SERIES FIVE FIT FOR A PALACE
Home court to the NBA's Detroit Pistons and WNBA's Shock, the 22,000-seat Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan has been considered one of the best-marketed facilities in the United States since opening in August of 1988 and is one of the country's top-grossing arenas of its size year after year. Backing that up is the fact that the facility was voted 'Arena of the Year' no less than eight times by Performance magazine and presented with the same honour by Pollstar magazine on two occasions.
KLA Laboratories, Inc. of nearby Dearborn has served as the Palace's sole audio systems contractor from its inception, and the venue naturally called upon the firm once again when the time came to finally revamp the bowl’s 17-year-old sound system. Working closely with the Harman Pro Group, KLA recommended that a full Harman system be specified — JBL loudspeakers, over 150,000 watts of Crown power, and a 32-mono-/4-stereo-channel Soundcraft Series FIVE mixing console.
Between basketball games, major concerts, conventions, and other events, the Palace is booked more than 300 days a year, which presented a challenging installation timeline for KLA. “This meant that we had only a five-day window to tear out the pre-existing system and install an entirely new setup,” notes KLA President Matthew O'Bryan, whose family-owned business has been serving the Detroit area since 1929. “In order to accomplish that, we had to schedule crews around the clock. Any shipping delays or product failures out of the box would have absolutely killed us. But, thankfully, Harman Pro was extremely dependable in getting all of the products to us on time and in working order and the whole project came off like an NBA slam dunk.”
The Series FIVE, the heart of the new system, is now housed in the venue's sound room located at the back of the upper level at mid-court across from the player benches. According to Arena Sound Engineer Steve Conway, every channel on the new desk is being utilised — and some more than once. "One of the things that I love about this 36-channel board is that it's really a 72-channel board because each mono input has both an A and B path,” he says. “That comes in very handy seeing that even during regular basketball games I have all of the channels filled up and still sometimes require additional inputs.
“The Series FIVE also thankfully has a ton of outputs, which is equally important because just about every audio signal on our property passes through this desk. In addition to providing the in-arena audio mix, I'm utilising a combination of matrix and aux outs to provide different feeds and mixes for everything from the TV and radio broadcasters to the parking lot and concourse speakers to recording and hearing impaired devices and a bunch of other things. The fact that each of the 12 aux sends is both pre/post and on/off switchable is great for that, plus the EQ and metering are both extremely nice on this desk.”
Conway notes that he has been the man in the mixer’s chair for every Pistons and Shock game since he first started working at the Palace ten years ago. ‘This means that I've heard YMCA more times than anybody other than the Village People. And I've let the dogs out more times than anyone. But at least they're a little less painful to let out with the Soundcraft; it’s a beautiful-sounding console.”
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