Grand on the East Coast
Where would you find the biggest casino complex in the USA? It has to be Las Vegas, right? Well, actually no. Go east about two thousand, three hundred miles and you will find yourself in the right neighborhood. The Foxwoods Casino Complex on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation in Connecticut is big, very big; in fact the biggest. Jeff Mele of system integrators North American Theatrix (NAT) elaborates, "This is the largest casino in the United States, covering approximately one square mile and it’s our responsibility to define and install all audio, video and lighting requirements."
Within this massive complex you will find the opulent MGM Grand Theatre: a four thousand seat venue with a sixty by thirty foot high proscenium arch complete with a d&b audiotechnik PA system. NAT were charged with the task of installing a suitable PA. Why d&b? Mele explains, "The decision to install d&b was easy for us; d&b systems represent the cutting edge in audio performance technology and that is what we wanted."
Steve Gamelin, Lead Audio Engineer at Foxwoods was equally forthright, "It was a ground up new construction venue. We wanted an upscale venue throughout; the system had to have rider and touring engineer acceptance. While there are many systems with rider acceptance, most are now considered "older" technology whereas d&b seemed to have something very new and different going on. Although it was our decision to use d&b, NAT was instrumental in making this happen. We collaborated with NAT and d&b who then worked together to provide us with what we felt we needed in order to be a first class venue."
Perhaps surprisingly, this was NAT's first installation using d&b but Mele is happy to justify the choice, "The d&b D12 amplifiers were proven technology and we already had experience using them as we’ve been hosting d&b training sessions and audio consultant demonstrations since 2001, so we had seen and experienced the quality of the components, and the system performance. And of course we'd worked with and got to know Colin Beveridge, the d&b US Company President, so all the fundamentals of confidence were in place."
The PA is primarily a J-Series system with Q-Series loudspeakers for a central vocal cluster, but careful thought was required to overcome the room’s acoustic difficulties as Mele explains: "The room is relatively narrow for such a large audience and in the back, beneath the balcony, we had some problems. We used a range of fills, d&b E3s for the front row stalls while the wide Q-Series loudspeakers above more than adequately covered the front rows. We installed d&b's new E8 for under balcony fill, with the E12 over the balcony; Colin Beveridge gave us the opportunity to experiment with these new boxes and, as a distributed 'fill' system, they marry really well; the images join to present one single image. They are amazing."
The MGM Grand is a busy space; some two hundred 'A-list' shows a year, both touring and residential so the time frame for the installation was necessarily tight as Mele confirms, "We didn't have time to make the usual EASE model so we used our experience; plus we knew the room and the product well. Normally we'd expect twenty months to implement an installation on this scale but it was achieved in just eighteen weeks."
The venue certainly seems impressed with both the quality and the speed of the contract. As Gamelin puts it, "Even though we opened the room a month earlier than expected, the show went on without a hitch. That alone is a testimonial of NAT, d&b and of course our experienced crew."
As Lead Audio Engineer, Gamelin is enjoying his new PA, "The d&b system gets used for every show. During the first year we had one show that insisted on hanging their own PA and it proved to be an unwise decision. The act has since returned and used our d&b system. Most touring engineers, after a short visit with their SMAART system, just smile and say "It's going to be an easy day!"