Feature Article - November 2009
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Audio & Illumination

Space-Specific, Sport-Specific

By Dawn Klingensmith

The Sweet Sound of Success

The football stadium at Milton High School, Alpharetta, Ga., is a perfect example of the importance of sound, and the potential consequences of an initial under-investment. It took a long time—and a potential disaster—for the sound to catch up with the stadium's looks. With high-end artificial turf and a jumbo screen, the stadium's quality was almost collegiate—except for the sound, driven by a poorly designed and underpowered paging horn system, according to Mike Shetler, of Atlanta-based VisionQuest Design and Production. The sound was loud but often unintelligible, with distortion and feedback drowning out announcements. But though folks in the stands strained to make out announcements, the school was getting plenty of complaints from neighbors due to the overall din.

Then, "the night of their first home football game of 2007, they needed to evacuate the stadium due to a lightning storm, but the sound was so bad the crowd couldn't understand the announcement," Shetler said in the release.

Now, the audio is on par with the rest of the stadium. There are three-way, long-throw speakers covering the home stands, a unit covering the visitors' bleachers, and a pair of two-way loudspeakers on the press box, along with speaker processing and amplification equipment. The weatherproof speakers offer directional control to cut down on neighbor complaints and deliver superior intelligibility and musical performance, according to Shetler.

In certain outdoor applications, powerful speakers perched atop the scoreboard or press box deliver sufficient sound quality, and offer a relatively easy audio upgrade where trenching across an athletic field for wiring is not possible.

Whether outside or indoors, sound systems require designers, installers and operators to consider several critical factors. With outdoor facilities, the neighbors' tolerance for stray sound is but one consideration, while indoor venues require a thorough understanding of noise dynamics. Usually, the number of anticipated spectators, or listeners, helps guide the selection of sound equipment