This is a continuing series of detailed articles about Tectonic Plate installations. Each article is generally structured as Problem : Solution.
Tectonic products are specified into some very interesting and difficult spaces. We hope you will find these articles informative and perhaps a challenge to how you might solve for a difficult space. Stay tuned for more...
• Very Wide, Even Coverage
• No Mixing 'Sweet Spot'
• Driver-by-driver DSP Control
• Highly Accurate Soundstage and Stereo Imaging
• Extremely Low Distortion
How do DML’s perform in a post-production studio environment? I have wanted to answer this question for quite some time.
- Bill Demkov
"An open-minded client with a time sensitive project presented an excellent opportunity to put my DML theories to the test in a studio setting. My goals for this session were to edit, mix and master a solo cello recording in two days' time. Given our time constraints I found it best to set up shop in my home studio.
I installed the Tectonic Audio Labs PL-11 live demo system in my living room a few days before the session to ensure optimal performance. Using the ESRA Systune software in conjunction with the Ashley Pema 8250 DSP Protea™ software I was able achieve system optimization very quickly.
The Tectonic Audio Labs PL-11 / Ashly system provided a unique advantage regarding control room calibration by offering full DSP control over each driver. In comparison, using a typical pair of studio monitors is often limited to a few pre-set choices for overall driver tuning and room correction.
In my mind, I would classify PL-11s more as “musical devices” rather than “speakers”. With that said, the Tectonic system yielded a lifelike representation of acoustic instruments undoubtedly due to the resonant nature of the panels. As a result, my mix balance and direct to reverberant ratios were far easier to achieve. Within moments of beginning our session my client Malina commented excitedly “This actually sounds like my instrument!”
The wide coverage and off-axis stereo perception completely change the game regarding the proverbial ‘sweet spot’. The Tectonic Audio Labs’ unique mode of propagation significantly increases productive real estate at mix position. The ability to share this acoustic space with the artist is truly revolutionary
I no longer feel the need to reach for headphones to double check crossfades and pan assignments. Using traditional studio monitors I found myself regularly referencing headphones to verify my panning choices. In fact, the few times I needed headphones during this session was whenever my one year old Black Lab “Fender” decided to cause a ruckus."
• Highly Reverberant Space
• Incomplete Coverage
• Very Poor Intelligibility
• Feedback Control Issues
• Out of Date Speakers
• On-site Demo for Proof of Performance
• Full Coverage with Six S
peakers – Replacing 14
• Reverberance and Echo Reduced by 90% with No Room Treatment
• Color-Matched Low-visibility Installation
• Feedback Issues Managed Without Room EQ
The Challenge -
Eastern Washington University’s University Recreation Center (URC) hockey arena offers some considerable acoustic challenges. For starters, there’s the ice itself. Surrounding that are 12’ foot plexi-glass shields. Add to that parallel glass galleries up and behind the stands. Top this all off with a hanger-style roof to complete the list of sound issues: poor intelligibility, echo & slap-backs and feedback problems.
Design / Install firm SaviTechs Enterprises assess the situation and found what would be expected. ”Nothing sounded good with the old system.”, says Michaela Hornsby, General Manager. “The current system was clusters of trap boxes progressively added to the bleachers and spotted and aimed as time went on, but coverage to all seating and standing room areas – over 1,000 people in all – was never achieved. Furthermore, there was no direct coverage for the ice itself; necessary for events and public skating.”
The Tectonic Demonstration Proof of Concept -
After a thorough review, SaviTechs mounted a demo system for proof of concept. “We brought in a pair of lifts and raised a two-by two set of PL-12s.”, explains Hornsby. “By placing the lifts in the players’ box areas, we were able to get them very nearly to their final location.” This panel placement not only succeeded in covering the main arena, but was a better fit to the budget. “We were planning for more speakers, but the PL-12s covered so well that we were able to proceed with adding just a couple of PL-11s for fills.”
Design and Implementation -
Fourteen trapezoidal enclosures were removed, along with 12 amplifiers. The main PL-12 rigs were flown by aircraft cables attached in a dead-hang to Tectonic CBL Center-of-Gravity Heads. With the panels mounted so high, 0⁰ interconnect bars were used between the panels. No curve was necessary. All hardware was painted to match the Tectonic white panels and blend in with surrounding walls and roof.
