The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College regularly presents more than 100 music, dance, and theatre performances each year, as well as film screenings and other events. To better serve an increasing demand for top-quality amplified sound, Hopkins Center management recently upgraded the audio component of its 900-seat Spaulding Auditorium to include a new Meyer Sound system based on the M'elodie™ ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.

With its power-to-size ratio and directional control, the self-powered M'elodie loudspeaker proved an ideal solution for amplifying an auditorium initially designed for acoustic and classical music. “The Spaulding Auditorium is a wonderful room for a chamber orchestra or Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello,” notes Keely Ayres, senior production manager for the Hopkins Center. “But it wasn’t intended to hold amplified sound.”

When planning for the new M'elodie system, the Hopkins Center’s production management team, which includes Ayres, Doug Phoenix, and Jim Alberghini, had to ensure that major acoustical treatments remained intact in order to preserve the room’s original aesthetics. “We couldn’t change the look intended by the designer, or the expectations of those who paid for the construction back in 1962,” says Ayres. A system of legacy, unpowered Meyer Sound products—mainly MSL-2 high-power and UPA-1 compact wide coverage loudspeakers—had served the auditorium for the past two decades. After testing various replacement systems, Ayres and her team easily chose M'elodie, Meyer Sound’s latest addition to the highly successful MILO® family of loudspeakers.

Rainbow Production Services of Hampstead, NH, supplied the Meyer Sound system, which bested a conventionally powered system in an on-site shootout. “We prepped and aligned both systems beforehand,” says system co-designer Scott Tkachuk, Rainbow Production Services' director of touring and events. “We then played live and recorded music through one system, took it down, and did the same with the other. When all was said and done, the M'elodie system sounded much more transparent and natural.”

The Meyer Sound system configured by Tkachuk, with assistance from Meyer Sound's Design Services department, incorporates left and right arrays of seven M'elodie loudspeakers each, plus three UPM-1P ultracompact wide coverage loudspeakers filling in the front-center and outside corners, and four 600-HP compact high-power subwoofers. A Galileo™ loudspeaker management system drives all components. The system was aligned and optimized using a SIM®3 audio analyzer.

The Spaulding Auditorium’s 120 Hz bass resonance posed a challenge for the system design, but one that was readily overcome. “We originally flew two 600-HP subwoofers on each side with the arrays,” notes Tkachuk. “But we found that, by putting one down on the floor and feeding it from a separate output of the Galileo, we could get the response in the room flattened out.”

For Ayres, the critical test came when the acclaimed Dartmouth College Gospel Choir, augmented by Chicago-based guest musicians, appeared in concert. “It had sounded good with the previous system, but during the first concert on the new system, everybody was just blown away," she recalls. "We had a brass section, a Hammond B3 organ, a full rhythm section, and 60 voices, all going at once. But you still could pick out a clear bass line, the unique timbre of the B3, and the sound of individual voices. It was an amazing experience.”