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Excellence Awards 2015
SoundBox At The San Francisco Symphony Stefan Cohen

SoundBox At The San Francisco Symphony

At SoundBox, the Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system plays a keystone element in the San Francisco Symphony’s radical new strategy for attracting younger audiences to diverse live music. 

At SoundBox, the Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system plays a keystone element in the San Francisco Symphony’s radical new strategy for attracting younger audiences to diverse live music. The brainchild of symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, SoundBox has reshaped music discovery by removing the constraints of many typical classical music venues, including the acoustics. 

“SoundBox is a new and experimental space for music of all kinds,” Tilson Thomas explains. “Part of the experience of being in this space is to hear music of many different eras—from ninth century Gregorian chant to music composed today. Constellation from Meyer Sound provides the optimal acoustics for each genre and has helped us create a space where audience and musicians can explore a new kind of musical journey together.”

SoundBox occupies Zellerbach A, a lofty, 7,600-square-foot rehearsal space adjacent to San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. As SoundBox, the space is now stunningly transformed with the addition of casual seating, a bar and cocktail tables, multiple video projection screens, subdued lighting, and Constellation’s chameleon-like yet natural ability to create a broad range of acoustic spaces. With Constellation, composers and conductors can select from different acoustic environments for each musical piece—and even custom program a totally new environment if desired.

The role of Constellation in defining the SoundBox experience has been universally extolled by the media. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Constellation has transformed a dead rehearsal space into a lively acoustical gem,” while The New Yorker notes how it has “…helped make classical music a more mobile, adaptable beast, one that is freer to roam the cultural landscape.”

At the heart of the system is the D-Mitri® digital audio platform including the DVRAS processors that host the VRAS™ algorithms and generate early reflections and late reverberations in four discrete reverberation zones. By dividing the system into four zones, the performance stage can be placed along any wall, and multiple stages can be used simultaneously. The system also comprises 28 widely distributed microphones, and 85 small, self-powered loudspeakers discreetly wall-mounted and suspended from the 50-foot ceiling.

Overhead are 24 UPM-1XP loudspeakers with 18 UPJunior-XP VariO™ and 31 MM-4XP self-powered loudspeakers as upper and lower laterals, respectively. Twelve UMS-SMXP subwoofers extend the reverberation envelope through the lowest octaves.

All loudspeakers employ Meyer Sound’s IntelligentDC™ technology, which maintains the sonic advantages of self-powering while simplifying installation by running both balanced audio signal and DC power.

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander served as theatrical consultants, and the system was installed by BBI.

For the inaugural SoundBox program in December, unique acoustical settings were chosen by the artists for each musical selection. The shortest reverberation setting was for Steve Reich’s percussive “Music for Pieces of Wood,” while choral works such as Josquin Desprez’s 16th century “Missa Pange lingua” were wrapped in a spacious cathedral setting. Contemporary works like Varèse’s “Intégrales” and Monk’s “Panda Chant II” were appropriately enhanced by intermediate settings.

Equipment List:

  • Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system
    • 2 Meyer Sound D-Mitri digital audio platforms
    • 28 DPA 4022 cardioid microphones
    • 31 Meyer Sound MM-4XP
    • 24 Meyer Sound UPM-1XP
    • 18 Meyer Sound UPJunior
    • 12 Meyer Sound UMS-1XP
    • ​11 Meyer Sound MPS-488HP​
  • 3 Panasonic PT-VW340ZU, 3700 lumen
  • 1 Barco HDF W26 projector
  • 2 Show Sage Show Server Core R4 with 4 outputs; Watchout v5
  • 1 Stumpfl 23’x40’ Flex rear CL screen
  • 1 Stumpfl 6’2”x 18’ Flex rear CL screen
  • 1 Screen Works 13'x 7'6" RP Screen
  • 15 Vari-Lite VL1100 luminaire automated fixture
  • 19 Martin MAC Aura LED wash fixture
  • 26 Chauvet COLORado 1-Tri Tour LED par
  • 21 ETC Source Four leko
  • 36 ETC Source Four par
  • 1 MA Lighting grandMA2 light console

Design Team:

  • Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, theatrical and AV design
  • Meyer Sound Constellation team, active acoustic system consultation
  • BBI Engineering, system installation
  • Adam Larsen, video content design
  • Michael Tilson Thomas, music director, San Francisco Symphony

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