Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre chooses Electro‑Voice

May 10, 2010

A fixture in Houston’s Hermann Park for over 80 years, the Miller Outdoor Theatre has continued to change in step with the city it serves, growing from a small bandstand to become one of the finest municipal venues in the U.S. A new Electro-Voice XLC sound system with state-of-the-art FIR-drive (FIR filter-based system processing) is ensuring the theatre sounds better than ever for the array of events it hosts, ranging from rock concerts to musical theatre to performances by the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

The City of Houston worked with a team of theatre sound experts to address every facet of the installation and, rather than being hired by a general contractor after the fact, each member of the team was involved from day one. AV systems integrators Hairel Enterprises (led by project manager Rob Slaughter) partnered with consultant/system designer Jonathan Laney (for Jaffe Holden) and Houston-based architects Studio Red (who served as general contractors on the project), working closely with Electro-Voice to design and build a sound system to truly elevate the entertainment experience at this unique venue. Representatives from each company described the process.

“it was clear that EV had new tools in place to help us build an outstanding sound system”

“First and foremost, this was a highly effective approach for a municipal project, having all the various parties working so closely together from the beginning,” says Rob Slaughter. “This was a fine example of how assembling the right team can more thoroughly address the needs and expectations of the end-user. The theatre needed a new system to provide better coverage and intelligibility, and we looked at EV’s XLC line array system first for a number of reasons. The house sound technicians were already fans, having had a number of rented systems in there that they liked. Secondly we knew that EV could provide the state-of-the-art in digital networked control with the TG amps and NetMax control platform. The team worked with Stu Schatz and Johnson Knowles from EV to fine-tune the XLC system design – the support we received from EV on this project was exceptional across every detail.”

“Though I was a newcomer to the XLC, I have a lot of experience with EV equipment and from the outset it was clear that EV had new tools in place to help us build an outstanding sound system,” says Jonathan Laney, whose resume includes another world-class public theatre outfitted with EV equipment: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park. “In particular, I find EV’s LAPS (Line Array Prediction Software) to be very accurate, and its seamless integration with EASE room modeling to measure both expected performance and coverage/frequency response were very helpful. Using the TG amplifiers with the built-in RCM-26 DSP module and IRIS-Net remote control capability, along with the power of the FIR-drive system, really simplified the process on site in terms of making the arrays behave well in the venue. I find the XLC arrays themselves to be very uniform on the horizontal axis, with a uniform wave front – very little box-to-box differentiation. All the even coverage and clarity the theatre imagined is now there. LAPS and all the work that went into FIR-drive has paid off with some very accurate measurements that minimize the time necessary to ready the arrays for a performance once they’re up in the air – no re-pinning of arrays is necessary. There are simply huge differences in predictability and performance since FIR filters have been implemented in the TG amps.”

“We had a great team – it couldn’t have been better,” says Jared Wood of Studio Red. “We all entered the project at the same time, and all three companies involved have a lot of experience working on theatre projects. Working collectively on a design/build job like this, we were all able to focus on different details according to our areas of expertise. All this made this project as a whole go very smoothly and quickly. As architects, we were involved with the roof penetrations necessary to fly the speaker arrays, ensuring the holes were properly enclosed, etc., along with specifying and obtaining permits for the work and any additional structural hardware. The City of Houston is very, very pleased with how well things went. We’re thinking about working with this kind of team again in the future; it seems more in step with the way the business is going, changing from the traditional process of bidding a job out and then hiring contractors after the fact. And, of course, with a team of this caliber the end product is sure to sound phenomenal.”

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