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Can you hear me now? Fine Arts Center receives $14,600 sound upgrade

Posted: Monday, Oct 14th, 2013

Evan Caldwell of Audio Video Connection of Brookings installs an acoustic panel on a wall in the Fine Arts Center theater. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

HURON — Audiences attending performances in Huron’s Fine Arts Center will hear them more clearly now that there has been a significant new investment in the theater’s sound system.

The $14,600 upgrade, done by Audio Video Connection of Brookings, was financed through a combination of contributions, grant funds and a rent reduction over a three-year period. About half of the cost was covered by Huron Area Community Theater funds.

“Acoustics in the Arts Center theater have been a concern for quite some time,” said Chuck Mahowald, president of HACT.

“More than one theater patron has commented over the years about how difficult it is to hear our productions, and even with amplification the sound is still distorted, or not distributed evenly throughout the entire audience,” he said.

Veteran sound systems technician Jeff Engen, owner of Audio Video Connections in Brookings, was hired to make the improvements.

Engen said the main speaker cluster was replaced and a sub woofer and a couple new amplifiers were added. “We’re also including 36 acoustic panels,” he said. “Those help with absorption of reflected sound and that was the big problem here – you’ve got these big surfaces here and sound would just keep bouncing back and forth.”

He said the panels, installed on the walls, will control some of the reflected sound, cut down the reverberation time and soften the sound as well.

“For the people in the audience it will be a lot easier to understand the words being spoken on the stage,” Engen said.

Others contributing to the cost of the project were the South Dakota Community Foundation with a grant of $2,000 and the Huron Area Arts Council with a contribution of $2,500. The city of Huron agreed to reduce the theater rental fee by $350 for each show for the next seven shows, for a total savings of $2,450.

Also using the theater are We Found Sound and the Huron Symphony Orchestra.

Engen said a problem with the existing sound system was that it was pointed so that most of the sound was directed over the heads of those in the audience.

It is now higher and tilted down onto the audience.

“Concrete walls, especially painted concrete walls, are a highly reflective surface so what happens is the sound comes down, hits the wall and it acts just like a mirror and that sound wave comes back a second time,” he said. “So what happens is you hear the direct sound from the speaker and then you hear the indirect sound from the wall reflection,” Engen said.

“Depending on how many times it’s reflected based on the room, you can get multiple reflections which basically adds an echo or reverb to the room,” he said.

The new acoustic panels were attached to the walls. Already installed before the current work are plywood panels high up in the ceiling. Engen said they are for reflecting sound.

For the complete article see the 10-13-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-13-2013 paper.

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