Not actually the Crystal Ballrooms new speaker.
  • Not actually the Crystal Ballroom's new sound system.
The Crystal Ballroom has a new sound system!

It debuted earlier this month, although I don't know if audiences have had a chance to hear it yet; the August concerts scheduled for the venue so far (the Promise Ring and tonight's Felix Cartal show) were canceled. They've got all new equipment from top to bottom, with a goal of "immediate and dramatic improvement in sound spectrum representation, signal-to-noise ratio, and spatial evenness. In other words, and more importantly, music sounds cleaner in the ballroom as a whole, no matter where the listener stands."

Historically, the Crystal Ballroom's sound problems have come down to a few factors, most significantly the odd shape of the room, with weird angles and a lot of signal going to places where audience members aren't. It sounds like they've redesigned everything to make the room sound measurably better for everyone. I've found the Crystal to sound hit and miss; when it's been "hit," at least recently, it's a lot better than people generally give it credit for. The Devo show last year, for example, was one of the best sounding shows I've heard there. However, I also spend a lot of time up close to the stage, where the house sound is measurably better than in the back or in the room's odd corners. Either way, this is a welcome step forward, and you'll be able to hear the results of the improvements at the Crystal's upcoming shows: Calvin Johnson's Believer party on Wednesday, August 22; Husky and Quiet Life on Friday, August 24; Super Diamond on Saturday, August 25; and Desaparecidos on Sunday, August 26.

Full press release and techy technical talk after the jump.

McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, as part of its continuing commitment to play host to top-tier world-class artists, announces the installation of a brand new, state-of-the-art sound system. Everything – from the line-array speaker system, the subwoofers, amplifiers, digital consoles, even the microphones, cables and newly-added electrical circuitry – is new, industry-standard and state-of-the-art. (Complete equipment list at bottom.)

The new system debuted in early August, with an immediate and dramatic improvement in sound spectrum representation, signal-to-noise ratio, and spatial evenness. In other words, and more importantly, music sounds cleaner in the ballroom as a whole, no matter where the listener stands.

Additionally, the sound quality on the stage itself is improved, due to the subwoofers causing significantly less bleed to the stage above them. This provides the musicians cleaner stage sound, a subtle but important benefit to any performance.

The selection, bidding and installation were overseen by Jim Brunberg, McMenamins Corporate Sound Engineer and founder of Mississippi Studios, an internationally respected venue and recording studio. Brunberg considers the new system to be one more step in the process of making the Crystal Ballroom the best venue in its class and size.

From its very beginning in 1914 the Crystal Ballroom’s design stimulated the senses of its patrons, with gravity-defying floors, huge picture windows, decorative arches and mind-bending angles. Upon re-opening the venue in 1997, McMenamins added chandeliers, intriguing artwork, lighting upgrades and many other sensory delights to make every show an experience several grades above the norm.

Its most challenging enhancement, however, has been providing the optimal sound reinforcement for the room. The room’s odd shape and layout, combined with the stage’s corner placement, made providing a room-wide balanced sound difficult. While significant progress was made in 2005 with a bumper-to-bumper upgrade of the system, there was definitely room for improvement.

Jim Brunberg was hired in 2011 with the mission of improving the sound reinforcement systems in all McMenamins music venues. While he has been busy accomplishing this in the dozens of music rooms in the company, the Crystal Ballroom – being the flagship room of the fleet – has been his primary target.

Much time and research on Brunberg’s part – along with Crystal in-house production staff and Rose City Sound’s Eric Iverson – has gone into making this installation the best possible solution, and the staff is both proud and excited about the end result.

About the system
The Crystal Ballroom’s new sound system features a brand new line XLC array by EV, powered by class-A Lab Gruppen amps, and mixed with industry-standard, cutting edge Avid SC48 and Midas Pro2 digital consoles. Even the electricity coming into the system will see an upgrade, flowing through new isolated circuits. To facilitate additional lighting rigs and monitor setups brought in by touring acts, extra power has also been installed (300 amps total).

Below is an itemized list of the equipment on hand beginning in August 2012.

Main System:
Ø 12-Electro-Voice XLC 3 way line array speakers. 6 per side
Ø 6-Fulcrum Acoustic TS221 dual 21" subwoofers
Ø Lab Gruppen PLM amplification
Ø Midas Pro 2 digital mixing console (Avid SC 48 also available, Analog board available)
Ø 1-Klark Teknik DN-360 graphic equalizer for the mains
Ø 1-Klark Teknik DN-410 5 band parametric equalizer for the subwoofers
Ø 2-Klark Teknik SQ1D-8 channel compressor/gate unit
Ø 1-Yamaha SPX990- digital reverb
Ø 1-Lexicon PCM 90- digital reverb
Ø 1-TC Electronic- digital reverb unit
Monitor System:
Ø 14-RCF TT25 SMA- active stage monitors
Ø 3-EAW KF 850- 3 way speakers. Two for sidefills and one for a drum box
Ø 3-EAW SB1000 dual 18" sub for the drum box and side fills
Ø Lab Gruppen PLM amplification
Ø Avid SC 48 (Midas Pro2 becomes monitor console when this Avid SC 48 is used at FOH)
Ø 2-RCF NX-12-SMA spare monitor wedges
Ø 1-48 channel 2 way transformer isolated splitter system and snakes to FOH and monitor

On Stage: All new mics, stands, and cables.