There’s a lot of air circulating about the advent of immersive audio; everybody wants to talk about it, few are yet to hear it. Fewer still realize it when they do. Jordy Freed, spokesperson for Blue Note Entertainment Group who own and operate Sony Hall, located in Times Square at the Paramount Hotel NYC, has ideas about that.
“The idea was to create a new state of the art music venue experience, pushing immersive experiences. We are always looking for ways to impact the entertainment experience from a technology standpoint. Our audiences at Sony Hall think it is incredible, whether they realize exactly how it works or not. The key is we, Blue Note, seek to integrate more interactive experiences that people can respond to and be part of. That’s what is happening at the new venue,”
The venue first built a reputation for live music excellence in the 1940s when, as the Diamond Horseshoe, it hosted vaudeville reviews and jazz legends of that era. Today, the Blue Note destination maintains a full-service restaurant and bar with capacities of 1,000 standing and 500 seated. In renovating the interior architecture, Blue Note ensured the classic look and feel of 40s decadence was preserved while the room was fitted with state of the art technologies. Blue Note approached integrator Peltrix to address what was, by any definition, a complex brief.
“We began by looking at a standard L/C/R small d&b audiotechnik line array set up as a starting point,” said Peltrix owner Amit Peleg. “But following further discussions it became clear we would need loudspeakers at the sides and rear of the auditorium and overhead if the system was going to work. Peltrix is a big exponent of d&b systems and as I developed our design response, I learned d&b were about to release Soundscape. It was determined that it would be beneficial for live performances if Peltrix integrated a new audio system based on d&b Soundscape.”
No matter how progressive Blue Note’s thinking, Peleg’s proposal was not without implications. “Yes, of course the hall management was reluctant at first. Who wants to be the first with something new like this? But they know me, and they know my reputation, and I said, ‘I’ll stake my name on this; it’s going to work, and you will be amazed.’ Implementing a system design based entirely on d&b loudspeakers to deliver a Soundscape platform proved less costly than you might imagine.”
Soundscape has three elements to it, a core signal processing engine, the DS100, and two optional software modules: En-Scene, an object-based positioning tool, and En-Space a room emulation software. That’s a new world of options to a sound engineer accustomed to L/C/R or simple stereo configurations.
“With En-Scene we set it up to make it very easy to apprehend what and how it works – to remove the intimidation element. Some engineers take to it immediately, some are hesitant but quickly see what it can do for them,” Peleg described. “The thing is it’s a different way of thinking about how you mix, how you use it. You are mixing to location, so you do need to have a game plan before you go to it. As well as thinking about how to make any specific instrument sound good, you need to decide where you want to place it. It’s a wider consideration than the game plan you had in mind for the old way of doing things, but it’s not an enormous leap. To make it easy we have created a number of templates. Operators quickly see, ‘oh, so that’s how it works’ and away they go.” And En-Space? “This is not a simple reverberation effect; you can access different rooms’ acoustic signatures and emulate them through the system. Both tools can be used simultaneously.”
Peleg and his team had just forty days to design and install the system, the core elements being a selection of loudspeakers from the d&b xS-Series, with extra weight in the low end provided by J-SUB and J-INFRA, all driven by d&b 30D and D80 amplifiers.
“Tell the truth we expected a lot more resistance,” said Peleg, “but just about every show that goes in is using Soundscape in some form. There is a small element of resistance, but around one percent did not engage with it during the first six months. Instead, everyone is delighted,”
Freed agreed. “Blue Note is known as being at the forefront of such advances for a number of years,” he concluded. “We have always managed to get in early with break-through technologies and this product helps us create and present totally different experiences.”