Two PL-11s were flown over the front rows of seating to overcome the shielding caused by 12-foot tall plexiglass shields. SaviTechs utilized an aim-able mount provided by ATM Flyware™, flown from aircraft cable. An 85-foot delay from the PL-12s was set to sync up the system. A single KV2 dual 15” active sub was placed above the left team box area, near the left PL-12 hang. “The one sub was more than adequate for the space.”, says Hornsby. “That’s how reverberant the arena is.” A Symetrix Radius 12x8 EX processor manages cross-overs, time alignment, limiting and delays for the PL-11 fills. No room EQ is necessary. Two Lab.gruppen 68:4 four-channel amplifiers power the bi-amped PL-12s and a single Lab.gruppen 48:4 four-channel amplifier powers the bi-amped PL-11s.
The Results -
The entire installation took one long day. No additional tuning of the systems was required. “The system fills the space, it’s very intelligible and the echo is maybe 10% of what it was.”, says Hornsby. “With a system this flat and clean, flaws in the signal chain upstream were revealed and actually prompted the replacement of the existing mixing console.”, says Hornsby. “With the previous speaker system no one could hear that things were wrong.” URC management is very pleased with the results and now has a fully-functional arena for hockey, basketball and special events.
• Highly Reverberant Space
• Room Treatment Not Allowed
• Column Speakers Required as Fills
• Microphone Placement In Front of Speakers
• Choir and Instruments at Rear of Sanctuary
• On-site Demo and Evaluation by Church Members
• Color-matched PL-11s
• Custom Beam-mount Brackets
• Even Coverage Throughout Sanctuary
• Reverberance, clarity and Feedback Issues Managed
St. Jude Thaddeus is a continually growing parish in Beaumont, TX that needs to meet ongoing worships and technological needs. A recent architectural renovation to increase the sanctuary size and seating capacity was combined with a sound system upgrade to improve coverage, intelligibility and parishioner engagement. Tectonic PL-11s were selected for their ability to manage a very reverberant space, provide wide and even coverage, reduce feedback and meet aesthetic requirements.
The Challenge -
"The sanctuary is a large space with brick walls, a polished stone floor and a 35’ high curved wooden ceiling, so it is very reverberant”, explains Chase Daigle of MSC Systems, Beaumont, TX. “Room treatment solutions were not an option, so we knew from experience that Tectonic Resonant Mode speakers could meet these requirements and manage the space.”
Adding to the challenge, all microphones are in front of the desired speaker location and the choir, piano, organ and musicians are located in the rear of the church, so sufficient gain before feedback would be difficult.
The Tectonic Demonstration Proof of Concept –
After talking with other churches that had selected Tectonic panel solutions for their sanctuaries, St. Jude invited MSC to demonstrate the Tectonic system on-site.
MSC Systems brought in their two PL-11 and subs demo system for the church to evaluate. Eighty parishioners attended the demo to assist in evaluating coverage, intelligibility and an A/B comparison with the existing system; four mid/high boxes and a sub, plus two line-array columns to cover the rear of the sanctuary. The results were 100% positive. A subsequent demonstration from another manufacturer could not produce similar results.
The Design and Implementation –
“The solution we arrived at was to mount a pair of two-panel PL-11 hangs from the first beam, placing them widely to accommodate a mosaic to be installed in the future,” explains Daigle. “We used a pair of custom brackets fitted to the beam to provide attachment points for the panels. For aesthetic reasons, we utilized Tectonic’s center-of-gravity heads vs. pull-back cabling. To these heads we mounted a pair of custom powder-coat colored panels with Tectonic connector bars and quick-pins.” A pair of Danley TH112 subs mounted to the third beam were added to provide low-frequency extension.
A Smaart™ system was used to verify uniform coverage throughout the sanctuary and set time and phase alignment for all speaker components.
