Located on the Stanford University campus, the Dinkelspiel Auditorium (The Dink) is a 710-seat performance and lecture hall serving the school’s Department of Music and the entire university for large performances, lectures, symposia, rehearsals and the occasional touring artist. The Dink opened in 1959, with minimal upgrades to the sound and AV infrastructure over time dating back to the 1970s.
A number of large improvements have been made in the hall over the last five years, the most recent being the installation of two d&b Soundscape systems for both on-stage and in-seat listening experiences.
Updating a Vintage Space
“The process of updating the overall sound system began out of a need for the usable space that could be a reasonable replacement for ensembles performing in the Bing Concert Hall that opened in 2013,” says Kevin Sweetser, the audio consultant. “The Bing had acoustics and aesthetics that were desired by many Department of Music groups. Dinkelspiel was old, and the acoustics were often described as backward with undesirable reflections.
"The added logistical concern was that Bing’s calendar was becoming increasingly packed and some ensembles would rehearse in the Dink until a couple of days prior to their concert in Bing," Sweetser continues. "We were tasked with renovating the space so that we could better serve the students and performers but without changing the physical structure of the building. This meant a digital acoustic system. The Dink also desperately needed a new P.A. system as the old one was failing to keep up with general usage expectations and rider requirements.”
For multipurpose rooms like the Dink, d&b Soundscape can provide numerous enhancements within the system to achieve the requirements of a variable-use space, ultimately bringing the stage and the audience closer together; and sometimes, as at this Stanford auditorium, bringing the musicians on stage closer together as an ensemble.
“We learned about the d&b Soundscape system while investigating digital room acoustic systems,” said Sweetser. “Soundscape was just being released, and once we were able to hear a demo we realized the potential it had. Ultimately, we chose Soundscape and due to its flexibility and quality, from a sound perspective, the room acoustic models were fantastic and felt natural. Logistically, we were able to use one set of speakers for both the room acoustics and sound reinforcement. This particular design allowed us to reconfigure the distributed main P.A. used in Soundscape to a traditional LCR line array so as to allow additional flexibility without the added cost of owning two separate sets of speaker systems.”
The Audience Soundscape System
The audience Soundscape system provides the P.A. reinforcement for the room, delivering precise localization capability; it also supplies reverberation enhancement as needed through the use of suspended stage and audience microphones, or even direct inputs. The acoustic signature can be selected from among the seven currently available spaces, and the amount of enhancement can be controlled by the sound engineer on the mixing console. The stage mics can also be used to bring more energy off of the stage to the audience in acoustic performances. The DS100 processor is enabled with both the En-Scene and En-Space modules to accomplish object positioning as well as reverberation enhancement.
Sweetser added, “A major bonus was that d&b helped facilitate a mutually beneficial effort to record the acoustic signature of the Bing Concert Hall for use in the Soundscape library, on its own a desirable room for acoustic music. We then were able to give students a rehearsal and performance space that was similar to that which they had become accustomed to using.” With this project, the Bing Concert Hall became the seventh available room emulation space available in the En-Scene add on.
The Stage Soundscape System
A second Soundscape system resides in the stage area acting as a “virtual” orchestra shell for musicians to rehearse and perform in a more comfortable acoustic environment like the Bing Concert Hall, and the DS100 processor is equipped with the En-Space plug-in to accomplish this. Again, use of the suspended stage mics creates the increased sense of ensemble, with an option to also bring the audience room mics into the system to enable a connection between the performers and the audience. The stage system is controlled by a simple touch screen interface to select the appropriate reverberation signature by non-technical staff members.
The two Soundscape systems were provided by Audio West (Los Angeles) and installed by Alive Media Audio Visual (Sacramento). “Alive worked extremely well with us to deploy and integrate our speaker design as well as new wiring infrastructure and acoustic treatment,” says Sweetser. “They were able to take our designs and instructions from Audio West and put them together seamlessly.”
The Soundscape systems can run at the same time or independently and were used throughout the entire summer season by the Stanford Jazz Festival. The main components of the system had been installed by the time Lee Brenkman came in to mix the Stanford Jazz Workshop’s students big band performances in early May. Brenkman has been mixing concerts for the Summer Jazz Festival for 25 years.
Object-Based Positioning in Soundscape
“Even though the acoustical treatment had not been installed and Soundscape not yet implemented, the improvement was considerable,” says Brenkman. “I was really looking forward to the beginning of the Stanford Jazz Festival at the end of June. I continued to get more familiar with the basic capabilities of the new speaker system, but it wasn’t until after an informative workshop on site with d&b’s Nick Malgieri that I really started getting into the capabilities of mixing using object-based positioning in Soundscape. I enjoyed the ability to position the sound sources on stage in their actual locations on stage in what the audience was hearing, and still not have those seated on the opposite side of the auditorium from, for example, the piano, ‘miss out’ on anything on stage. In the past, I’ve had to mix in big, distributed mono to ensure that all instruments were audible for everyone in the auditorium. With Soundscape I could achieve ‘depth’ and ‘spread’ on things like the 9-foot grand piano and drum kit and keeping them ‘in their place’ in the overall sound field. Nick assured me that object-based positioning was very intuitive, and indeed it was.”
Object-based mixing in Soundscape simplifies the job for the sound engineer using the R1 control software to easily place and move objects on screen in a user interface that is a direct correlation of the stage and audience area.
The most dramatic use Brenkman made of object-based positioning was during a performance by vocalist Lisa Fischer accompanied by pianist Taylor Eigsti. “At one point during the show she took her wireless microphone, walked to the stairs stage right, down into the audience in front of the stage, and to the center aisle where she chose to sing directly to one person,” says Brenkman. “I took the chance and clicked the mouse on the icon representing her microphone and followed her across the stage, down the stairs and across the audience floor seating. She remained clearly audible to all. When Lisa Fischer returned to the stage, I ‘followed’ her back to her original position next to the piano.”
One of the benefits of Soundscape is keeping the perceived audio localization consistent with the visual position, increasing the engagement of the audience and reducing the perception of a P.A. being used.
Brenkman added that he deployed En-Space briefly during a performance by violinist Victor Lin. “Lin always starts the second half of his Stanford Jazz Workshop concerts by coming in from the back of the auditorium down one of the side aisles playing call-and-response musical phrases with another instrumentalist in the opposite aisle. He does this without a wireless microphone. Both instruments are acoustic. So, I engaged ‘small concert hall’ and opened up the overhead mics at the front of the stage, and as the two of them approached the stage, the ambiance kicked in and made their sound bigger without making it particularly louder. It was really fun and useful to have the additional colors to ‘paint’ a mix with. And, not having to ‘fight’ with an inadequate and outdated system reduced my stress level considerably.”
A total of 101 d&b loudspeakers were installed between the two systems.
The d&b audience system consists of 14 x T10 loudspeakers for mains, 6 x 8S loudspeakers for front fills, 16 x 16C column loudspeakers for surround, 2 x V-SUBS and 2 x B22 SUBS, 26 x 5S loudspeakers used as overhead speakers, 9 x 10D and 4 x 30D amplifiers, and 3 x DS10 audio network bridges, 1 x DS100 signal engine with En-Space and En-Scene.
The stage system used as a virtual orchestra shell for musicians includes 18 x 5S loudspeakers, 5 x 8S loudspeakers, 1 x 18S-SUB, 11 x 16C column loudspeakers, 7 x 10D amplifiers, 2 x DS10 audio network bridges, 1 x DS100 signal engine with En-Space and En-Scene.
d&b audiotechnik • www.dbaudio.com