Electro‑Voice brings sweet sound to the Dunkin' Donuts Center

January 6, 2014

Home of the American Hockey League's Providence Bruins and Providence College Men’s Basketball, The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is the major sports and entertainment venue of the Providence, Rhode Island metro area. Seating approximately 13,000 depending on configuration, the arena hosts not only games, including NCAA Men's Division I Basketball, but also corporate events, trade shows, commencements and concerts from artists including hit-makers such as U2 and Elton John. The facility, which was extensively remodeled in 2008, benefits from solid acoustic design and good interior treatment. Even so, the sound during games was lacking until a recent sound-system upgrade featuring loudspeakers, power amplifiers and digital routing systems from Electro-Voice.

“The two main issues with the old system were lack of coverage and lack of intelligibility,” says Tom Barrett, president of Ambient Sound in nearby Warwick, Rhode Island. Ambient handled installation and co-designed the system with Electro-Voice's Technical Services department, whose efforts were led by Robert Deyarmond. “Those games involve a lot of announcer play-by-play,” Barrett continues, “but unless you were sitting right in front of one of the arrays, you were not going to understand what was being said. Also, the old system did not have any subwoofers, which is especially important for basketball, where there's a lot of pump-up music between plays.”

“The support was fantastic. We appreciate the EV people who came out to help make sure that this installation was a success.”

Addressing these issues was clearly going to require loudspeakers with speech-range clarity and well-controlled coverage patterns. But the list of suitable systems was narrowed by the facility's requirements regarding placement, particularly a directive late in the design phase that no cabinet could hang lower than “low steel,” which is the bottom of the ceiling's lowest horizontal member. “Permanently-hung cabinets below low steel might have interfered with the availability of rigging points for the concert systems that come in with touring shows,” Barrett says. “And that might have made it difficult for them to avoid interfering with sight lines.”

By limiting the vertical space available for arrays, the low-steel limitation made the size-to-power ratio of the boxes critical, and also placed a premium on loudspeakers that can achieve full performance even in arrays of very few boxes. Based on these requirements the design team selected distributed arrays using Electro-Voice EVH1152 two-way coaxial horn-loaded full-range loudspeakers. 

An array of choices 

“The choice of options available in the EVH1152 line is fantastic,” Barrett says. “You can customize your coverage — 40 by 30, 60 by 40, 90 by 90 — by picking the right box, and you can also rotate the horns if you need to. Plus the rigging packages that are available for these boxes are engineered to work together in a multitude of environments. That made designing the system a lot easier, which was very valuable. And we didn’t have to custom-fabricate any rigging; we were able to use all off-the-shelf components.”

“These boxes were just the right size that we needed for this situation,” adds Ambient production manager Mario Pregoni. “And we didn’t require any fly grids; we could do all the rigging directly from the cabinets themselves with eye-bolts. That kept the weight down and helped us avoid extra height so we could keep the hangs low-profile.”

Another reason for choosing the EVHs, Pregoni says, is that EV offers a complete system, including the speakers, power amps, routing, control and processing. “It’s all from one manufacturer, so you don’t end up with a mixed bag; you can be sure that it all works together without any compatibility issues. Plus EV has a track record in big arenas and stadiums, both overseas and in the United States, which was a good point in their favor. And it’s rider-friendly.”

Ambient’s Vice President, Tim Quigley, points out that in addition to these technical advantages, the EV system turned out to be cost-effective as well. “EV hit the right cost point. And the finance department was very flexible with their payment options. That was helpful, because the center is a quasi-state facility, and we had to buy the system up front and then wait to be reimbursed.”

36 EVH1152s are deployed in all, 32 of which are used in vertical arrays of two boxes each. Four of these arrays are hung on each long side at intervals of about 30 feet. Another three are flown on each short side. The remaining boxes are used in two horizontal arrays, which cover the two ends of the ice, and in a four-box down-pointing cluster for the center of the ice.

Subs from above

The mains are supplemented with 12 EVF-2151D subwoofers flown in six clusters above the arena’s central scoreboard and video screen. “We had to be sure that there was a good amount of impact for music playback,” Pregoni says, “and we couldn’t hang the subs anywhere other than where they are now. The 2151s were the subs that best fit that profile. They’re compact, but there are able to fill a big area. And we were able to preserve sightlines by hanging just two boxes per cluster.”

The system is driven by Electro-Voice Tour Grade power amplifiers: 18 TG5s and three TG7s. Audio is routed to the amps digitally via a set of two NetMax N8000 digital matrix system controllers. Each amp is equipped with an RCM-28 – the latest generation remote-control DSP module from EV. RCM-28 is a two-channel digital controller module for TG series amps that enables system control, monitoring and DSP, including sound-optimizing FIR filters. RCM-28 is the first EV product to support the new OMNEO media networking architecture (co-developed by EV/Bosch), which combines Dante audio networking with the OCA control networking platform. Amplifiers with RCM-28 modules installed can be integrated into OMNEO networks that operate over standard Ethernet and can interoperate with Dante- and OCA-enabled products from any manufacturer. With an RCM-28 module installed, network, audio and system parameters can be completely supervised and controlled remotely through IRIS-Net software.

“EV Tech support worked closely with our in-house engineering staff to make sure that the software and the protocols for the RCM cards all worked smoothly, and they did,” Barrett says. “The support was fantastic. We appreciate the EV people, including Chris Aeilts, Stu Schatz and Paul Carelli, who came out to help make sure that this installation was a success.” Rick Swensen and Rob Howitt from the manufacturers’ representative firm AudioPros in Charlton, Massachusetts were also deeply involved in facilitating the project over the two years leading up to delivery and installation. 

The best proof of that success is the fact that, as Pregoni puts it, “for the first time people are able to hear the music with definition, and the patrons at the games are no longer complaining that they can’t understand the announcers.” Quigley agrees, noting that he’s made a point of “talking to average people who actually go to events, just to gauge their opinion. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, a bookkeeper that works with us is a season ticket holder for the Providence Bruins, and she and her husband have been raving about the fact that they can actually hear announcements and play-calls.” As for Ambient’s client, the operators of the arena, Quigley sums up their response succinctly: “They’ve been overwhelmingly happy with the results.”

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