The Results –
The final results solve the list of shortcomings of previous systems. Reverberation has been managed without any acoustic treatment, coverage is even from front to back and side to side with no hot or dead spots. Feedback issues have been significantly reduced. “The slap-back is gone,” says Father Tom Phelan. “Hearing impaired parishioners are no longer complaining of missing words. Music and choirs sound more present and engaging, and parishioners are singing. It’s a more inclusive experience.”
• Highly Reverberant Space
• Very Long Decay Time & 'Room Flutter'
• Intelligibility Issues
• Poor Coverage from Existing System
• Possible Need for Room Treatment
• Replace Existing 12” x 2-way System
• Color-matched powder coat finish
• Swing-arm VESA Mounting
• Third PL-11 Flown Center to Center Sound Image
• No Room Treatment Required
“We have a lack of intelligibility in our sanctuary”, explains Matt Carter, Youth Director. “We’ve had a lot of complaints regarding spoken word for pretty much anyone talking. We have a very ‘live’ room and we have a problem understanding speech through the echo.”
Possible solutions came down to two alternatives - purchasing a system with better coverage and spending perhaps an equal amount of money on acoustic treatment, or installing a Tectonic system that did not require any additional acoustic treatment. St. Paul chose the latter.
St. Paul engaged the services of MSC Systems of Beaumont, TX to find a solution. “Architecturally it is a very nice room. Acoustically it is a very challenging room”, says Chase Daigle, Systems Designer. “There was a 12” 2-way point-source system in place, with soffit-mounted subs. It didn’t cover the room very well and it acoustically excited the space. The room had excessive flutter and decay. Overall intelligibility, especially for voice, was pretty poor. One of the congregation’s main complaints was they had to really concentrate and focus to even understand speech.”
After a preliminary site assessment, MSC recommended a Tectonic Resonant Mode Loudspeaker systems as a viable solution. Tectonic provided a simple on-site demonstration of the benefits of a non-point-source speaker solution in a reverberant space.
“When we turned on the Tectonic PL-11 system, we were very surprised at the lack of echo”, continues Carter. “It sounded really good, the clarity was there and we had no room decay. When pastor stopped speaking, the sound stopped. Like it was supposed to.”
“St. Paul had already auditioned a couple of other systems and the quality had increased from their old system, but they still had intelligibility issues that would need to be addressed with acoustic treatments”, says Daigle. “When we set up the Tectonic system, we had two PL-11s left and right on VESA floor stands. The church staff and audio committee chair walked the room listening to program music and were very pleased with the coverage and quality of sound. We then had pastor talk through the system using his existing headset microphone while the rest of the staff walked around and listened. That was the part of the demo where the PL-11s far surpassed anything that they had listened to before. The whole demo took less than 15 minutes.”
From this presentation, MSC determined that two PL-11s would cover the sanctuary, but with the speakers so far left and right of the center, there was a sound imaging issue. If pastor stood in the center of the platform, he could be heard clearly, but was perceived as being left and right of his physical location. To solve this issue, MSC added a third PL-11 flown high in the center of the sanctuary. After the system was calibrated and aligned properly, the sound image was brought back to the center of the space.
The two side PL-11’s were mounted with Chief™ swing-arm VESA mounts. The center PL-11 was flown using the rigging tubes and eye bolts provided by Tectonic Audio. The PL-11s were aimed, tuned, and aligned using SysTune™ and Smaart™.
“Aesthetically, the goal was to have the PL-11s blend into the sanctuary as much as possible,” says Daigle. “To accomplish this, we took advantage of the powder coat color options from Tectonic to specify the left and right PL-11s in a custom Designer Beige. The flown center PL-11 was standard black and blended with the dark wood behind it.”
The entire church staff was very pleased with the aesthetics and quality and clarity of the audio. They have since received many comments from congregation members about the improved audio intelligibility. One of the biggest surprises was comments from church members with hearing impairment that the clarity they were able to perceive with hearing aids was significantly improved, even at louder volumes.
Daigle concludes, “After installing the PL-11s in this acoustically challenging room and achieving the results we did, it would be hard not to choose Tectonic again. I do not believe we could have gotten the same results from another manufacture or loudspeaker technology without installing a lot of acoustic treatment.”
