EMPAC, peering over NY's Hudson River skyline is reinforced by d&b
Peering over NY's Hudson River skyline, a massive enclosure of glass and steel houses a playground for groundbreaking technical creativity and multimedia artistry. The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is as unique and sophisticated as any arts complex in the world. This two hundred and twenty thousand square foot building includes four very distinct performance venues, artist-in-residency studios, post-production suites and various student / support facilities. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, President of R.P.I., believed the creation of EMPAC would be an instrumental step in achieving the academic diversity she always envisioned; converging to their fullest extents, art and science.
As this vision began to take shape in 2002 enter Johannes Goebel, a German born composer with considerable aptitude and experience with acoustics, architecture and performance. For Mr. Goebel, audio excellence and pristine acoustics were driving forces behind several decisions made for the soon to be built arts center. Well before the first earth was raised at the construction site, Goebel was immersed in the recorded sound of behemoth seafaring vessels coming to dock. The faithful reproduction of these recordings proved a stimulus and he became intent on making a choice of the loudspeakers that would be the backbone of the EMPAC performance audio systems. At the warehouse of d&b audiotechnik partner Specialized Audio Visual Inc. (SAVI), in nearby Clifton Park, Goebel spent several hours critically listening to his unique recordings which would test the true pattern control and frequency response of any transducer or assembled point source. As the session came to a close, only two loudspeakers remained in play, Q7 and C7. "d&b exactly meets our requirements in critical listening spaces," said Goebel. "Transparent sound with punch is exactly what we need to cover the full range of the music we are producing and playing, from acoustic instruments with amplification or live-electronics, to fine synthetic sounds or noise-music, from dozens of loudspeakers flown above the audience in the shape of a dome to just one loudspeaker as part of an interactive arts installation."
In the summer of 2007, the completed EMPAC building was now an awe-inspiring vision on a hillside in the City of Troy. Inside a myriad of contractors worked vigilantly to bring to life the designs of Grimshaw Architects, Kirkegaard Associates (Acoustics) and Fisher Dachs Associates (Theater Designs). Led by Johannes Goebel, the EMPAC staff firmly believed that every space and every project deserved a grand amount of customization. Traditional fixed audio systems in the studios and performance spaces would make no sense, as nothing at EMPAC would be "traditional". EMPAC audio engineers Todd Vos and Jeff Svatek worked closely with Mike Weirich at SAVI to detail out a variety of d&b systems that would be flexible, yet easily configurable within the Arts Center. Svatek elaborates: "The d&b product line was chosen for EMPAC's live production audio because of its modularity, driven by its intuitive networking capabilities, broad range of lightweight passive enclosures and superb AES 3 driven amplifier design. The D12 and D6 amplifiers' efficiency and inherently low self noise allowed us to meet design specs calling for an amplification system with very low noise floors and massive dynamic range. EMPAC's audio department is frequently tasked with creating multi-channel loudspeaker systems in various configurations, ranging from standard 5.1 surround to forty six channels in three rings of loudspeakers. The digital I/O on the amplifiers and building block approach of R1 (d&b's proprietary networked control system) make setting up, routing and remote manipulation/monitoring of onboard EQ; filtering, delay, gain, grouping of devices within these vastly divergent and often unorthodox loudspeaker arrangements very easy, regardless of what Series of loudspeaker we plug into."
Within EMPAC are four very distinct venues for installation or performance of the artists' presentations. A one thousand two hundred seat concert hall, a four hundred seat theater and two studios (3,500sq/ft and 2,500sq/ft respectively) offer truly unique features such as acoustic isolation from one another, tunable acoustic wall systems and interconnectivity to any production studio in the facility. "Very few d&b pieces were permanently installed due to the varying artistic needs in each space", adds Svatek. "The only installed systems which remain fixed are the theater Cinema system which consists of C7-TOP loudspeakers for the L/C/R and six Ci80s in surround, and the theater speech system which is a L/R pair of Q7 and E8. It's a very comforting feeling as you set up a show or research project knowing that you are putting up an amplifier and loudspeaker package that an outside engineer, artist, producer or researcher will have a really hard time finding something to complain about."