Oklahoma’s Edmond Memorial High School Debuts New System

Now the sixth largest city in the state of Oklahoma, Edmond has come a long way since its origins as a lonely rail stop without streets or buildings in what was then known as the Oklahoma Territory. And like the city itself, Edmond Memorial High School (EMHS) also had humble beginnings. Originally named Edmond High School, when its first graduating class of 24 students walked out its doors in 1922 it was the only secondary school within the city limits. Since then the school inhabited various buildings, moving to its current location in the mid 1960’s and changing its name to Edmond Memorial in 1975 to honor six alumni killed while serving in Vietnam.

  • With a reputation as a traditional high school with a progressive outlook, EMHS prides itself on supporting both the academic and personal growth of its students in equal measure. Boasting a graduation rate that has hovered around 99.8 percent in recent years, the school also places an emphasis on working with the community beyond its walls to develop both its curriculum and extra curricular programs. And in an effort to better their ability to do so, over the past decade EMHS has undergone a series of improvements and upgrades, including the renovation of their main auditorium and the installation of a cutting edge audio system featuring a variety of Tannoy loudspeaker systems.

“It was an existing space, but they basically gutted it and then redid everything,” says EMHS’ Junior/Senior Principal, Earl Kirkpatrick. And while Edmond Memorial High School is not specifically designated as a performing arts school, Kirkpatrick adds, it does have a reputation statewide for its arts programs. Correspondingly, EMHS wanted the quality of their renovated auditorium and the systems installed within it to match that reputation. “That was our goal when we looked into everything – the construction, the seating, the lighting and the sound. We wanted every aspect to be top of the line for our students, parents and patrons.”

But although the school wanted a dedicated performance space, Kirkpatrick stresses the auditorium is very much a multi-function venue. “It is used for musicals and concerts, and our drama department is in their on almost a daily basis working on the stage, but we also use it for class meetings for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, guest speakers, as well as for special events for the school and, occasionally, the community.” Being the newest auditorium of its kind in the district, it also serves as a regular venue for Edmond school district meetings and professional development events.

The project originated with PMK Consultants’ Jerrold Stevens, says AV consultant Dave Stearns, formerly of Dallas’ PMK office, the design firm on the project – Stearns has since left the company to form Sound Endeavors, an independent AV consulting firm based in Frisco, TX. “Jerrold Stevens did the original design and got the thing out the door for construction, but when he moved to PMK international in Dubai I took over to oversee the job and tune the system. High-Tech-Tronics Inc. was the install contractor.” The architectural firm on the project was Oklahoma City based Architects and Planners, GSB Inc.

To meet the needs of everyone using the space PMK specified a combination of Tannoy VQ 100s, VQ 60s, V12s and CVS 6s for the project, with the aim of providing superior reinforcement of speech, live and pre-recorded music for any and all of the applications the school and community intended for the auditorium.

Fixed approximately 24-feet off the ground and ten feet below the ceiling, two Tannoy VQ 100s make up the center cluster of the LCR system, explains Stearns. Two more VQ 60s are located to at the extreme right and left of the proscenium. Directly below, two V12s – one per side – act as down fills. A number of third party front fill speakers are also built into the stage lip. “They looked like generic home theatre in-wall speaker and they tended to overlap a little more than they should. In the end though I was able to use them as a localization source, but we would have preferred to see the Tannoy IS 52s in there.”

Elsewhere, in the back of house areas, the workshop, dressing rooms, lobby area and hallways, Tannoy CVS 6s are used exclusively to provide distributed audio throughout the venue. The system also incorporates a comprehensive package of Sennheiser microphones, a third party monitor system, a Yamaha LS 9 console, two BSS Soundweb London DSPs and a suite of QSC CX Series amps to drive the Tannoy VQs, V12’s and CVS 6s.

With the VQs covering most of the room, choosing the V12s was a matter of specifying a companion product to provide down fill in what was a very small area that needed help. “Like rows five to nine – an area just about eight chairs wide,” says Stearns. “And after I listened to the system I went, okay the V12s are going to be high passed way up. I don’t need it adding any mid/bass to the room – let’s just fill in what’s missing.”

In the spirit of specifying product based on need, PMK’s design called for the Dual Concentric CMS 601 DCs, but they went with Tannoy CVS 6s purely on a cost saving basis. The lobby did present some challenges, he says, owing primarily to its having three different ceiling heights; ranging from 8-feet high at the entryway, to 15-feet across the roughly 1800 square foot middle section of the space, to roughly 24-feet high in each of two 2500-square foot side areas that are open to the rest of the space and built to accommodate separate orchestra and band rehearsal spaces.

