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Tech Focus: Venue Sound, Part 1 - When Sports and Entertainment Intersect, It's Not Just About the Game

03/04/2024

Tech Focus: Venue Sound, Part 1 - When Sports and Entertainment Intersect, It's Not Just About the Game Audio quality has become a major factor in the fan experience By Dan Daley, Audio Editor

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 - 10:40 am

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Sports teams and leagues are increasingly focused on the quality of the sound in their stadiums and arenas. They have to be, because everyone else is. Consumer complaints about the quality and volume of the sound have moved to the forefront of conversations about the overall in-venue experience. Across the world, concerns about acoustics drive concerns about the emotional connection that spectators can have with what takes place on the field or the stage, and stadiums and arenas increasingly have to present both sports and music.

The market for live sports-venue sound is roughly where concert sound was 20 years ago: a cohort of ticket buyers have significantly higher expectations of the experiences they're paying for. It's not just a game anymore: it's an afternoon and evening at a venue that will likely offer music, food, betting, and other entertainment elements and often cost several hundred dollars. The sound has to match the prices and expectations. That's garnering attention from sound-system vendors and giving venue operators more options.

PK Sound's Ralph Mastrangelo: Sports venues need to accommodate entertainment, both as separate events and combined.

Sports is an exciting market to be in, and that's why I'm putting so much effort into it, says Ralph Mastrangelo, director, North American sales, PK Sound, which has had success in music and other touring markets and has begun targeting the sports-venue sector. Sports venues need to accommodate entertainment, both as separate events and combined.

One area his company seeks to leverage is increased demand for high-impact music systems that can cover the field for warm-ups and practices. Some venues will use the installed sound system for that application, although that can be overkill, pumping loud music throughout a mostly empty venue. In some cases, teams have installed smaller PAs dedicated to that specific task or deploy portable PA systems. Mastrangelo notes that PK Sound's robotic-line-array technology can shift coverage areas by robotically moving the line-array components to change coverage patterns: We believe it's a more cost-effective solution for sports venues that need to use the field for different things.

Baseball Embraces the Bass Whereas the NBA and the NFL are known for the enhanced bass of contemporary music - the Super Bowl Halftime Show's latest five outings have been anchored almost completely by hip-hop and R&B artists, from Bad Bunny in 2020 to Usher this year - baseball still only dips its toes into the pool's deep-low end. Four years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers installed 21 L-Acoustics SB28 subs in updating its sound system's right-field tower, with three more on the left-field side - a considerable amount of low-frequency energy (LFE) for a typical MLB ballpark.

A main consideration was to keep that LFE within the park to prevent noise complaints. The concern was heightened by the stadium's use of a point-source system design, which is more typical of college-football stadiums and is intended to throw sound very long distances. Noise issues can be a bigger problem for a ballpark, where half of a team's 162 games a year are played, than for an NFL stadium, which is used a dozen or so times a year.

The subwoofers are arranged in an endfire configuration, explains Derek O'Hara, director, planning and development, Los Angeles Dodgers. That provides some critical directionality to the low end, keeping it from escaping the stadium walls and keeping the impact on the seating.

Danley Sound's Mike Hedden: Sports is about entertainment - now more than ever.

Mike Hedden, president/CEO, Danley Sound, which is prominent in the college-football-stadium sound-system market, has been advocating for baseball to embrace the bass. He cites the system Danley installed last year in Lawrenceville, GA's Coolray Field, which includes an ample array of the company's THMINI15 subwoofers. They have transformed the ballpark's entertainment value, he notes, adding that that's especially important since the venue's home team, the Savannah Bananas, are baseball's equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

As important, Hedden adds, is that, as part of the Atlanta Braves' development system, the bass-enhanced ballpark introduces players to that kind of music environment. [Major League Baseball] still has a built-in bias against the low end, he says, acknowledging the subjectivity of that pronouncement. Baseball stadiums usually use distributed sound systems, which are fine, but they tend to lose gas below 100 Hz. That's the technical side of it. I also think there's a sense that that's not what baseball's about. But sports is about entertainment - now more than ever.

WJHW's Mark Graham: Bass is driving system design these days, but so is speech intelligibility. Our job is to make it all sound good.

WJHW Principal Mark Graham agrees and notes that, in recent years, the consulting firm been installing more subs in ballparks, including the Detroit Tigers' Comercia Park this season. Some of baseball's seeming reluctance to fully embrace bass has to do with its sense of historical legacy as America's pastime, as well as with an emphasis on announcer speech intelligibility that has tended to make music more an underscore than a focus at games.

On the other hand, he points out, arenas have used line-array systems since music touring made them common in the 1990s. And, as more concert performances take place
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/04/03/tech-focus-venue-sound-part-1-w...
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