October 27, 2014
The Edward Jones Dome's new sound system provides fans and visitors with the finest game day and special event audio in the country.
While the St. Louis Rams have been busy rebuilding their team and working towards a winning season, the Edward Jones Dome has been working on upgrading its facility as well. The dome recently installed a state-of-the-art sound system that is sure to score a touchdown with fans and visitors alike.
The Dome, located in downtown St. Louis, has been around for almost 20 years, and in that time a lot has changed, especially when it comes to the evolution of audio performance and technology. When the Dome opened in 1995, the audio system was installed as part of the original construction, but soon after, sound system issues began. In 1998, Ross & Baruzzini was tasked with rectifying some of these issues. Minor improvements allowed for the original speakers to deliver functional audio in the Dome until early 2013 when they reached the end of their useful life. At that time, Ross & Baruzzini was asked to provide the design for a complete sound system replacement.
So it was back to the drawing board.
The original sound system was designed specifically for football games, but the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission had been using the facility for various reasons other than football. Because of this, the redesign was to account not only for football events but other possible uses of the space such as basketball games, Supercross, Monster Truck events, and conventions. The redesign needed to address all of the following requirements:
- Use of the entire floor and all seating areas. Ideal for an NFL Football game.
- The ability for the sound system to be turned off in unused areas when only one side of the dome was being utilized, as well as providing sound to optional floor seating. Ideal for a basketball game.
- Use of the floor only with lower seating retracted. This option requires the audio system to distribute sound to the floor area only. Ideal for floor-only events such as trade shows.
- Use of the floor and lower-level seating only. This option also requires the audio system to distribute sound to these areas without broadcasting sound into unused areas. Ideal for events using only the floor and lower level only such as conventions or industry conferences.
- Use of the full dome for a floor event requiring the lower seating to be retracted. Ideal for Monster Truck and racing-type events.
The overall direction for sound distribution in similar venues has changed drastically over the past decade. The use of speakers in distributed clusters, while popular, did not always work well together. Due to the low level of audio control with these types of systems as well as the narrow coverage area, the philosophy was to provide a large number of clusters with overlapping coverage areas. This led to phasing and timing issues, making the overall sound quality inconsistent.
It was decided that the most effective solution for the new sound system was the use of line array speaker technology.
Line arrays have become the standard in the industry for the dome and stadium-type applications. The line array is a grouping of speakers with very specific cut-offs that are designed to be hung vertically with specific angles between each box to determine coverage areas. Also, many manufacturers now build the boxes with integral amplification and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) within each speaker box which allows for a much more precise level of tuning and for greater reduction in timing and phasing between speaker arrays, thus minimizing overlapping of coverage zones allowing each line array location to act more like a single source of superior sound.
The use of amplifiers within each enclosure allows for each driver to be individually controlled and makes the array “steerable.” By varying the exact timing of each speaker along with the amplification control, it is possible to have the array act as a single speaker. Interference between cabinets can be significantly reduced, allowing for the delivery of higher quality audio and improving the overall performance of the system.
The system design effectively provides coverage for the dome seating areas and provides better coverage using fewer zones than the previous system. The former speaker clusters provided a direct SPL of approximately 103 decibels (dB), and despite having only half of the overall vertical zones, the SPL supplied by the line array solution provides approximately 112 dB of consistent intelligible coverage in music presentation, public address, and service announcements that will dramatically enhance the audio experience of fans and visitors from the front row at field level to the back row at the top of the stadium.
The total replacement and upgrade of the existing sound system throughout the Dome provide fans and visitors with the finest game day and special event audio experience possible that rivals any similar indoor venue in the country.
Have you been to an event at the Dome recently? We’d love to hear what you think about the new sound system.
About the Author:
David McGhee is a Principal Consultant and Security Engineer with Ross & Baruzzini. With over 20 years of experience as a security engineer with strengths in security and technology planning, engineering, and construction management, he has spent his career delivering cross-enterprise information technology and security solutions on a variety of electrical and special systems projects for a diverse group of markets including government, commercial, and transportation. Clients prize his comprehensive experience in the changing world of security technology and his ability to work effectively in team environments and consistently get the job done right.