The Union Theater, a 1,100-seat multipurpose venue at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, hosts events that range from touring shows and student assemblies to concerts by the university's choral, orchestral, and wind ensembles. During renovation, it was apparent that the hall's physical acoustics and low roof presented a significant hurdle for classical music presentations that required an extended reverberation time. To support the diverse programming in the auditorium, acoustical consultant BAi LLC of Austin, Texas, recommended Meyer Sound's Constellation acoustic system as the most practical and flexible approach for the project.
"Active acoustics were the only solution for reverberation," comments BAi president Charles Bonner, who originally proposed the integrated physical and electronic approach. "We could enhance some early reflections with physical treatments, but the only physical way to increase late reverberation would be raising the roof—at enormous cost."
For Laurence Kaptain, the dean of LSU's School of Music, the outcome was both surprising and gratifying. "In my mind, I had the impression that I might hear some discernible reverberation or echo. But instead Constellation just does wondrous things. It gives everything a much fuller and deeper sound, almost like it takes the music from grayscale up to millions of colors."
LSU's Constellation system is among the first to employ Meyer Sound's D-Mitri digital audio platform as the hardware host. The system comprises one DCP core processor, three DVRAS processors (for running Constellation's patented VRAS algorithms), and four DAIO-816 input/output frames. Spaced throughout the auditorium are 10 cardioid and 14 omnidirectional microphones, along with 82 MM-4XP miniature self-powered loudspeakers and—for natural low-frequency reverberation—ten MM-10 miniature subwoofers. The system was designed and calibrated by the Meyer Sound Constellation team, with installation by Technical Services Group, Inc. of Baton Rouge. Operation of Constellation is entrusted to Ricky Berlin, the theatre's audio engineer.
Charles Bonner worked closely with Andy Miller, BAi senior acoustician, on upgrades to the physical acoustics that would work seamlessly with Constellation. Bonner and Miller also teamed with LSU School of Music Recording Engineer, Bill Kelley, in evaluating both Constellation and an alternative system, as required by Louisiana's competitive bidding rules.
For his part, Kelley is somewhat amused by how many listeners now are appreciative of Constellation without knowing why. "Some are unaware that it's even on, or are aware that it's on but really aren't sure what 'it' is," he says. "And then others know it's on and love it. In any case, any skeptics on our music faculty were stopped in their tracks."
For Dean Laurence Kaptain, Constellation supports the school's efforts in building a repeat concert-going audience. "With more going on, more choices, we are always fighting to build an audience. If they come once and don't have a positive, memorable experience, they may not come back. Constellation is another tool to make sure an audience leaves satisfied. It's an integral part of creating a space that people want to come back to."