Tannoy was specified for the build from very early on, Stearns says. “All the way back to the earliest version of the EASE model in 2008 – As soon as we had the data on the Tannoy VQs, they were in there. This is one of the first US installs of the product.”

As a product, a mid/high box along the lines of Tannoy’s VQ boxes is something Stearns says there has been an appetite for in the industry for a very long time. “The reason for that is when you take a traditional two-way box – a twelve and a horn, or whatever – you can only time align it on axis. Once you get above or below axis, one driver or the other is closer to you, so you have an off-axis phase problem. The only way to fix that is to put highs and mids in the same horn. It’s been tried a bunch of different ways. A lot of the reason for horn loading the mids is that we wanted to have them have the same directivity as the high frequencies. The problem is that one driver can’t do all that without blowing up.”

The Tannoy VQ series addresses that issue comprehensively, Stearns says. “This is highs firing through mids – two compression drivers – one firing through the other one and using the same magnet structure. So the two diaphragms are within fractions of an inch of each other. With a passive crossover network it sums quite well in phase, so we get highs and mids in the same horn, the off-axis response is real smooth and everything falls off together.”

While the core benefit offered by the product is substantial in terms of intelligibility, directivity and overall control, there are only a handful of similar products available on the market, Stearns says. “And of the ones that are available this is the one I have a preference for currently.”

If Stearns tends to be blunt in his assessments, it’s partly a result of a passion for his work and for all things audio. A passion that has been a driving force in his life since he first became interested in audio in elementary school. “Way back when A/V was something you rolled in on a cart,” he says, laughing. “The story I like to tell is this – I’m in fourth grade and we had one of these record players that was a big box with a speaker on the front of it. I’m picking the tone arm up one day and bump the needle with my finger and, of course, a pop comes out of the speakers. So I lift the tone arm up to look at it and there’s this little black wire and this little red wire going into the cartridge, like a little slip lug connector. So I go home, grab a cassette player microphone with an 1/8 inch connector, take two alligator clips from my dad’s workbench and bring it all to school. I pull the black and red wires loose, hook the microphone up with the alligator clips, talk into the mic and now I have a PA system. Of course my teacher looks at me like, ‘how did you think to even do that’. So that’s what was driving the boat,” he says.

As a former touring musician Stearns also prides himself on an appreciation of what music should ideally sound like in a room; an appreciation that he believes is integral to his work, particularly when tuning a system. “I think the thing that people lose sight of is where music comes from. We make this stuff in recording studios, but we’re still using the reference monitors we’ve used for many years we all know what they sound like and all that stuff is pretty much high frequency attenuated. I just think this is a warmer, friendlier approach.”

The core benefit to using Tannoy, and specifically the VQs, says Stearns: “The Tannoys are pretty accurate and they are very flat. If you’ve got a bad recording they’re going to tell you.”

And when you have a good recording of a great song?

Well, the response, frankly, can be an emotional one. It certainly was at EMHS. The fact that the noncommissioned system was not sounding its best may have contributed to that, Stearns says. And although the problem had nothing to do with the technology, but rather with side issues that had cropped up during the install, the teachers who would be using the system most heavily were still concerned – at least until they heard the rig in action after the final tuning…

“It’s nine in the morning and the teachers are coming in to listen. We’ve been there all night and I’ve finally got things to where I like them enough to let people hear them. I grab the Beatles Cirque Du Soleil Love Remix CD, and hit play on track one, which is ‘Because’.” They may not have known why the room sounded less than ideal before, “they just knew it did,” Stearns says. “But now, all of a sudden, it was translating straight from the boys to them – crystal clear – and I’ve got the choir director and drama teacher sitting in the back of the room listening, and they’re weeping.”

Going forward, Kirkpatrick says he’s pleased with the result. There’s still a learning curve to the usage of the new systems, but without a doubt the auditorium gets high marks from all the people and departments who use it. “We haven’t had any complaints and we do a lot in there. It’s booked, all the time,” says Kirkpatrick. “And that’s why we don’t rent it out to people outside of the school very often, because we keep it so busy – I know from the people that use the auditorium at our site as well as at the district level, that’s why they keep coming back. They’ve just really enjoyed the facility.”

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