Late last year, Cooper Cannady and his staff at RMB Audio, based in Selma, N.C., entered a venue they knew well — Raleigh's Dorton Arena — and adopted a new approach to battling that facility's acoustical shortcomings for the annual North Carolina State Fair. The event featured daily country music performances and other entertainment performed in a facility built almost entirely of concrete, glass, and steel “for everything but music,” says Cannady, RMB's owner.

“The room has hard-surfaced, reflective walls, a hard-surface ceiling, a hard-surface floor — everything is reflected surface, concrete, glass, and steel,” Cannady explains. “No soft surfaces anywhere in the room. Reverb time is greater than six seconds in there, so obviously, that's not ideal for an acoustic event. I've worked different events in that place for over 12 years, and in that time we've tried a number of different solutions, but this time around we figured out a line-array approach configured based on computerized calculations that would help reduce the impact of the reverb effect. It made a big difference.”

The RMB team built two audio systems in the arena — alternating them for performances — out of 24 Martin Audio W8LC three-way line-array cabinets for FOH (carefully weighed and hung high over the audience on a steel cable). The systems also included eight W8C cabinets for side-seating and eight W8S bass cabinets mounted on the show floor. The point was to configure the speakers to let the first audio reflection hit audience members' ears before the room's notorious reverb phenomenon could strike.

Cannady says Martin's ViewPoint software (version 3.0) and handheld laser measuring devices made the difference in calculating placement of the line-array system.

“We had the benefit of software that gave us excellent predictions of the outcome of coverage, beam width, all that stuff — horizontal and vertical coverage being the key thing,” he explains. “Speaker manufacturers are understanding that we need to make their systems more predictable in specific venues, and so they are coming out with more tools like this, and it really helps. Once the show went off, I have to say our calculations were pretty darn close and the sound was much better than what I've experienced in the past in that facility. In a country fair like this, people come expecting to hear music they know well, the way they know it. By getting that signal to their ears quicker, we satisfied that desire, and I think the show benefited as a result.”

Send potential submissions for the CenterStage column to Michael Goldman, SRO senior editor, at mgoldman@primediabusiness.com.