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L-Acoustics system brings maximum flexibility to convention centre

Clearwing Productions has completed the audio system design for the Minneapolis Convention Center, specifying a flexible L-Acoustics system to meet the venue’s tight budget and diverse audio reinforcement needs.

The nature of the space and the wide range of events it hosts demanded an extreme level of flexibility, and that’s before taking into account the complications inherent in any government job.

“While the system was spec’d specifically for the main auditorium, we knew from the beginning that pieces of the main system would be in a near-constant state of motion between the venue’s meeting rooms and ballrooms, in addition to the auditorium,” said Clearwing’s Kerry Miller, who worked closely with the convention centre audio staff.

One of the biggest challenges had nothing to do with audio coverage and everything to do with navigating a municipal budgeting process. “The convention centre is owned by the city of Minneapolis, and understanding how to present the system and its costs in a way that made sense to the municipal officers charged with minding the budget was a huge part of the success of this project,” noted Miller.

All of us knew that various parts of the system would be deployed throughout the various parts of the convention centre, but we couldn’t budget to maximise that

Kerry Miller, Clearwing

Beyond just the multiple rooms typical of a convention centre, the auditorium itself morphs. There are three circular areas spread across the back of the main room, each with self-contained seating the same as that provided throughout the main seating area. Each of those areas can be used as a separate room or, when the entire space is added together, it can hold close to 3,500 people for events running the gamut from concerts to corporate presentations to conventions.

The need to maximise flexibility while maintaining a consistent sonic signature were the primary reasons for the choice of Kara and Kiva enclosures. “Even after direct shootouts against a couple of other highly regarded brands, the choice to go with L-Acoustics was in some important ways more the beginning of the process than it was a final choice,” said Miller. “Going with Kiva and Kara was a terrific option in terms of sound quality, logistics and overall flexibility. We can treat it like audio Lego blocks. The sonic signature across the L-Acoustics family is so consistent that we can deploy what is best for the room and the event in terms of coverage and never have to compromise on audio quality.”

The complication when showing a good ROI was that none of that flexibility could be considered as factors. “The job and the budget was for a system specifically designed for and deployed within the auditorium,” added Miller. “All of us knew that various parts of the system would be deployed throughout the various parts of the convention centre, but we couldn’t budget to maximise that.” In fact, the challenge was to get as many mobile elements as possible into an install that was ostensibly for a fixed venue. To that end, designers and audio crew at the convention centre opted to power the system with six LA-RAK touring racks each containing three LA8 amplified controllers backed up by five more LA4X amplified controllers housed in L-Cases.

The rest of the system includes 42 Kara enclosures plus 24 Kiva and a total of a dozen ARCS II, six of which are installed as a centre cluster for when the entire auditorium space is being used as a single room. The remaining ARCS plus eight self-powered 108P cabinets see ‘fill’ work of every imaginable type, while eight SB18 subs flown in two cardioid arrays deliver tight and solid low end. “The auditorium can be carved up into some challenging sonic slices. So, even though we had to be creative in specifying those for what is, on paper, a fixed install, they are important to the success of the overall system. And we never have to worry that a room will sound different or somehow compromised. It’s a ‘fixed’ system that just happens to get moved around a lot.”

Picture: Tony Nelson