Named for the two Chicago suburbs it serves, Oak Park and River Forest High School has earned national recognition for academic excellence and is renowned throughout the Chicago metro area for its outstanding programs in the performing arts. To ensure that students and faculty receive optimal support from the latest technology, the school recently replaced the aging sound reinforcement system in its 1,500-seat main auditorium with Meyer Sound LINA line array loudspeakers.
“The space was in desperate need of a new system that would bring their production level up to current standards,” says Brandon Gardner, Director of Pro Systems at OSA International, Inc., the integrator on the project. “The old system did not cover the space evenly, nor did it give operators the level of control needed for large productions.”
By the time the protracted bidding process was complete, LINA, the newest and smallest of the LEO Family of line arrays, was selected. OSA first worked with Meyer Sound Design Services to update the system design, and then completed the project through final commissioning, including installation of all loudspeakers, FOH equipment and associated wiring infrastructure.
The new system had to accommodate a wide range of applications. “Our auditorium is a kind of roadhouse where we hold about 150 events every year,” says Chris Scholtens, the theater department technical director. “We have band and orchestra concerts, Broadway-style musicals in the school year and in a summer program, and day-to-day use for practices and spoken word events. In addition, we rent the space to various outside groups, including a gospel choir.”
The age and design of the auditorium also presented challenges. Typical of mid-20th century architecture, it is rectangular and relatively deep on one level, with a distance of nearly 120 feet from the stage to the back row. The side walls, made of hard veneer over concrete, are highly reflective. Achieving uniform coverage free of hot spots required well-controlled front line arrays as well as two arcs of rear delays.
According to Peter Wiejaczka, audio engineer and system designer for OSA, the LINA-based design offered the ideal solution. “In this situation it was absolutely critical to have excellent pattern control, and the LINAs are outstanding in that regard,” he states. “I’m impressed every time I hear them. Also, one thing we can count on with Meyer Sound products is that the electronics are consistent and reliable. We can install them and be confident they will be trouble-free down the road.”
The proscenium system comprises left and right arrays each with eight LINA line array loudspeakers, supplemented by two UPQ-2P loudspeakers for filling the middle seats in front of the wide stage. Mounted behind each array are three 500-HP compact subwoofers for deep bass, and a UPA-1P loudspeaker anchors the center image. Eight UP-4XP loudspeakers provide downstage front fill while six UPJ-1XP compact VariO loudspeakers are mounted as rear delays. All loudspeakers are self-powered, and those with the “XP” suffix incorporate Meyer Sound’s exclusive IntelligentDC technology to preserve the sonic benefits of self-powering while streamlining installation by using a single low voltage cable to carry balanced audio and DC power from a remote rack-mount unit. Two Galileo GALAXY 816 network platforms handle signal optimization and distribution while the RMServer implements comprehensive remote monitoring.
“When we first turned the system on for commissioning, right out of the box, Pete Wiejaczka and I were very impressed with the linearity of the response,” recalls Gardner. “It sounded great just as it was, and I’ve heard a lot of different loudspeaker systems in these same situations.”
Technical Director Scholtens has found the new system a godsend. “The coverage is superb,” he says. “When I’m working with students I have to explain to them how important it is to make sure what you are doing as a sound engineer or designer is consistent throughout the space. Since we’ve put in this new system, the uniformity is immaculate. You can sit in any seat and be fine.”
“This now has to be one of the best sounding high school facilities in the Chicago area,” maintains OSA’s Gardner. “In fact, in many respects it competes with some of the better commercial theaters in the area.”
For Scholtens, it’s both a pleasure and a great relief to hear comments from parents in the audience after a show. “There was much rejoicing after the first productions,” he recalls. “Parents were thrilled. ‘Now I can hear my child clearly. Before I could see him up there but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Thank you so much!’”
The complete new installation by OSA International also included a Soundcraft Vi3000 digital console, Shure ULX-D digital wireless microphone systems, and both digital wireless and analog intercom systems from Clear-Com.
OSA International is a diversified provider of AV technology solutions with offices in Wood Dale, Illinois, Las Vegas and Nashville. The OSA Integrated Solutions division specializes in turnkey design-build solutions for commercial, educational and entertainment facilities.