With 2,472 delegates attending the 2016 Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland this week, the event represents not only a highly vocal platform for the G.O.P.s (Grand Old Party) conservative-based political principles, but also marks the official close of the primary election season and the start of the U.S. general election for the office of the President. Since delegates must cast ballots in order to select the Presidential nominee — a process that has repeated itself every four years since 1856 — there is serious business that takes place, in addition to the usual cacophony of revelry and sometimes-controversial speeches.
For such a historically and legally significant event, audio intelligibility is the paramount technical consideration — no matter who is at the podium — since it responsible for carrying the political messaging of each candidate and their supporters. For ATK Audiotek, which has been handling convention audio for more than two decades, this meant choosing what they believe are the most reliable, efficient, high-performance amplifiers on the market today: Powersoft.
Meeting the ultimate communications challenge
Pat Baltzell, sound designer and FOH mixer for ATK Audiotek, was responsible for the audio system for the event and began the designing process last December: “First and foremost, this is a speech-based event, so the design approach has to take into account that every single seat needs to clearly hear what is being communicated,” he says. “Further, the venue is being used to maximum capacity, and there is a seated floor where the basketball court normally is.” To ensure reliable audio and maximum intelligibility, ATK chose to integrate (84) Powersoft K10 amplifiers, which we used to power all of the primary speaker clusters, in this case JBL Vertec 4889s. The clusters in the primary system surround the stage, and ATK also placed (14) delay clusters in 200 level upper deck seating area.
Baltzell says that the vast majority of national conventions typically have a single stage set up on the short side of the arena (e.g. ‘50 yard line’), with in the round style seating. For the Quicken Loans Arena, Baltzell’s design entailed some acoustic refinements: “We did some acoustic analysis and decided to treat the upper wall surfaces and hung vertical absorption panels to eliminate reflections off of the upper walls which were not treated,” he says. “There were also untreated areas of the ceiling, so we finished those off as well.”
Powersoft Racks in the Catwalk
(84) Powersoft K10 amplifiers were hoisted up onto the catwalk of the arena, high above the audience. “The amp racks were motored up there one at a time, and this was great because they are all so light,” Baltzell explains. Having the amplifiers on the catwalk enabled ATK to reduce cabling lengths to the clusters, and each of the amps were controlled remotely using Powersoft’s Armonía Pro Audio Suite software. “The Powersoft amplifier racks required a small footprint on the catwalk, which was very advantageous because this is also used for lighting dimmer racks, balloon drops, confetti and other things. There is a lot of activity up there that you would not normally have for something like a rock concert or a basketball game.”
Before the amplifiers are sent up and placed into position, they are pre-programmed to cover the appropriate zones and wired for AES connectivity using CAT5 cabling. Once in place, Baltzell and his crew are able to maintain control over the units via Powersoft’s Armonía software. “All of the tuning and filters are done in Powersoft’s Armonía, and the software itself works great — especially considering the location of the racks, which are all the way up in the catwalk,” Baltzell says. “So having full network control to be able to mute them at the end of the day, turn them on in the morning or even just check status is invaluable.”
The clear choice
Since the K10s are so efficient, this also afforded Baltzell the opportunity to utilize smaller and lighter power isolation transformers — helping maintain an extremely low noise floor in the arena: “Since I am sharing power with video, lighting and other departments, I have to take responsibility for isolating the audio power,” he explains. “Because the Powersoft amps are so lightweight and efficient, we bring isolation transformers in line with the power service to all our amplifiers, drastically reducing the overall weight load. In the past, using other manufacturer’s amps, we would need twice as many power transformers — which are very heavy and at the RNC we were up against a show weight load problem.”
Finally, there is the ultimate concern of reliability — the system must perform at extremely high quality and without interruption over a four-day period. “We haven’t had reliability issues with Powersoft amplifiers, and that’s an important reason we choose them,” Baltzell concludes. “I am very fond of the K10 series in particular because you never run out of power and they sound great. A PA system failure isn’t even in the cards.”
For more information on the Powersoft K series, please visit http://www.powersoft-audio.com/en/touring/k-series.