Dual Electro‑Voice sound systems wow Chesney fans at Dallas Cowboys Stadium

April 29, 2011

As one of the nation's top-grossing live concert acts, Kenny Chesney has filled countless arenas, amphitheaters, and stadiums over the last decade. But for sheer enormity, few venues compare to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium (DCS) in Arlington, Texas. With an internal volume of over 85 million cubic feet and a structure whose trusses span more than a quarter-mile, it can be a big challenge to reach each of the over 80,000 seats with top-quality sound. Luckily, the stadium is already equipped with a massive installed Electro-Voice sound system that includes 242 line array elements and hundreds of other speakers. And like Chesney’s own touring rig, provided by Morris Light & Sound of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the installed system is largely built around Electro-Voice X-Line arrays. So for Chesney’s recent appearance at DCS with Zac Brown, the natural solution was to extend the world’s largest touring X-Line system by tapping into the world’s largest installed X-Line sound system.

Morris Light & Sound president David Haskell says that the possibility of using the two systems together came up early in planning for the show. One influencing factor was the reverberant character of the stadium’s acoustics. “This room has about an eight to eleven-second RT60,” Haskell says, “especially at lower frequencies. That much sound swimming around, for that long, makes it very hard to keep vocals intelligible. It cleaned up a little bit when 50,000 fans showed up, and then a little more when we opened the roof later in the evening. But all in all we still had a six to eight-second reverb time to overcome.”

“we couldn’t have done it without the support from EV, which is unrivaled by any manufacturer we have ever worked with.”

The reverberation was compounded by one of the stadium’s distinctive design features, the giant 120 x 180-foot retractable glass doors at the back of the room. “They’re beautiful from an architectural standpoint,” Haskell says, “but acoustically it was a huge hurdle. The slap-back on stage was almost 1.5 seconds later.”

Another factor was the enormous distance of the throws. “If we had tried to cover the entire venue from the main stage hangs,” Haskell says, “we would have had to project high frequency information over 500 feet. When you figure in the air loss over that distance, as well as the incredibly reverberant space, this was clearly a bad idea. Plus we had heard that a couple of other tours who had played there tried this approach, and that there had been intelligibility issues in the distant seats.”

Working with Application Engineers Stu Schatz and George Georgallis from Electro-Voice technical support, Morris system tech John Mills formulated a plan to address the various challenges (click here to download a case study by Stu Schatz). “We decided that we would have the most control possible by focusing all of our stage line array energy on the floor and first bowl seating areas,” Mills says. “The second tier was mostly boxes, so we had most of the glass faces there removed to minimize bounce or reflections. Then the final piece of the puzzle was tying into the house X-Line and XLC speaker hangs.”

With that general approach in mind, the team contacted DCS audio engineer Gary French about tying into the house system, which was originally designed and installed in a collaboration between Kevin Day of Dallas consultants Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW), systems integrators Pro Media / UltraSound of Hercules, California, and Electro-Voice’s engineering and tech support teams. “Gary and all of the guys at the stadium were very excited that we wanted to use the house delay system,” Mills says, “because no other tour had tried that before. Gary was extremely helpful, not only with information, but also he was there at a moment’s notice during our load-in and setup to help with the integration.”

Mills says that a touring system is typically loaded into the venue the day before the show, but “because this was the first time a touring system was tied into the house system, the venue and our tour management were very gracious and allowed us an additional day. So we loaded in two days before. The major part of one of those days was dedicated solely to integrating the two systems.”

The mains for the show were left and right hangs, each composed of 18 X-Line Xvls cabinets and two X-Line Xvlt cabinets. “The X-Lines were chosen for their horsepower and accuracy,” Mills says. “It’s is a very powerful speaker and covered the room very well. And with 20 boxes deep, we had significant control down to 100 Hz, which was very helpful in such a challenging acoustic environment.” X-Line arrays were also used for left and right side hangs, which each consisted of 14 Xvls boxes and two Xvlt boxes.

