SUNY College at Buffalo recently installed a Yamaha AFC (Active Field Control) system in its 200-seat Ciminelli Recital Hall. The recital hall, located within Rockwell Hall, has been designed to accommodate small ensemble and solo performances by students of the Music Department and research in multi-channel sound diffusion.
Rockwell Hall is one of four of the original buildings encompassing Buffalo State and houses the departments of music and art conservation as well as an 850-seat performing arts center.
“The recital hall is located in a section of an existing building that had limited height," said AVL’s Seth Waltz. "The room also expanded during design and became quite long. Room design was targeted to provide a diffuse sound field, but even with our best efforts, it was apparent from the models that the design would not allow extended low frequency warmth or good lateral energy in the back of the room due to the limited cubic volume and length of the space. The length of the room was also challenging, as we wanted the experience in the rear seats to mimic the front sections. The Yamaha AFC System was introduced to allow tuning for RT60 as well as added ER (early reflection) and lateral ER to the rear of the room, which would be missing due to the length.”
The Buffalo State Music Department also offers a minor in Digital Music Production with a track in Electronic Music Composition and a track in Sound Recording. This program also features a Digital Music Ensemble that uses state-of-the-art electronic instruments. The growing popularity of the minor is steering the department into offering a major and a Master’s degree in Music Technology. “The Ciminelli Hall with its 52.1 surround system is a great addition to the department’s facilities, one which will attract students nationwide,” added Henriques.
AVL Design of Penfield, NY designed the initial system with installation assistance from subcontractor AV Solutions (Rochester, NY). Boynton Pro Audio of Norwich, NY provided the system components. Joe Rimstidt of Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Inc. and engineers from Yamaha Japan completed the final AFC design, and with assistance from colleague Steve Seable, completed system tuning in late August. Brian Wittmer, head of the College’s facilities department, functioned as project manager.
The AFC3 system designed specifically for the Ciminelli Recital Hall includes four permanent microphones, 38 speakers plus 2 subwoofers. Some of the speakers serve multiple purposes, being AFC speakers when in AFC mode, and being part of the hall’s 7.1 Surround system when in that mode. The original design included four AFC2 processors, but after the release of AFC3, the school opted to upgrade two of the AFC units to AFC3. In total, there are five AFC units, five IPA8200 amplifiers, three Dante cards, and one AD8HR mic preamp. The school was very interested in being able to route signals to individual speakers for their electronic music program so the Dante cards were added to the AFC units to allow them to route signals that would be mixed with the AFC signals and output to any of the individual AFC speakers they may select.
The complete system includes both an early reflection system and reverberation enhancement system. The two systems are intertwined so the 20 audience speakers can receive a mix of the ER and REV signals. On the stage/ performance area, there are six speakers on the sidewalls that receive ER signals only and 12 speakers overhead for the reverberation enhancement.
Several Yamaha DME (Digital Mixing Engine) units equipped with various MY cards facilitate an extensively flexible routing system enabling signal routing from various consoles or computers to the recording studio, the AFC speakers, or any of the speakers in the house surround system.
“This is no ordinary AFC3 system, states Tom Kostusiak, production manager for the Performing Arts Center who also teaches classes in sound recording and reinforcement for the Music Department. The recital hall is in a renovated art gallery space on the third floor of Rockwell Hall. The ceiling height was limited to 16 feet, so there was no way to achieve the "space" required to allow natural acoustics to occur.”
When not being used for its intended purpose (AFC), Kostusiak said they would have the ability to address each speaker independently over the Dante network designed by Yamaha. “This is going to allow our electronic music faculty to utilize the speakers as a 52.1 Surround mix system directly from Tomas Henriques’ (head of the Digital Music Program) computer as well as our Yamaha DM1000 or Avid SC48 consoles. In fact, we will be able to utilize multiple computers as well as both consoles as input devices feeding directly to any speaker in the room. In addition to the AFC3 system, we can also use the room as a 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 mix room and, of course, the 52.1 configuration. The associated recording studio at Rockwell Hall allows the school to use the recital hall as a live room for sound recording classes as well.”
“We have given the Music Department access to each and every one of the speakers in the space, so they are composing for a multi-channel audio system,” said Mickey Ames, one of the project managers for AV Solutions. “You can isolate the clarinet in speaker 42 and the drums in speaker 10, for example, and that is what makes this particular installation so incredibly unique.”
The initial idea of converting the space to 52.1 developed out of a suggestion from Henriques. “The modification of Yamaha’s AFC system to allow the integration of all the speakers in the Ciminelli Recital Hall as a 52.1 surround system, effectively turns the hall into a unique space for research in sound diffusion as well as a performance venue for works that feature multi-channel sound, Henriques states. The 52.1 surround system will enable student composers to write film scores that use a high number of discrete output channels, a trend increasingly found in today’s movies. It will also provide the means for the Music Department to foster international conferences and colloquia in the area of sound diffusion, virtual acoustics and psychoacoustics.”