• Highly reflective space
• Four story window facade and polished floor
• Flexibility from morning coffee to evening cocktails to nighttime DJs and live music
• High-concept branding of the look and feel of the 'W' Hotel chain
• Supplement the existing ceiling speaker system for live sound
• Eliminate the need to set up temporary and insufficient 'speakers-on-sticks' for DJ nights
• Overcoming space acoustics to allow for live music
• Improving patron listening / conversing experience
• Improved ability to sell to patrons
• Architecturally respectful
The 'W' Hotel brand and visitor experience is inspired by the creative worlds of music, film, fashion, art, design and beyond. A key element of every 'W' Hotel design is the "Living Room"; a requisite element for ‘W’ properties worldwide that serves as meeting space, food & drink service area, event space and nightly entertainment venue.
Toronto interior design company Burdifilek created an urban oasis within 'W' Atlanta Downtown Hotel. Designers Diego Burdi and Paul Filek reinterpreted the Living Room as a verdant sanctuary that mimics the lushness of Georgia, while maintaining the brand’s celebrated cosmopolitan edge.
The final design presented acoustic challenges. Three-story glass windows and polished marble floor made for a highly reverberant space that could not permanently accommodate more than low-volume ceiling speakers. For over seven years, this situation combined with existing speaker technologies, made many of the needs of the Living Room difficult to resolve.
With the recommendation of Tectonic representatives EDA Pro AV and audio/visual provider Atlanta Sound Works, Tectonic was able to provide a real-time demonstration of a proposed solution for this space. Tectonic rolled-in 25' lifts to place a pair of PL-12 flat panel Resonant Mode Loudspeakers into very nearly their final locations.
“Unlike traditional speaker systems that produce pistonic and highly correlated audio energy that reacts with boundaries to produce slap-back echoes, feedback, and a general lack of intelligibility, Tectonic Resonant Mode Loudspeakers propagate audio as a diffuse and non-correlated audio source that does not interact significantly with boundary surfaces; even glass walls and polished floors”, explains Scott Garside of Tectonic. “With the unique audio characteristics of Tectonic panels, we were able to solve for this challenging acoustic space.”
The demonstration was accomplished in a couple of hours and did not require any modification to the space or a significant disruption of daily business. Results were presented in real-time audio vs. predictive modeling reports, so stake holders were able to make an immediate evaluation of the system's performance.
In addition to audio requirements, aesthetics was a major concern in selecting a speaker system. “I was tasked with finding a new speaker system”, explains hotel brand manager Pablo Andres-Lopez. “The solution had to fit the design of the Living Room. We really didn’t want to put in typical big old lumpy speakers. We needed something sleek that would blend in with the design of the space. The Tectonic speakers were a perfect fit. They look beautiful; like they have been designed for this space.”
Atlanta Sound Works engineered an elegant mounting system that utilized the Tectonic PL panel's VESA compatible capabilities. Custom-fabricated ceiling mounts were fitted with standard VESA brackets to attach to the Tectonic PL-12s. Adjustment points were provided by this design to allow for aiming of the panels. Speaker cables were routed internally through the mounts to provide a clean look to the final installation.
“For the first time, we are able to offer live music in this space”, says Lopez. “The Living Room is not only an amenity for our hotel guests, but an upscale destination for discriminating locals in the downtown area. We can now program our entertainment between DJs and live music, and accommodate up to 150 people on a big night without the need to provide, set-up and remove additional speaker systems.”
“The speakers sound outstanding”, adds bar manager Pete Carver. “We have used them for DJs and live music. The sound doesn’t drown out conversations and interactions with patrons.”
”It’s a beautiful, nice, round sound”, concludes Lopez. “It’s very comfortable for guests to just relax and lounge in, and they can converse. We cut down on equipment overhead, labor costs, and gained more space for guests in a comfortable yet high-energy setting. This goes directly to the bottom line. ”
"Tectonic PL 12 panels were the only acceptable loudspeaker technology I could think of that satisfied the majority of design, performance and integration challenges."
"Based on our mounting opportunities, we had roughly 20’ between each panel. Two panels back to back, 10’ off the center line. We called these the East and West panels. The third panel (South) is rigged perpendicular to the other two, and is also about 10’ off the center line of the room. Each panel is about 34’ AFF, and has roughly a 55 degree down tilt.
