Pole Position

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TALLADEGA, AL—It came down to a sound test at the famed Talladega Superspeedway. The demo pitted Community Professional Loudspeakers’ R-Series—temporarily mounted on poles—against the racetrack’s previously installed loudspeakers, attached to the wheel fence.

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The lower grandstand features 101 Community R.5HPT loudspeakers and 50 R.5-SUB subwoofers on 12-foot high poles behind the wheel fence, creating a better and safer fan atmosphere.

The demo was held in September 2009, and left quite an impression, according to Chris Ogles of Sound Solutions in Oxford, AL. “It made such an impact that the president of the speedway came to us right there on the spot during the demo and asked us, ‘Can we have this by the race in November?’”

By the time Talladega hosted NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series on November 1, 2009, the lower grandstand featured 101 Community R.5HPT loudspeakers and 50 R.5- SUB subwoofers. The new sound system also includes a dbx DriveRack 260 to handle processing. That component feeds 13 QSC ISA 1350 amplifiers for power.

Talladega is not alone. All across America racetracks are upping their game in the sound department. The loudspeaker horns commonly used at racetracks worked fine in the past, but NASCAR races have evolved to include events beyond what happens on the track. Racing venues now have top national musical acts performing before the cars take center stage. The R-Series stands out during these prerace concerts, taking the fan experience to the next level.

“For the paying fan who’s attending not just for the race, but the full race day experience, there’s really no comparison between older horn technology and true full-range outdoor loudspeaker technology. No comparison,” said Ogles, who has served on Talladega’s track AV crew for five years. He explained that the bandwidth of horn loudspeakers usually offers nothing below 300 Hz or above 4000 Hz. That prevents the crowd from hearing key elements like the bass drum and bass guitar during a pre-race concert. Conversely, the three-way R.5HPT is a full-range product that delivers to fans the audio quality of a true concert system.

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When Talladega was redoing its wheel fence, they elected to move the loudspeakers as well. The previous loudspeakers were mounted on the fence, obscuring the view of some spectators, and posed a safety risk if a car crashed into it. The installation team mounted the new loudspeakers on 12-foot high poles behind the wheel fence, creating a better and safer fan atmosphere. And the weather-resistant R.5HPT’s compact 16- by 16-inch dimensions, don’t block sight lines.

The install crew from Sound Solutions completed the project in less than five weeks. Headed by Joey Hutto, the massive project required mounting all 151 speakers, 151 weatherproof junction boxes, and running thousands of feet of new four-conductor speaker wire. The seating area covered can accommodate more than 50,000 spectators and runs nearly a mile along the 2.66-mile track.

The application presented some challenges for the installation team as well, including the sheer size of the project. The crew also designed the system so that a problem with one amplifier would not take out an entire section. “Another challenge was getting the layout correct so that there was redundancy and it wouldn’t be a total wash if something went down,” said Ogles.

The new sound system has made a night and day difference at Talladega, according to Ogles. The R.5HPT loudspeaker, featuring Community’s M200 midrange driver, is extremely powerful and brings racing fans excellent voice clarity during the race. This is vital since Talladega plays the live radio broadcast from the Motor Racing Network through its public address system. The roaring engines and crowd noise make for a challenging sound environment, but the new system has provided the ideal solution.

“There’s never been anything close to what they have now since I’ve been there. Even in the suites or anywhere else, nothing compares,” said Ogles.

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