Audio Setup For A Dance Studio

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Evan:R, Jun 2, 2004.

  1. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Hello everyone!

    I've been put in charge or picking out a new audio setup for a dance studio. I've done some thinking, and talked it over a bit with friends/audio shops, but would like the collective opinion of htf! So any input you can give me would be much appreciated.

    The dance floor is approximately 1000 sq. feet with ~20 foot ceilings, and an opening to another large area. The opening goes all the way across the short side, but there are shelves covering about 2/3 of it, and the adjoined area is roughly the same size in square footage, but has regular height ceilings.

    The system they have is severely lacking and sounded quite muddled. It was lower end gear picked up from guitar center a few years ago. With a budget of roughly $2,500, my first idea was to put two floor standers along one of the long sides, and a sub in the corner, just off the dance floor. After discussing the idea with someone at a local audio shop, it seems like the way to go would be several pairs of bookshelf speakers mounted up on the walls, and a sub to fill out the low end.

    Now the store I visited carries Paradigm, but I am a huge fan of internet direct companies (I have an Axiom center and towers, and an SVS PB1-ISD), so I am thinking about going that route. Their suggestion was 2-3 pairs of Monitor 3's or 5's, plus a sub (PW 2100?). Personally I was thinking of ordering 2-3 pairs of Axiom M3ti's or M22ti's and a SVS PB2-ISD. I know the M22ti's are supposed to be great bookshelf speakers, and with the Axiom metal bracket they can be hung on the walls, but would it be that big of a step up from the M3ti's? I know the PB2 would blow the Paradigm out of the water, but is it sufficient for such a large space? What do you all think? Another speaker I would consider is the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170. Highly reputable and wall mountable with the Omnimount series 20. As far as prices go, the CBM's fall between the M3 and M22s, but where are these in relation to the Paradigms? I believe I was quoted $299 for the Mini Monitors, but don't recall prices on the 3 or the 5.

    Oh yes, this system will be used day in and day out, 6 days a week, at moderate to high volume. The most important things here are filling the room with sound and clarity!

    As far as powering the speakers, it sounds like a pre-amp with a couple amps is a good idea. The Parasound Zpre/Zamp was suggested by the audio shop. With two pairs of speakers, this would be 40 wpc with two Zamps. Is it possible to hook up three pairs of speakers with the Zpre? It only has 2 av outs.

    Thanks again for your help, sorry for such a long post!
     
  2. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    I think I would seriously consider going with pro audio speakers for this application. Also, if this dance studio is like the dance studios I've seen I wouldn't put a sub in there. Every studio I've seen has hardwood floors with mirrors lining the walls and not an inch of fabric anywhere in sight. This is a nightmare for a sub (and acoustics in general). You should really consider a company like EAW. They are some of the most respected PA speakers around. Also, Klipsch makes some pretty good PA speakers. Then get a pro amp (Crown, Mackie, Behringer, etc). Or, you could check out Mackie's powered speakers to simplify things a little. They sound pretty good for what they are (though not as good as EAW's). These speakers are much more tailored to your application and I think you'd have much better results.
     
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Evan, Seth is on the right track – look at pro audio equipment. Never – I repeat never - consult with a hi-fi or home theater shop for a commercial or professional application or installation. It’s a whole ‘nother ballgame and they have no idea what they’re doing.

    For instance, you mention the system will be played at moderate to high levels, six days a week. Add to that the fact that you have 20,000 cubic ft. to fill with sound, and the requirements are fairly challenging for equipment that is essentially designed for relatively small spaces. Bottom line, home audio equipment is simply not built to withstand this kind of demanding, continual use. If it were, you’d regularly see it in used in theaters, churches, restaurants, etc.

    Next, Seth is absolutely correct that a dance studio, with its plethora of hard surfaces, is a challenge enough for the upper frequencies. Since you’ve been there and heard the existing system, you’ve also heard the excessive reverberation. Adding a sub will only muddy things up more.

