Meyer Sound's Constellation Changes The Atmosphere

Meyer Sound's Constellation Changes The Atmosphere

San Francisco Symphony at SoundBox

Meyer Sound's Constellation system is designed to enable flexibility, allowing venues to adapt to a performance's specific needs, according to The New Yorker. It allows a cinema to have an environment without echoes so spoken words can be heard clearly, while it gives orchestras a longer reverberation time to ascertain the full effect of the music. There are five settings available: cinema or lecture hall (0.4 seconds), chamber (one second), theatre (1.4 seconds), concert hall (two seconds), and sacred space (2.8 seconds). It even works well in restaurants. 

When the owners of Oliveto, an Italian restaurant in Oakland, CA decided to renovate last year, they asked John and Helen Meyer, owners of Meyer Sound Laboratories, based in Berkeley, CA, to enhance the acoustics, allowing patrons to hear their conversations clearly over the usual restaurant din. Consequently, Oliveto is home to a version of the Constellation system; as such, microphones, loudspeakers, and a digital-audio platform test the noise of a room, modify it, and send it back out in its improved form. The walls of the Oliveto are sound-absorbing panels from the Meyer's Libra system. The system's digital processor, which can be controlled with a tablet, is housed in the back-room.

Instead of eliminating outside chatter—and deadening the room—Constellation makes each table its own sonic zone. There are two parts of a sound as it resonates: the early reflections composed of the intelligible information, which Constellation removes, and the later reverberation, a more muffled sound. With the Constellation system, Oliveto's patrons hear surrounding voices, but not what they are actually saying. 

The Constellation system has also been installed at the Davies Symphony Hall. This cavernous space is now a suitable space for SoundBox, an event presented by the San Francisco Symphony. In an attempt to attract a younger audience, musicians play a smaller-scale repertory in a more relaxed and nightlife atmosphere. SoundBox has been quite successful with all three editions of its series sold out.

John Meyer notes that the acoustic accomplishment for a sacred space setting was not possible just a few years prior because the Constellation system needs a very high-powered computer to calculate twenty thousand echoes per second, and that data needs to stay in memory for another four or five seconds. 

For the full article, visit The New Yorker.

TAGS: Sound
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