04 July 2013

Stars in their ears with d&b

For a sparsely populated continent such as Australia to want to be the best is a worthy aspiration and often as not they have confounded us all by doing so again and again. In sport they are a force of nature; the Sydney Olympics refreshed the brand like no other. In architecture their boldness and adventurism is epitomised by the Sydney Opera House; and their stock of world class actors appears inexhaustible. With such noble antecedents how could Echo Entertainment do otherwise? Not heard of Echo Entertainment; you will. When they set out to create the Event Centre at the Star Casino in Sydney it was to be the best entertainment venue in Australia, and it appears they have succeeded.

“Absolutely! We have only had a couple of shows so far but everyone has commented on how amazing the room sounds both onstage and in the house.” A more than happy Stephen Wickham, Entertainment Manager for the Event Centre. “The sound is the most talked about element of the venue since it opened; and believe me it has quite a few other amazing features such as the vision and broadcast facilities.”

The outstanding sound was driven by two elements, “From the outset Echo Entertainment would brook no compromise. The Event Centre design was awarded to Scéno Plus from Montreal. They had previously designed several venues in North America including “The Joint” at The Hard Rock in Las Vegas. The second was the d&b audiotechnik J system. I visited the Joint to hear the system there and discuss it with Chas Smith their Executive Director of Entertainment Operations. That venue had opened with Paul McCartney to rave reviews and in the two years of operation since, not one act had asked to change the PA.”

The brief for the Event Centre was to be a multipurpose venue capable of presenting major concerts, large banquets, tradeshows, corporate Event, and everything in between. “The primary purpose however was to be capable of presenting “A list” concert artists with quick turnarounds,” confirmed Wickham. “Installing a sound system of the highest spec that would be acceptable to any touring artist was part of the plan to achieve this.”

Australian based audio visual and electroacoustic consultants Audio Systems Logic (ASL) was engaged to ensure the no compromise brief. “It was a good joint exercise between us and we have a healthy on-going relationship with Scéno Plus,” explained ASL Director Simon Lappas. “Being purpose built for sound reinforcement in particular, we imposed significantly tighter control over how sound reinforcement could be optimised and the acoustic environment enhanced. The acoustic finishes needed to be adapted to available local domestic products to achieve the targeted outcomes of Scéno Plus. Through our EASE modelling we defined more clearly the STI levels, the direct and reverberant sound pressure levels (we have achieved a very smooth reverb curve), and then applied the very predictable performance of the d&b J system upon it: unlike many other manufacturers, data provided by d&b audiotechnik is extremely detailed and accurate, for example supplying beam-width plots. When the system installed, flat, un-tuned, straight out the box, it sounded great; less than 2% deviation from the prediction. In a building this size that’s very, very close. We calibrate our models; we go into a space at various stages during construction and take measurements as changes occur. We’ve specified d&b on several occasions ourselves, but we did look at alternative manufacturers and products for this project. In the end you have to admit d&b has a reputation for a reason.”

Wickam acknowledged the influence of ASL and others in making the Entertainment Centre the talked about venue it is. “Working with Scéno Plus has been a real pleasure. Between them and ASL their expertise and dedication, with extreme attention to detail, is a credit to them. Installers Stowe Electrical under Nick Price has done an amazing job and has continued to support us since the opening shows in December. National Audio Systems (NAS) the d&b Distributor for Australia were with us from the outset, their guys were great. Seeing that PA go up and listening to it for the first time was a day I shall remember for a long time. Everyone was walking around with a smile from ear to ear.”

For a more objective view the last word should go to Lappas; ASL has its roots in loudspeaker design, specifically the hi-fi market, so their observation carries a certain weight. “From our perspective the Star Event Centre is like sitting in a listening room with a pair of high end hi-fi loudspeakers, it’s that good. The d&b J-Series has a very smooth top end, good mid-bass performance, and a very tight low end. The combined effect with the room is a space exhibiting a high degree of musicality and a venue for concert touring that exceeds anything else available in Australia.”

Photographs courtesy of Belinda Rolland