    You didn’t give any details about how the multiple speakers would be implemented, but I’m guessing they would be hung on the walls around the room? Bad idea. The problem is that this will cause a kind of ”echo” effect (on top of the reverberation situation). The students will first hear the sound of the speaker closest to them, followed by sounds of the speakers farther away. This is why anytime they use secondary speakers in a professional environment (such as an auditorium), they are set up for a slight delay; in other words, they don’t “fire” until the sound from the front of house reaches that point.

    Seth’s advice to get a good pro amp and speakers from the reputable brands he mentioned is good, but it will most certainly blow your budget out of the water. I assume you already have an amp to drive the current speakers. Unless it’s on its last legs or not powerful enough, I’d keep it and invest the whole sum in some good speakers from EAW, Carvin, JBL, Peavey, etc. Pro speakers have a significant advantage over home speakers in that they’re very efficient; it doesn’t take a lot of power to drive them to high volumes. This, of course, gets the most from the existing amplifier.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  4. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Wow, thanks so much for all your input!

    I had no idea that going to a hi-fi store was a bad idea. I know they do custom theater installs and stuff like that, so I figured they'd be capable of something on this sort of scale.

    Yea, the speakers were going to be hung on the walls above the mirrors and on the rear wall as well. I wanted to use two main speakers, but the hi-fi guy talked me into bookshelves all the way around because he didn't think two main speakers would fill the room.

    Surprisingly enough they have a similar setup to what you are both describing now. They have a QSC Audio amp powering the two PA speakers. I'm fairly sure it's the RMX 1450 model which does 450 watts into 4 ohms. They also have EAW speakers from what I believe is the JFX range.

    So it sounds like they have some decent equipment already, but it just doesn't sound very good at all. The bass is all muddy, and the rest of the sound isn't very clear either. They currently have the speakers on the floor because they didn't want to bother with the stands, which also take up real estate on the dance floor. I am guessing this is not helping the overall sound one bit at all. Would acoustic treatment for the upper walls be a good idea? The mirror on one long side doesn't go all the way up, and the rear wall just has pictures hanging on it. How could I improve the sound of their current system? Also, they would like it to be aesthetically pleasing, as it's a place of business [​IMG].

    Their CD player is dying on them as well. It's a Stanton dual deck player with loop functions and jog dials for moving forward/backward. Can you recommend a replacement for that as well? How is Stanton as a company for pro audio gear? I know they make good mixers, but what about their other cd players? I've heard good things about the Pioneer CD players.

    Thanks again Seth and Wayne for your help!
     
  5. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Yeah, sounds like they have some pretty decent stuff. I would take that money and try to get the speakers up off the ground (look into options that do not require stands). PA speakers will always sound better if the tweeter is above ear level. Acoustical treatment around the top of the room could certainly help. Also, if they have a drop ceiling you may consider acoustically treated ceiling tiles. This could be very important because you obviously can't cover the floor, so if you have the ceiling treated sound will bounce off the floor then be absorbed by the ceiling.

    If you can fly the speakers and get some acoustical treatments in place I think it'll start to sound better.
     
  6. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    a couple of suggestions to go along with here...

    1. NO SUBWOOFER'S!

    2. Strongly consider installing a decent EQ, and build in the following sort of curve: cut the low frequencies; start rolling off maybe around 180Hz, and down by 16dB by 60Hz. Start rolling off the high end once you pass 6-8kHz. The dancers need clarity, and the dominant band of useful information is in the 'vocal' range. Anything else generally becomes noise.

    3. QSC makes good amps. Keep the amp.

    4. I would also go with two speakers, sort of in the front corner areas. Is this ideal? No, but then most performance spaces aren't ideal, either. If you did want to go with more speakers spaced along the walls, I wouldn't worry too much about the delay - you didn't give the dimensions, but the square root indicates a roughly 30'x30' hall; that's what, 24ms delay from one extreme to the other?

    The thing is, often times in the performance venue, the sound will come from one two points (unless you're in a real venue with a real sound system that would cost you considerably more to rent than you have to work on the studio space!) If nothing else, this will help the dancers work with the delay caused by the two-point origin.

