Steps from the waters of Lake Superior, Northern Michigan University is an acclaimed four-year college whose alumni have included internationally famed architect John Lautner, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, and Olympic speed skater Shani Davis.
- The University recently completed construction of a new $33.5 million instructional facility that is home to multiple classrooms, lecture halls, and a 500-seat auditorium. The multi-use hall is divided and tiered, with a front section, a rear section, and raked seating. By day, it's a lecture hall, but on nights and weekends it can function as a high-definition movie theater, a performance venue for small ensembles, and more.
The versatility of the room called for versatility in a sound system. As NMU Director of Broadcast and Audio Visual Services Eric Smith explained, the school brought in project architects Neumann/Smith of Southfield, Mich., and system designer The Sextant Group of Pittsburg, Pa., who recommended a Renkus-Heinz IC2 digitally steered line array.
"We looked at a number of systems, and fortunately we were able to attend the InfoComm show while we were considering our options," said Smith. "One of our team [members] was experienced with large-venue sound mixing. He suggested Renkus-Heinz Iconyx steerable arrays. We visited their booth and got the demo, and it was an easy decision."
The system, comprised of two IC2-FR cabinets and a single IC215S-FR subwoofer per side, was installed by systems integrator Innovative Communications Inc. of Saginaw, Mich., which also provided a sophisticated video system with easy-to-use automation.
"What a system!" said Smith. "No matter where you sit in the house, you get excellent sound, not just good sound. And the speakers are architecturally hidden behind the walls, so listeners have no idea where the sound is coming from. People are just amazed at the sound quality — we get nothing but compliments."
Smith added, "With the beam-steering capabilities of the IC2, you can EQ properly and mix accurately. We took advantage of that to build a mix position two-thirds of the way back in the house, so whoever is mixing has a good acoustical observation point and can do a really nice mix."
The system also includes a Yamaha digital mixer and a Dante network.
"For events, everything is mixed by a human and goes through the Renkus-Heinz arrays," said Smith.
Initially, Smith's team was concerned that to achieve all of their goals for this multi-use facility, they would have to compromise. But it didn't turn out that way.
"What we learned from this experience," said Smith, "is that if you perform your due diligence and work with your consultant and manufacturer, you can use steerable beams to do things you never could do with a conventional speaker system. With the IC2, a multi-purpose sound system does not have to be a compromise."