Given this spacing and aiming, we had significant horizontal overlap between each pair of panels. This overlap produced an audible “thickening” of the sound in the low-mid range frequencies around 200 - 400 Hz. We also had a significant amount of “bottom half” vertical overlap that built up dead center on the floor, right where the Altar table stands. Remember, this is essentially church in the round. Also, for the record, we had no noticeable, mid-high comb filtering issues in the overlap zones.
We tried a polarity flip on the South panel, but that didn’t help enough, so we went back to normal polarity. To satisfactorily resolve both the horizontal overlap thickening issue and the vertical spill summing, we used a few ms of delay on the South panel, and a little parametric EQ to thin out the low-mid region. Further, each mic input had a HPF and multi-band parametric EQ available.
After careful tuning of the system frequency response, we rang out the first few feedback frequencies on each mic channel, then did a final sound check on all open mics, to optimize for each individual user. The same process was used on the hanging area mics that were in the choir area, which is located in direct coverage of the East panel.
Ultimately, it took a combination of factors: low room interaction of the DML; careful tuning of the panels’ frequency response; careful adjustment of the multiple open mics; and the use of a good gain sharing auto-mixer in the DSP. Without all these element working well, this project would not have been nearly as successful as it turned out."
Michael Fay concludes, "Tectonic PL 12 panels were the only acceptable loudspeaker technology I could think of that satisfied the majority of design, performance and integration challenges."
You can read more about this installation in the April 2015 issue of 'Sound & Communications' magazine.
• Very wide and tall room
• History of poor coverage and intelligibility
• Two 2-way 12" front speakers and mini-monitors to cover the entire chamber, with many dead areas
• Minimal gain before feedback for boom-mounted council member mics
• Feedback issues for attendee wireless mics
• Replace existing speaker systems with a single PL-12 Plate
• Simple VESA mount installation
• Even coverage to all seats in the council chamber
• Sufficient gain before feedback to allow for maximum boom and wireless microphone performance.
• Architecturally respectful
Jaymarc AV of Seattle was tasked with solving coverage, intelligibility, microphone performance and gain before feedback issues that have plagued the Seattle City Council Chamber. This architecturally stunning space was acoustically sound, but the existing speaker solution of a pair of 12" 2-way flown speakers and several rear-fill monitors was not sufficient to cover this large space and presented significant audio management issues.
Council members had to lean in to speak to mounted boom mics in order to be heard from their seats and a large meeting table. Hand-held mics were deployed to both council members and visitors in order to be heard. Gain before feedback was a constant issue for sound system operators and many seats were not covered.
The installation of a single Tectonic PL-12 Plate™ solved for all of these issues. Mounting was simple and easy, as all Tectonic Plates are VESA mount compatible. One Plate, placed high up in the chamber and aimed at the back row of public seats was all that was required.
The 160° horizontal and vertical dispersion of Tectonic’s DML’s and our wide dispersion large-format ribbon transducer provide full-frequency coverage to all seats throughout the chamber.
Thanks to the Tectonic Plate’s extreme resistance to feedback, considerable gain before feedback allows for system sensitivity such that council members can now sit back in their chairs, speak normally, and allow boom mics to pick up everything said.
Wireless mics passed around to attendees who usually don’t know how to use a mic can now be boosted without undue concern for feedback.
Seattle City Council’s IT Manager, Ian Smith says, “Prior to the upgrade, our traditional speaker system didn’t properly project the voices of Council members in their meeting room. After installation of the new audio equipment, we’ve noted a remarkable improvement in the quality of sound, which meets the unique acoustics of the space.”
Read more on ProSoundWeb
|St. Louise surveyed parishioners over the course of a weekend and many services from traditional to contemporary. Each respondent answered a series of questions about their listening experience and indicated where they were sitting.|
Definitive Audio of Seattle/Tacoma was engaged to solve perennial problems of coverage and intelligibility for St. Louise Parish, Bellevue, WA. In addition to solutions for existing problems, simple and reliable system operation was a mandate. Tectonic Audio Labs was selected to provide loudspeakers.
