AUGUSTA, KANSAS – APRIL 2010: Like many schools built in the 1970s, Augusta High School in Augusta, Kansas had outlived the usefulness of its sound reinforcement systems and, given the new and relatively inexpensive technologies available today, was ready to shed the clunky interfaces and fuzzy fidelity to which everyone had become inured.
The school hired Wichita-based McClelland Sound, among the largest and most experienced sound engineering and contracting firms in Kansas. Founded at the dawn of sound reinforcement in 1928, McClelland is responsible for literally thousands of installations in all manner of buildings throughout the region. Vice president Scott Martin, who began his career with McClelland in 1974, took Augusta High School’s case and, in place of a market leader, used Ashly network-ready amplification and signal processing to give the school worry-free, easy-to-use, and utterly transparent reinforcement.
The most problematic space was the school’s auditorium, which has a strangely triangular ceiling that played havoc with the original system’s ability to provide either coverage or fidelity. Augusta uses the auditorium for high school plays, assemblies, and meetings. The community also uses the space for meetings and church services. “No one could hear very well,” said Martin. “The original system really only covered the first third of the audience, and it didn’t even do that very well. The strange shape of the room led to odd reflections from a system that was trying to push more SPL than it was capable of from just one position above the stage.”
Martin chucked that failed plan and instead used an Ashly ne24.24M matrix processor to delay the signal into three separate speaker clusters: a front composed of ElectroVoice C82HCs together with middle and back sections each composed of Community Veris 6Ts. In addition to delays, the ne24.24M provides all system equalization, filtering, crossovers, dynamics, and, critical in a high school installation, protection. “The Ashly processing is easy to use and sounds great,” said Martin. “In addition, it includes contact closure access points right on the back panel, which allowed me to easily rig up a custom push-button panel for an extremely simple user interface.” The push buttons select between a Roland VMIX system at FOH for the school, and a vastly simpler Shure SCM 810 console for community use.
Ashly amplifiers service the whole room. An Ashly ne800 drives two monitor channels, and a second ne800 drives the front ElectroVoice loudspeakers. A 70-volt Ashly ne800.70 drives the middle and back Community loudspeakers. In a dramatic leap forward from the old system, a Community i212S subwoofer adds rich low-end with the help of an Ashly ne1600 amplifier. “I’m particularly happy with the Ashly NE-Series of amplifiers because they are network-ready,” said Martin. “The diagnostics and dashboard allow us to monitor Augusta’s system from our office, or indeed, anywhere in the world. If a problem arises, we can either fix it remotely or arrive at the site knowing full well what’s wrong and with the equipment and tools we’ll need to fix it.”
The original system in the gym was faring a little better than the original system in the auditorium; a handful of old speakers positioned far, far away from the bleachers and floor overly energized the room for that classic, unintelligible “gymnasium sound.” Now, two Ashly ne800s and two ne800.70s drive ElectroVoice FRI-series and SoundTube RS-series loudspeakers, this time positioned closer to the stands and floor than the speakers they replaced. An Ashly ne24.24M provides all of the processing for the system, and an Ashly WR-5 programmable wall interface allows users to mute or unmute speakers on the visitor side, home side, or court to accommodate the needs of a particular function without adding needless energy to the walls. In addition, iPod inputs on either side of the court provide the school with the ability to play music for PE class.
Last of all, Martin replaced the aging sound system on Augusta’s football field. The now familiar combination of Ashly ne24.24M processing and ne800.70 amplification combined with an Ashly WR-5 preset controller provided ample punch, fidelity, and user control. Distributed Community R-series loudspeakers are, like the gym, mutable or unmutable in zones that anticipate the various uses of the facility.
McClelland Sound finished the installations for the auditorium, gym, and football field in time for extensive use in the fall semester of 2009. They’ve already been used for two plays, several assemblies and meetings, and dozens of basketball and football games, among countless other more routine uses. “There’s really no comparison to the old systems,” said Martin. “The new ones are vastly better in terms of fidelity and user interface. And although we’ve been monitoring all of the Ashly equipment remotely since it went in, we haven’t really had to use that capability. All of the Ashly gear worked perfectly out of the box and has continued to work flawlessly ever since!”
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