    4. For sound-reinforcement, we generally use some Bose 802 monsters - these are from Bose Industrial -- NOT Bose consumer. For coverage and intelligibility, they aren't terrible. For people who really care about how they sound, well, they're not the best.

    5. For a CD player, go to Tascam. Especially consider the Tascam CD-A500; it's a CD and Cassette player that is very nice. ( http://www.tascam.com/product_info.p...83&nav=cdcp_cd )

    5. I'd consider trying to get the speakers mounted higher - maybe 8' off the ground. Once you re-eq the room, things should improve a great deal.

    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  7. Mitch N

    Mitch N Stunt Coordinator

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    Everything posted by Leo I agree with. I actually went to hip hop dance classes for a long time and always analyzed their audio setup and kept pointing out it's deficiencies.

    Subs are not needed, an active EQ is needed, and tapering off the highs will be important to make the experience pleasurable. And, all those hard surfaces will make the highs pierce your ears.

    You could go with 2-4 bookshelf speakers if going with something that is using a 8" or smaller woofer. Or a pair of larger towers that use a larger 10-12" woofer and put those up on the wall on heavy duty brackets.

    Good luck
     
  8. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Seth, how would you suggest mounting the speakers without stands? The wall they need to be against has mirrors along it, so they could only be wall mounted about 10+ feet high. What about hanging them some how from the ceiling? I've only mounted surround speakers for a ht before, so mounting these large PA speakers seems quite different. And where would i get acoustically treated ceiling tiles? And if it's not a drop ceiling, what could I put there instead?

    Leo, that's interesting that you stress not having a woofer. I would think dancers would want to feel the beat. But I trust y'all, which is why I came to htf for advice [​IMG]. Who makes a nice pro eq? I understand the process of setting up a ht (w/ Avia etc.), but would I just take SPL measurements around the room at difference frequencies to flatten the response? Or just at the sweet spot? Would above 8' high be problematic for mounting?

    Mitch, what sort of acoustic treatment did they employ in the dance studio you were at?

    Y'all are awesome [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  9. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Leo, what about the Tascam CD-302 v4? I don't think they need a tape deck at all. I've never seen anyone at the studio use tapes before. I saw the 302 online for ~$700, and if there's a budget of $2,500 to improve the sound quality, it fits in quite nicely since the speakers/amp don't need to be replaced.
     
  10. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Check out http://www.silentsource.com/ceilings-ac-sonex.html for lots of good acoustical treatments. The link goes directly to ceiling tiles, but there are other products there as well. If it's not a drop-ceiling you could find some way to attach regular acoustical panels to the ceiling.

    Here's a suggestion for the speaker -- the QuikLok QL-90. Be sure to double-check the speaker weights before ordering though.

    http://www.quiklok.com/

    I don't think hanging higher than 8ft would be a problem, but you might angle them down some. Also, if the speakers have "fly points" you could hang them from the ceiling, just be sure to use the proper equipment and weight ratings so that safety is not a concern.

    Look into dbx, Alesis, and Behringer for affordable EQ's.
     
  11. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    The reasons why I suggested the Tascam CD/Tape combo are,

    1. I've worked with it; it's very nice, robust, and has some excellent features for dealing with tape playback in show-type situations. (CD playback, too.)

    2. We just recently got bitten at a dance studio concert where we were doing sound-reinforcement. Surprise, surprise! The girl who was going to sing the Anthem at the start of the show had her music on cassette! You never know when you're going to be bitten by the cassette bug... our CD-A500 was in a different rack at another show. Fortunatly, we could fake it for the rehearsal, and burnt it to CD that night.

    For what it's worth, we also had the modifications to the Tascam to make it balanced i/o (XLR ports) only to interface with our Mackie and Allan+Heath consoles.

    As for feeling the beat, most music has enough of the beat still in the 80-240Hz range. They may not feel it in their chests, but, on the other hand, if you're pumping the useful range, you can run it harder and still keep the clarity that you didn't have with the true, full-range setup.

    We mostly use dbx equalizers, but there are all sorts of people out there that make decent boxes. I have an unreasoned bias against Rane - I really don't know why.

