Best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry – radio broadcast between 1943 and 1974 – the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville ranks among the most prestigious music venues in the world. In partnership with Opry Entertainment Group, JBL, and Yamaha, A/V integration firm Clair Solutions recently completed a significant overhaul of the Ryman’s sound reinforcement system, which required sensitivity to the venue’s historic interior, and a deft installation to work around the Ryman’s packed calendar.

Ryman Auditorium‘We installed the Ryman’s previous sound reinforcement system over a dozen years ago,’ says Clair Solutions Regional VP, Dan Heins. ‘It was a first-generation JBL VerTec system that served well, but loudspeaker, amplifier, and DSP technology has come a long way since then. We’ve maintained a close relationship in the interim – the folks at Opry Entertainment Group are really passionate about great sound, and they wanted to be sure that they would be getting the very best system for the space.’

With JBL’s new VTX Series A12 in the frame, the Ryman engineers wanted to hear the system in-place before committing to the installation. Clair Solutions developed an Ease model and optimised a design in collaboration with JBL engineers Raul Gonzalez and Nicholas Mourn. JBL provided an entire demo system that Clair Solutions put in place on temporary lifts.

‘It was a real proof-of-concept,’ Heins says. ‘We learned a lot from the demo and decided to go from eight boxes a side to ten. Although the main system didn’t change much from its original design, we learned from the demo that the under-balcony system needed a complete re-think. Given the particulars of the space, we ultimately went with a miniature line array with sub support’

The installed system comprises ten JBL VTX-A12 three-way line array elements and eight JBL VTX-S28 subwoofers in a centre hang. Two JBL CSX-F35s provide side fill, and ten JBL VT4886 line array elements provide front fill. A total of 36 JBL VT4886s paired with eight JBL VT4883 subwoofers make listening to a concert under the balcony every bit as exciting as the main floor. Crown i-Tech series amplifiers with onboard DSP condition and power the system.

For mixing, two Yamaha Rivage PM7 digital audio consoles were the preferred selection of the Ryman team, based on their experience using the PM10 at the Opry House. ‘We were confident with our decision to add the dual PM7 consoles, without a formal demo, due in part to Yamaha console familiarity and reliability,’ states Jeff Hatfield, director of technical services for Opry Entertainment Group.

Ryman Auditorium‘Finding a window in which to perform the installation wasn’t easy because the Ryman doesn’t really close,’ Heins says. ‘We only had four days to remove the old system and install the new system – a Monday through Thursday, with a show the very next day. We worked with the Ryman engineers and did everything that could possibly be done ahead of time while the old system was still on line. For example, we put in conduit and upgraded the electrical system.

‘We started on Sunday to give us an extra day to maximise the time we had to perform the installation. Things went smoothly, and we had the new system up and tuned in time for Friday’s Opry at the Ryman show. Importantly, we made it all happen without upsetting any of the Ryman’s historic interior or its sight-lines.’ The PA was moved into the proscenium in order to bring the image into a more natural alignment with the performance.

‘This was a great collaboration between four iconic companies,’ he continues. ‘The Ryman is known as the Mother Church of Country Music and is one of the most well-known and well-loved venues in the country, JBL is a legendary American brand, Yamaha is world-renowned, and Clair Solutions has built their stellar reputation by pushing the envelope to create the best live sound experiences possible. The Ryman is committed to making sure that every fan gets the best possible experience.’

‘In the world of speaker and amplifier technology there has been great improvements in the past ten years,’ says Ryman Auditorium Production Manager/Audio Supervisor, Les Banks. ‘Earlier this year, Dan Heins and his install team at Clair Solutions, once again, performed a miracle by installing our new JBL A12 system in an extremely short period of time. It’s of great comfort to have the support of the Clair Solutions team only a phone call away. The bottom line, end result is touring engineers give it a thumbs up and say how greatly improved the coverage and clarity is. Truly a team effort between JBL and Clair Solutions.’

More: www.clairsolutions.com

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