- by Robert Morgan
Pike Performing Arts Center (PPAC), located 12 miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis, IN, recently installed a Bose RoomMatch sound reinforcement system in its main auditorium. Besides the 1,449-seat auditorium, the facility also has a smaller a 150-seat Studio Theatre for more intimate performances.
System integrators ESCO Communications of Indianapolis supplied and installed the RoomMatch array module loudspeakers for the upgrade. The installation represents the first significant enhancement to the audio equipment at the facility since it was built in 1996.
Back to the Past
“The original system was a very traditional design by an architect-engineer. It was a center cluster system with long-throw horns and bass boxes behind a soffit,” explains Gary Dunn, EVP, ESCO Communications. “It was just a very classic early-1990s design for a school auditorium.”
Dunn continues, “Then another contractor had come along and tried to enhance it. They simply put some three-way boxes on the left and right of the stage. That did little if anything to improve the environment. So this most recent change was a huge improvement, to take them to a system that’s more capable and something more of the caliber that the space deserves.”
“Pike Performing Arts Center is what I term a K-12 PAC, a performing arts center associated with a K-through-12 public school system. We’re owned and operated by the school district,” says Jared Duymovic, the director of the facility.
PPAC shares a campus with the Pike High School and the Pike Freshmen Center in a residential neighborhood of Pike Township, but has its own operating staff and does not adhere to the traditional educational calendar. The venue is reportedly booked over 315 days a year, hosting school and community events while also serving as a professional rental house for touring and local performing arts organizations.
Time for a Change
While the old rig was adequate for the majority of events, PPAC would still have to rent a full PA package occasionally. “Every year, at least two or three times, we’d say, this is just not working, it doesn’t sound good enough,” said Duymovic of the old installed rig. “It was the thing that my technical director, Kyle Bredehoeft, and I kept coming back to; wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t sound this bad?”
In anticipation of an upgrade, Duymovic and Bredehoeft began talks with ESCO about two years ago. “Initially this was just a spec job; we went to them and said, let’s start talking about this,” Duymovic recalls. “We started looking at the three or four systems that would typically be used for this type of install — all increasing in price.”
“They had looked at several other approaches; all of them were way over their budget to do what they wanted to do,” confirms Dunn. Several colleagues at ESCO who had heard the Bose RoomMatch system brought it to his attention.
“One of the first projects that came to mind was the Pike Performing Arts Center,” Dunn adds. “We really thought that this product would work extremely well in there, and it would be a great demonstration facility for us to showcase a wonderful system. ESCO is a very strong business partner with the Pike Township School District, and a successful installation is a win-win for everyone.”
The New Bose in Town
Dunn admits, “We were very skeptical at first because it was Bose; they’ve had their ups and downs in the pro audio business. But we went and heard it and became more impressed the more we started digging into it and listening.”
Bose’s RoomMatch system (which is driven by the company’s PowerMatch amplifiers) is available in 20 different coverage patterns; they can be used alone or with other RoomMatch array modules to form Progressive Directivity. They perform as a single loudspeaker to ensure optimal sound coverage for a particular listening area. RoomMatch also combines proprietary technologies, particularly related to the extended-range, mid-band compression drivers, that eliminate the need for corrective DSP.
“They really do have something here,” says Dunn. “This is a very definite change in a variety of areas, in the manifold control, and the horizontal and vertical patterns available within the same size of physical box. They’ve done an extremely nice job, and I think they’re starting to get the consulting community’s attention, and this one is definitely winning them over.”
“I had never seen this conglomeration of features in one product before,” agrees Duymovic. “We could spend a lot of money on something from a different brand that the industry would consider comparable to this and not get the scalability, the dynamics and all of these nice things that you’re hoping for.”
Working with Bose’s engineers, ESCO initially proposed a center cluster. “The reason we did was because the coverage of the room is extremely good from the center,” Dunn explains. “But Jared and the PAC staff felt like issues would come up with artists who prefer not to use center clusters, based on preconceived opinions, or artists who were returning to the venue and were used to the previous system. So they decided to go with the left-right configuration, mainly for contractual obligations and to not limit the room.”
But there was a challenge with a left-right configuration — the ceiling of the auditorium features an array of fixed acoustical clouds, limiting the new system’s hang points.
“Where we could get the structure, we had to go extremely left and right of the walls,” says Dunn, noting that the system’s subwoofers are now flown centrally. “That was based on where we could get structural support without having to remove those acoustical cloud structures. But while that was more of a challenge, because we have more splash off of the side walls, in the end, with the tuning and the positioning, it worked out very, very well.”
But How Does it Sound?
The coverage is extremely even, Dunn observes, from the very front to the very back of the hall.
“With PPAC’s previous system, they always struggled with getting the back areas covered. They had some under-balcony speakers that they left in place, but the coverage is extremely good without turning them on. The control of the sound with these new boxes is so good. The ability to layer in the different horizontal and vertical patterns within the same array really helped; you can’t do that with traditional line arrays.”
“I was extremely pleased with how enveloping and immersive the sound became with the new system,” reports Duymovic. “It was almost instantaneously recognizable as being at a different level entirely from what we were used to. The experience that I had when I first listened was very much akin to putting on a set of noise-cancelling headphones. Everything was very full and clear with even dispersion throughout the hall, and the bass response was excellent without being overwhelming.”
First impressions are always important, with any system. “When I stepped into the room to hear music being played it was so clean, quiet…audible,” Duymovic adds. “I walked around and found no dead spots, no muddling. It was incredible. We’ve only had a handful of events so far, but the benefit is clear already. It’s just an enjoyable listening experience, which will help bring audiences back time and time again.”
For more information about the Pike Performing Arts Center, visit www.pikepac.org.