More art in Central Park, less noise on 5th Avenue: KSL and NoizCalc shape the sounds of SummerStage in NYC.

Central Park’s days and nights were filled with concerts and dance performances for this summer’s City Parks Foundation SummerStage series. This year, the not-for-profit foundation renovated its flagship venue, transforming it with a new stage and new d&b audiotechnik sound system. The mission was to improve the sound quality for audiences within the venue and to create an atmosphere with fewer noise reflections off the surrounding buildings, an issue for the residents living around the park.

“Our selection process involved demoing a few different manufacturers’ systems and having many conversations with consultants and front of house engineers to determine what our best options would be,” stated Jason Volkman, Audio Lead for SummerStage. For a number of reasons, the d&b KSL loudspeaker system was on the short list of products we were considering.”

© Mark Doyle

A signature feature of the d&b SL-Series KSL and GSL systems is full bandwidth constant directivity pattern control. This, along with the utilization of d&b NoizCalc environmental noise prediction software, which allows the user to accurately predict the far-field noise immisions associated with a d&b sound system, proved to be key for the SummerStage team to address the concerns of Central Park’s neighbors.

“It's a rough balancing act to provide the best experience possible for the artists performing, engineers mixing, and audience members listening, while maintaining a very low impact on the neighbors,” noted Volkman. “In the past, there were complaints from a few residents of park-facing apartments on 5th Avenue - some of the priciest real estate in the world. With the old PA, there were far fewer tools at our disposal to correct for our spillage. We were left having to choose between good experience within the venue or fewer complaints from the neighbors. The most important aspect of replacing our PA was ensuring that we could minimize our impact on those neighbors. Having d&b NoizCalc available to us as a tool to at least show that we were really trying to address the issue and that there was real science behind what we were doing, was very helpful.

© Mark Doyle

“Since the venue is very wide, but not terribly deep, having the spread that the SL-Series offers was very helpful. In our case, having a PA that gradually tapers off as you travel out of the array's coverage is much nicer than the sudden cutoff you hear with some other PA types. I was also very excited for SummerStage to invest in a product that was at the very beginning of its cycle, building on the success of GSL before it. The mains are an eight box-per-side KSL hang (six KSL8 plus two KSL12). We have four J-SUBs spread across the downstage edge, buried under the stage platforms. Six Y10Ps spread out as front fills, and two Y7Ps - one hung on each side of the stage - are used as VIP outfills.”

Volkman added that Domonic Sack from Sound Associates, the AV integrator on the project, provided strong support and shop resources during the build and install process.

“NoizCalc helped us change the placement of our subwoofers which, after also adjusting some settings in the software, resulted in a significant difference in readings,” stated Heather Lubov, Executive Director, City Parks Foundation. “We found far less low end sound outside the park. And our audiences have been complimenting us on the high quality of sound within the venue.”

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