatre was known for, Berklee found the best solution in a Meyer Sound self-powered system based on M’elodieâ„¢ line array loudspeakers.
The new M’elodies replaced a conventionally powered Meyer Sound system based on the esteemed legacy MSL-3s. “We perform everything in here, from orchestras to acoustic acts to hard rock, and they all sounded great with the MSL-3s,”? testifies Associate Director of Production Brad Berger. “But technology had finally passed them by.”?
Berger evaluated potential line array-based replacements with a goal to find a system with power and performance surpassing the MSL-3s. The chosen system would also need to be sufficiently compact to fit the room’s narrow confines, which include a stage of just over 28 feet wide.
“I flew down to Nashville for a demo at Meyer Sound’s office at Soundcheck right after M’elodie was introduced,”? recalls Berger. “I was blown away. They had a band there that played every imaginable style of music, and it all sounded superb. I also knew the arrays would fit the room beautifully.”?
In addition to the M’elodies’ exceptional power-to-size ratio, the move to a self-powered system brought welcomed advantages, including reduced rack space backstage and improved sound quality since all self-powered loudspeakers carry amplification and processing circuitry onboard for complete performance consistency. “Anything that can guarantee the loudspeaker will sound as intended is a benefit,”? observes Berger.
The new system is anchored by eight M’elodies per side flown at the proscenium, with bass augmented by two 600-HP subwoofers. Two M1D line array loudspeakers are spaced singly along the stage lip for front fill. On stage, in addition to four new MJF-212A stage monitors, the augmented monitoring system now offers two 600-HP subwoofers with two “loose”? M’elodie cabinets available as low-profile monitors that supplement an existing stock of 16 legacy UM-1 and two USM-1P stage monitors.
A Galileoâ„¢ loudspeaker management system contributes drive processing and signal distribution for the arrays (four zones each), subs, and fills. The system was provided by Boston-based AVFX and was designed jointly by Berger and Meyer Sound Design Services using MAPP Online Proâ„¢ acoustical prediction program. Installation was handled by Berklee production staff members including Ed Liberatore, Stephanie Planchart, Nate Martz, Lauren Caso, Ryan
Jones and Alejo Planchart under Berger’s supervision.
The new M’elodie arrays offer more uniform side-to-side coverage, along with much better throw to the back under-balcony seats about 115 feet away. Berger also praises the accurate prediction data from MAPP Online Pro. “MAPP Online showed that coverage with the new system would be substantially better, and it was,”? he notes.
Despite the technical superiority of the new self-powered arrays, Berger confesses that it wasn’t easy letting go of a venerable Meyer Sound system praised by so many visiting engineers over the years. “For the first few shows, we had George Duke, Bootsy Collins, and Hugh Masekela in here, and everybody loved the sound.”?
One act that gave him pause was British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson. “The first thing Richard’s engineer said before the show was, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have replaced the MSL-3s. That’s my favorite Meyer box.’ But after he mixed the show he was quite happy with the M’elodies.”?
The Berklee Performance Center is the largest of the school’s five rooms for rehearsals, recitals and public performances. With the recycling of some components from the old legacy system into one of the smaller rooms, all five spaces are now equipped exclusively with Meyer Sound loudspeakers. The newest room is a student-run coffeehouse, Café 939, which relies on a Meyer Sound system to support a variety of musical presentations including rock, jazz, folk, world, bluegrass, hip-hop, electronica and avant-garde.
The main structure of the Berklee Performance Center was built in 1915 as the Fenway Theatre, a vaudeville showplace that soon became a movie theater. After purchase by the school in 1972, the re-christened theater was renovated to include an enlarged stage, an acoustical ceiling, and recording and rehearsal studios below stage level. The venue hosts about 200 events per year, about evenly divided between student performances and international touring artists.
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