The X-Line arrays were rounded out on the low end with two 20-box columns of Xsubs hung center stage above the video wall. “Hanging 20 deep and two columns wide gave us a very powerful and controlled bass wave, which was really necessary in this space,” Mills says. “And the center hang minimized low-frequency fingering and comb-filtering. To help smooth out the dispersion, we applied a little delay to the top and bottom of the array, which we modeled with EV’s LAPS software. Even though the room had such a long RT, we were able to get a full sound that remained punchy.”

At the last minute, a ground stack of four XLC127DVX compact line-array elements was added on each side to reach close-in extreme side areas. “We originally thought that they were not going to seat those areas,” Mills says. “But, because of the ease-of-deployment on the XLCs, it took us only 20 minutes from the time the decision was made until we were passing audio, including getting everything out to the stage from the loading dock. Because of our wireless link to the EV NetMax system, once the cabinets and amps were in place, all we had to do was log in and quickly tune them from the seats in question.”

The system was powered by 110 of the 134 Electro-Voice P3000RL remote-control DSP amplifiers that travel with the Chesney tour. “We use the P3000RL with RCM-24 DSP and control modules,” Mills says. “In a system of this size, the ability to not only monitor but also control the amplifiers is paramount. With IRIS-Net and the RCM cards, we have the ability to see everything. A single amplifier may be overheating or there may be a short in a cable to a speaker zone that we’re not even listening to. IRIS-Net will throw an error light and give us a system report, so we can determine if the error is something to be addressed instantly or if it’s something cautionary that we can address later in the shop.”

System control for the Chesney show was provided by five NetMax N8000-1500 digital matrix controllers. “We used two at stage left, two at stage right, and one at FOH,” Mills says. “The FOH NetMax was added for this tour, with the idea being that we will feed its digital inputs from the AES outs of our own Midas Pro9 console, and from the consoles of the opening bands as well. We will also use the NetMax digital outs to create an all-digital drive system. So eventually we will be digital from the consoles all the way to the amplifiers, and since we’ve already got the existing analog drive snake we’ll continue to run that as a backup.”

“The fifth NetMax will also allow me to set up and tune the system before any of the FOH consoles are even set up,” Mills adds. He says that since Morris is still in the process of implementing the new signal flow, for now the FOH NetMax is used, depending on the venue, for routing and delay tower processing.

For the DCS setup, the FOH NetMax was used to interconnect with the Electro-Voice house system. “We utilized eight of the NetMax‘s analog drive lines to drive 12 of the stadium’s XLC line arrays, which were used for the upper bowl, as well as three of the stadium’s X-Line hangs, which provided rear delay coverage for seating in the end-zone opposite the stage end of the venue,” Mills says. “Having those lines allowed us to process the house arrays independently, which proved to be an amazing help as we walked around the upper-level seating with our tablet computer.”

“The physical hang of the house X-Line was not optimal for timing it to the stage PA,” Mills notes. “But the only available position for our own XLC delay towers would have meant firing them directly into glass on the box seats and the back wall. With the house hangs we were instead able to shoot into the crowd, which acted as acoustic treatment. So using the house X-Lines allowed us to eliminate major reflections.”

Despite its complexity, the combined system yielded an impressive result, particularly considering the acoustical characteristics of the space. “We received rave reviews,” Haskell says. “Some even said we set a new standard for tours to come. And we couldn’t have done it without the support from EV, which is unrivaled by any manufacturer we have ever worked with. Stu Schatz and George Georgallis were instrumental in programming, EASE modeling, and on-site support. We received their undivided attention on this project. Big job or small, they always treat us as if we were their only client.”

Kenny Chesney audio crew:

John Mills: Audio Crew Chief / System Tech

Brian Vasquez - KC FOH Engineer

Phill "Side Phill" Robinson - KC Monitor Engineer

Brian "Opie" Baxley - KC Band Engineer

Jameson "Jamo" Beck - Stage Patch / Uncle Kracker Monitor Engineer

Justin Meeks - Asst. System Tech

Phill Spina - Stage Right PA

Robert McTigue - Stage Left PA

Photos: George Georgallis

Click here to download the related Case Study by Applications Engineer Stu Schatz

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