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Revamped History

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Built in 1927, the 2,200-seat Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, which continues to draw top names in entertainment, recently received a major redesign of its audio and lighting systems.HAMPTON BEACH, NH-Located on the New Hampshire shoreline within an hour's drive of Boston, MA, Concord, NH, and Portland, ME, summer vacationers have flocked to Hampton Beach for more than a century. The historic Hampton Beach Casino, built in 1899, remains a leading attraction in the New England resort area, while the adjacent Casino Ballroom, added in 1927, continually draws some of the top names in entertainment. In order to sustain its reputation as one of the best venues in which to play and hear live music, the 2,200-seat ballroom has received a major redesign of its audio and lighting systems, including the addition of a new loudspeaker system based on Meyer Sound's MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.

The main system is comprised of two arrays of eight MICA cabinets each, augmented by a pair of MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers for sidefill. Six 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers provide low end. Ten MJF-212 high-power stage monitors and a 600-HP compact high-power subwoofer comprise the primary stage monitoring system, with a pair of CQ-2 narrow coverage main loudspeakers flown as sidefill monitors. A Galileo loudspeaker management system provides system processing and drive, while the RMS remote monitoring system, installed on a Windows-based computer at the FOH position, provides continual data on the status of each loudspeaker for house audio engineer John Coretto or a guest engineer. Audio industry veteran Bill Blaine and his company, WHB Concert Production, handled the installation.

The Casino Ballroom remains, in many ways, unchanged since opening its doors on the cusp of the Roaring Twenties, when it was regarded as one of the largest and most popular dance halls in the region. The ballroom's popularity peaked in the mid-1930s, when thousands crowded onto the dance floor to swing to such headliners as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. At the dawn of the rock 'n' roll era, The Supremes, the Four Tops, and Peter, Paul and Mary shared the stage with the Beach Boys, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Fifth Dimension. The ballroom's legacy continued with performances from Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and many more. "I remember seeing Janis Joplin perform here in 1968, and I wanted to work here ever since," recalled Blaine.

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The main system is comprised of two arrays of eight Meyer Sound MICA cabinets each, augmented by a pair of MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers for sidefill.
"Like most older buildings, the Casino Ballroom wasn't really built for amplification," he continued. "It's a challenging space, with a slatted ceiling that goes all the way up into a fairly large cavity. It's built on pilings driven into the sand, and has its own particular responses to bass frequencies. We have done a lot of work in the space over the years, and it has a unique sound."

The building's aesthetics played a significant role in the ballroom's sound system choice. "We'd had some trapezoidal boxes in here for the past 15 years or so, and one of the biggest objections the owners had was their appearance," said Blaine. "The MICA's low profile was a definite plus."
Sound quality, however, remained the primary consideration, and MICA amply delivered. "This was only the fourth sound system change in my 23 years of providing audio and lighting for the venue," Blaine said. "I don't think management really expected the change to be all that noticeable, though I personally had some very high expectations based on my own experience with Meyer Sound loudspeakers."

The venue's new MICA loudspeaker system debuted on the 2007 concert season's opening night, which featured a performance by Fleetwood Mac guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham. "It's a tremendous understatement to say that the MICA system totally exceeded everyone's expectations, even my own," said Blaine. "From the management to the staff to the patrons, as well as for myself and my staff, the exceptional-and I do mean exceptional-quality of the sound was the buzz of the evening."

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