“St. Louise provides a ministry that is active and diverse”, explains Jonathan Taasan, parish administrator. “We need a sound system that can be respectful of traditional expectations and then seamlessly scale up to meet the needs of our growing contemporary worship services.”
The solution selected by Definitive Audio and St. Louise was a pair of Tectonic Plates per side flown over the chancel. “With this relatively simple installation, we solved for all issues”, says Dennis Schlossberg of Definitive Audio.
“The existing loudspeaker solution was based on three 2-way 15? trapezoidal boxes in a center cluster”, explains Schlossberg. “In order to fully cover this large and wide space, three separate systems were actually employed; the main center cluster and two independent fill systems mounted on pillars throughout the sanctuary; and there were still dead areas.”
“Tectonic won the bid by virtue of the fact that their speakers do not require a specifically engineered solution” Schlossberg continues. “Tectonic was able to raise a demo system on portable lifts that simulated 90% of the performance of a finished installation, and was able to prove the system’s performance over a four day period and some 10 services. No other manufacturer was able to do this.”
• Mandate to not interfere with architectural features with ‘room treatment’
• History of poor intelligibility, coverage and a high-fidelity experience for every seat.
• Flexibility for spoken word to all-up blues-rock performances
• Desire to attract national acts with a superior venue and sound system
• Replaced existing trapezoidal point source system with a 3 x 3 Tectonic Plate system
• Absolutely even stereo coverage for all seats on the floor and balcony
• Feedback issues managed
• No additional room treatment required
• Architecturally respectful
Tectonic Audio Labs was selected to provide installed Front of House loudspeakers for the historic Empress Theater in Vallejo, CA. The Empress has recently completed a renovation of this beautiful 1911beaux arts venue.
A critical mandate from restoration advisors was that any new sound system must not be visually intrusive or require any architecturally disruptive room treatments. Tectonic Plates fit the bill.
“It’s thrilling to see that the Tectonic Plates are actually here,” says Don Bassey, Empress Theatre
General Manager. “We’ve been talking about this for a year now. For a theater, it’s amazing what they can do.”
Bassey has been in the speaker business for 15 years. “These aren’t the first speakers I’ve ever heard, so my initial response was ‘Wow!’ It’s a phenomenal experience to stand here and feel the difference. Musicians hearing the new system are freaked out. They can’t believe it.”
“The system spreads sound up to a six octave range evenly throughout the theater”, Bassey continues.”With this state-of-the-art technology, sound no longer bounces around the room as with traditional sound systems. The system delivers audio of equal quality from all speakers to all points of the room.”
“The new sound is very different from before”, adds Empress board member Susan MacDonald. “Each instrument is heard but still comes out as a distinctly beautiful sound. I could hear the brushes on the drums. It was amazing! We had four horns on Friday night and each instrument was separate but part of the whole sound.”
“The sound is the same no matter where you are in the theatre because the speakers deliver sound in a different way”, continues MacDonald. “Feedback is eliminated, so no more ear splitting screeching or squealing mics.”
“It’s a revelation”, says house sound engineer Gustav Hobel. “In my 25 years in live sound, there’s really been no change in speaker development. Speakers got bigger, then smaller. They became better, then worse. Shows got bigger and speakers got bigger. But they all worked from the same concept.”
“The Tectonic speakers, however, change everything”, says Hobel. “This is a paradigm shift. Consistency is the major change. You can move around to anywhere and hear the same thing. The Empress Theatre’s former conventional speakers used a “cone” system which sent the highest quality audio to the sides and into the walkways leading to the front lobby. Now the sound is dispersed evenly throughout the theater. “
Tectonic Audio Labs will be using the Empress as a demo showcase for Northern California. “It will give the Empress some great exposure”, MacDonald says. “There is no other place in the Bay Area where these speakers can be heard. We are excited to be a part of this revolution in sound. I think it will be a big attraction to musicians and patrons alike.”
“It’s so great knowing you’re walking into a venue and you know it’s going to be killer sound”, adds Bassey. “Word will get around about the great vibes coming from the Empress.”