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Historic Salt Lake City Rail Station Transformed into Venue with Help From Meyer Sound MICA
To residents of Salt Lake City, the old downtown Union Pacific Railway Station was just another aged building doomed to collect dust until it turned to dust. A certified National Historic Landmark, it would never be razed to make way for new development, yet budget concerns seemed to end every attempt at restoring the space in the planning stage. Even the House of Blues pulled out of a renovation they had begun on the building due to financial difficulties.
Finally, a group led by local event promoter United Concerts led a large development plan to return the building to its former glory. The station, with its massive, open spaces and classic brick construction, was full of possibilities, and, after much renovation and toil, The Depot nightclub opened its doors to booming business and rave reviews from local patrons and media alike. Like many other historical landmarks revived as entertainment venues, The Depot chose to top off its hard-won restoration with a Meyer Sound system. The completed venue led United Concerts President Jim C. McNeil to proclaim that "it's like nothing we've ever had in Salt Lake City."
A gigantic 37,000 square-foot, three-story space, The Depot is centered around a 1,200-capacity, two-level concert hall. But the club also includes a 220-seat, five-star restaurant, as well as a separate VIP wing complete with private lounge and meeting areas, and has already seen business hosting corporate functions.
Its main purpose, though, is as a live music performance space, and in that respect the club has been an unqualified success, with the first few months witnessing performers as diverse as Cake, Los Lobos, Minnie Driver and Martin Sexton, the Reverend Horton Heat, Isaac Hayes, and The Roots all taking the stage. Eclectic? For sure, but it's all part of the club's central mission, to bring a wide variety of quality music to the city while giving the local nightlife and culture a much-needed shot in the arm. United's event coordinator, Rob Pierce, knew that once the building received the required renovations he would need a sound system capable of handling the diverse musical demands with aplomb.
Pierce, a 30-year concert production veteran, had been highly impressed by Meyer Sound after using their speakers in a system design for Pope John Paul II's 1987 appearance at Phoenix's Sun Devil Stadium. When the list of candidate brands narrowed to Meyer Sound and one other, Pierce contacted local pro audio dealer Webb AV, who wasted no time in suggesting a shootout between them. Two systems with identical configurations were placed side-by-side and run through a rigorous program. The results were unequivocal, and the choice was made to install a system of MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers, supported by 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers.
The system design was created by plotting the building dimensions in Meyer Sound's MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction program and working with the array configuration until the desired coverage was obtained. The final design called for five MICA cabinets per side and four 700-HP units beneath the stage, all driven from a Galileo loudspeaker management system.
Before installing the system, however, the United crew had to deal with the fact that the old rail station wasn't ready for the vibration and abuse of regular concerts. Originally built in 1909, the building's basic frame was in good shape, but the walls and floor needed reinforcement to handle large crowds. The crews worked delicately so as not to violate any of the codes governing restoration of a historic landmark, and left the exterior of the building largely unchanged. Inside, they insulated the roof and wrapped additional material around the joists to better seal them for both insulation and sonic reasons and to reduce sound reflections from them, inserted acoustical foam in problem areas, applied sound treatment to the underside of the balcony level, and draped both the stage and the windows.
The building modifications took months of effort, in contrast with the sound system installation, which was painless. Notes Pierce, "We had it all up in a day. It was probably one of the easiest installs I've ever done." Tuning was also a snap, using a SIM 3 audio analyzer.
So far, the MICA system has received rave reviews from all sides. Local media gave the system extra coverage when reviewing the club, noting the sound quality and capabilities, and Pierce points out that patrons regularly seek out staff to comment on the system's amazing clarity. Sound technicians and musicians love working with it as well. "Everybody who has come in so far has been amazed. When they get here they can't wait to use it, and they leave saying 'I wish we could take this stuff with us,'" according to Pierce.
The system passed its first real performance test when The Roots performed at the club. "I was a little worried about subwoofer capacity for that show, because they needed so much low end," Pierce says. "They came in, looked at the setup, and immediately said 'we need more subs.'" Pierce convinced them to try the setup as it was, "and they were very, very happy by the end of the show. Basically, we were rattling dishes downstairs in the restaurant."
After living with the system for a while, Pierce has nothing but praise for it. "All I'd say is that this is the best sounding club I've ever heard. Anyone who is considering using Meyer versus any other system should come to our club and listen to what we have here."