New Greenwich High School PAC Impresses with Renkus-Heinz VARIAi

Greenwich High School’s first class graduated back in 1898 but its current 54-acre campus dates to 1970. With approximately 2,650 students, more than 1,400 of whom are enrolled in music and theater courses, it had far outgrown its old auditorium, which also suffered from poor acoustics, poor sightlines, and other shortcomings.

As part of a massive expansion project begun in July 2013, the school constructed a beautiful new Performing Arts Center featuring a 1,325-seat, 35,000-foot auditorium with a proper stage, orchestra pit, and other facilities-including a new Renkus-Heinz VARIAi sound system. ‘It’s a fine proscenium theatre with two balcony levels-not what we typically see at a high school,’ observes Curtis Kasefang of Raleigh, North Carolina, system designer and integrator Theater Consultants Collaborative (TCC). Acoustical elements include a reverse fan-shaped room that helps envelop the audience in the sound, an orchestra shell, a forestage reflector, sound doors, roof detailing that reduces rain impact noise, and adjustable acoustic curtains.

Working with Acoustician David Greenberg of Creative Acoustics (Westport, Connecticut) and Project Engineer Rich Gold of New Haven-based HB Communications, Curtis put together a design based on Renkus-Heinz VARIAi loudspeakers. The choice of VARIAi brought forth a high-quality, tight line array that would keep the sound off the walls and on the audience.

VARIAi cabinets have been designed to fly either as modules in a vertical array or as part of a tight-packed horizontal array. The system designer or sound engineer can build horizontal coverage in 22.5º or even narrower slices, as required, with seamless integration between cabinets for a true modular point source solution. With a range of vertical and horizontal dispersion angles and Renkus-Heinz’s proprietary Transitional WaveGuides, VARIAi’s highly configurable enclosures and concealed hardware make it easy to custom design a system.

To cover all but the balcony at Greenwich High School, Kasefang specified left, center, and right main arrays. The left and right arrays have three subwoofers and six VARIAi full-range systems: The top four deliver 7° x 90° coverage, the next one down is 15° x 90°, and the bottom cabinet provides 22° x 90° dispersion. The center array consists of five VARIAi cabinets, with three 7° x 90° systems on top and two 15° x 90° systems below; this covered the room very well, without wasting energy on the walls. The VARIAi also helped direct the sound off of balcony faces, avoiding reflections back to the stage.

The biggest challenge turned out to be the relatively low balcony overhang. Although the balcony is centred in the room, getting line-of-sight from the line arrays to the balcony required pushing the sound down a bit on the sides and in the centre, while still keeping the centre speakers high enough. So the top balcony was covered with Varia cabinet used as a delayed fill.

Interestingly, tuning was the easy part. The balcony fronts are specifically shaped with the speaker locations in mind, as well as accounting for natural sound. The room has adjustable acoustics, with lots of acoustic curtains on the upper part of the side walls, so in amplified mode we can knock down the reverb time to something manageable. As a result, tuning the room was not difficult.

The system also includes a Biamp Tesira SERVER DSP and a Yamaha CL3 mixer. The Renkus-Heinz rig has been applauded since its install, and the Greenwich High School people are very satisfied. It’s very rare to find a high school with a beautifully designed concert hall and a sound system to match but Greenwich High School accomplished it.