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Meyer Sound Arrays Add to Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre Down Under
To those of us in the more densely populated northern hemisphere, Australia often represents a sort of "Through the Looking Glass" paradigm. Their winter is our summer, their night is our day, and their flora and fauna are the stuff of another world. In keeping with that same inverted reality, the majority of Oz's urban environs are located in the country's cooler southern climes, while the sunny, tropical north is characterized by a slow moving, relaxed atmosphere on a par with our Caribbean or Mediterranean regions.
The Gold Coast of Southeast Queensland is by far the country's fastest growing resort area, and the recently completed Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC) is its jewel in the crown. Located a mere 200 meters from the beach, the $127 million project boasts over 3,000 square meters of exhibition space within the main hall, as well as an adjacent 6,000-seat arena, 15 meeting rooms, spacious foyers and outdoor parklands and boardwalk, making for a total of over 7,000 square meters of available exhibition area. Both the exhibition hall and arena can be subdivided into multiple spaces.
The convention center's plans called for an arena versatile enough to host anything from major sporting events to large concerts, and from trade show presentations to smaller performances. To this end, it was determined that the ideal solution would be, in essence, multiple solutions, which could be used independently or in combination. Faced with varied coverage requirements, a compressed schedule, and a desire for high quality sound, the arena concluded that the answer was to install two Meyer Sound systems - a full concert array of 24 M2D compact curvilinear array loudspeakers and two 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers, plus a distributed system of 54 UPJ-1P compact VariO loudspeakers.
Construction of the GCCEC was, by all accounts, something of a "hurry up and wait" proposition. Delays early in the planning stages led to a somewhat tight timetable in the project's later stages. Despite the minor timing issues, and occasional jibes from among some Australian news media pointed at the north's laid back pace, construction adhered to plan and the venue opened on schedule, to the excitement and celebration of Gold Coast residents and tourists alike.
Certainly the pressure of the proverbial eleventh-hour crunch is difficult for all involved, and few feel it more intensely than systems contractors, whose meticulous installation processes are frequently reduced to fits and starts while at the mercy of those erecting walls, electrical and other infrastructure subsystems. "There were a number of issues beyond anyone's control, and consequently we were contracted quite late in the process," recalls Steve Watson, project manager for Total Concepts Projects, the Victoria-based firm brought in to install the GCCEC's audio-video systems and cabling infrastructure. "As a result, many of the teams, ourselves included, were under some pretty intense time pressure to meet the project's critical deadlines. Since so many of the trades were in the same boat, we were all working in the midst of a proverbial maelstrom, with everyone jockeying for every square meter of available space. I'd say everyone did remarkably well under the prevailing conditions."
The M2D array, run by in-house AV company Trident, functions as the arena's main FOH array, and could easily cover the hall on its own. For many venues that would be more than sufficient, but the desire to create a venue unrivaled in both sonic performance and flexibility resulted in an even more multi-faceted design incorporating an unusual configuration of UPJ-1P loudspeakers.
The UPJ-1P array, designed by Phil Viney of Point of View and engineering consultants Lincolne Scott in conjunction with Meyer Sound Australia, consists of three concentric rings of speakers in a distributed matrix. The outer ring reinforces the fixed upper seating, the center ring is directed at the removable lower seating, and a third central ring covers the flat floor area in the center of the arena.
"It was a bit of a challenge from an acoustician's point of view," remarks Total Concept Projects' Garry Rutter. "Ultimately I'm sure it would have been easier to design a more traditional central cluster. But with the plans calling for movable walls and movable seating, it was clear we'd have to go with a circular distributed system, to make the audio flexible enough to meet the multipurpose design of the arena."
The loudspeaker feeds are routed through Kramer Audio Distribution Amplifiers to the 54 UPJ-1P loudspeakers. The loudspeakers are logically grouped to the ADA outputs to provide sub-zones, thus allowing the system to operate as three independent spaces when the operable walls are in place, or as a single space when the walls are retracted.
"We're using approximately 26 outputs of the system drive processor, which allows a very quick turnaround time to configure the arena in an almost infinite number of ways for pretty much any use. We've effectively created a virtual point array."
With the array suspended from the arena's ceiling at a height of some 14 meters, the structure's unique design presented some challenges of its own in finding ways to fly the boxes. "We certainly had to get creative with our mounting options," Rutter recalls. "The versatility of the proprietary Meyer Sound bracketry got us through most of the rough spots, though in a few cases we augmented that with some custom bracketry of our own, as a sort of belt-and-braces approach."
The accelerated installation schedule brought with it some additional logistical challenges, all of which proved the choice of the Meyer Sound components even more fortuitous. "The Meyer systems' self-powered aspect was far more than just a convenience in this installation," Rutter enthuses. "Due to the dimensions of the room and the circular configuration, had we gone with a typical amp-and-speakers design, we'd have had to mount the amp racks up on the catwalk – a very 1970s solution. The self-powered design meant we only had to run a line level signal to the boxes."
The benefits of the Meyer Sound self-powered design went well beyond the convenience aspect. "Due to the scheduling constraints, we really had to get it right the first time; there was no time to go back and do it again. With other manufacturers' boxes, you've got so many variables with timing issues, cabling issues, external amps, external processing and so on. You never really know if you're getting the best possible performance out of the speakers, and it adds to the setup time. With the Meyer rig, you just plug it in and you know you're hearing exactly what the designers had in mind. Meyer's self-powered array makes my life so much easier."
Rutter also has high praise for Meyer Sound's ability to meet the project's tight deadlines. "Aside from the obvious mad dash to get it all built, we were a bit concerned about getting product delivered in time. To the credit of both Harley (Richardson, of Meyer Sound Australia) and Meyer Sound in the States, they were able to pull out the stops and get all the boxes here on schedule."
Both the M2D array and the UPJ-1P array have already scored high marks for their performance, and in many cases either one is more than sufficient on its own. "For most applications there's no need to use the ceiling array when the M2D array is fired up, and vice versa," reports Trident's Mike Hall. "The combination of both systems gives us the option of nearly unlimited modes of operation, using the distributed UPJ system alone for smaller presentations or divided zones. Between the two systems, what we've got here is the ultimate in a flexible, very high-quality system"
"The M2D line array has been nothing short of phenomenal," Hall enthuses. "We spent considerable time using Meyer Sound MAPP Online to configure the system requirements, and the results were excellent. We ran the system in anger (i.e. at full power) on the opening celebrations, to great effect. We had Todd McKenney as the headline act, and he made a point of coming to us afterward to say the sound was great."
Rutter agrees. "Based on the shows they've done thus far I'm quite impressed. When we did the final tuning of the room, the only thing I put in was a tiny bit of 80Hz – maybe 3dB worth – and that was based on the room acoustics. The sound is simply fantastic. We're already planning on using it on anther upcoming project."