    As for 'tuning' the room - don't worry! The best thing to use in this case are your ears. Go with the following criteria:

    1. Clarity
    2. Comfortable volume
    3. Coverage.

    This is not a critical listening environment. Generally, you have the dancers leaping around like maniacs, the dance teacher yelling at them, and all sorts of other things all going at the same time. Might as well try and EQ an interstate highway.

    Remember, when you're setting the EQ, you aren't trying for flat. You're trying for clarity.

    I know it's hard - I've been doing reinforcement for close to ten years now, and I still kick myself every now and again, reminding myself that it's different.

    Leo Kerr
     
  12. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    aside regarding sound-treatments:

    Also a generally easy thing to do is to apply heavy curtains to the non-mirrored walls. It does cover the artwork, though.

    And while you don't anticipate fire, be aware of fire-supression issues, remembering the Rhode Island club-fire a year or so ago.

    Leo
     
  13. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Thanks a lot guys! I feel like I understand what needs to be done now, but if I have any more questions I know where to ask [​IMG].
     
  14. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Evan,

    If I may add a belated postscript to Leo’s excellent advice:

    It occurred to me early in this thread that an equalizer would probably be a good thing, but I was hesitant to recommend one. The reason is, no matter how carefully you set it, you can be sure that someday some “audio expert” will come through and re-arrange the curve in a “smiley face.”

    To protect against that, I recommend a couple of things.

    First, I suggest using a parametric equalizer. The smiley-face audio experts find them intimidating because they don’t know what they are or how to use them. Therefore they will be prone to leave it alone.

    Second, after you have the equalizer set, install a security cover on it and, if possible, tuck it away somewhere out of sight. The store the studio bought the gear at can probably sell you a security cover.

    The good thing about the parametric is that it will be easy to dial in the bass and treble roll-offs that Leo recommended. Furthermore, they will allow you to fine-tune the turnover frequency to get the most bass before it starts getting muddy, and the most treble before it starts sounding harsh, and you can adjust how steep the slopes will be.

    You might check into a Rane PE-15. It’s not the most renowned parametric equalizer out there, but for this application it will do just fine. You can get them dirt cheap on eBay – typically under $125 – and they are simple to operate for a parametric. The top and bottom filters can be switched to a shelving function, to easily dial in those response drops you need.

    This will leave three other filters to tweak the sound, if needed. You’ll probably find it easy do dial in that “clarity” Leo was talking about by setting one of those filters for a half-octave or so bandwidth, boost about 5-6dB, and sweep the frequency knob until you find the “sweet spot.” Then you can fine-tune the boost – i.e., reduce it if need be, to where it sounds right. You want the clarity to “be there,” but not exaggerated.

    The next thing is that this system should be set up for mono. Stereo only works well in an environment where the listeners can sit in a “sweet spot.” Therefore stereo is not intended for public-listening applications like this, where the majority of people will not be in the sweet spot.

    You didn’t mention what’s between the CD player and the amplifier, but if they’re using a small mixer, it will convert the signal to stereo by positioning the “pan” controls straight up. A benefit of mono, from a hardware perspective, is that only one equalizer will be needed. Most pro amps have a “parallel” switch, which sends the signal from either input to both channels, so only one output from the mixer to the amp is needed.

    That Stanton CD player they have is a DJ unit and has a lot of controls they don’t have a need for. Leo’s recommendation to replace it with the dual-purpose Tascam is excellent. I can certainly see his “you never know” point, but I can also see why you would be reluctant to spring for that unit, if you are certain the cassette section will probably never be used.

    What you might do is go ahead and get a Tascam CD player, and pick up a cassette deck somewhere “on the cheap” - at a pawnshop, perhaps. This way you won’t sink hardly anything into cassette capability, but will have one on hand, just in case.

    Also, other manufacturers of players you might want to consider are Marantz Professional and Denon Pro Audio. You can see them here at the Denon/Marantz Professional website (the model numbers with a “D” prefix is the Denon gear). However, Tascam is probably the most respected brand of the three.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  15. Drew_W

    Drew_W Screenwriter

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    Maybe you should contact an acoustician as well? The effects you're having may well just be the room acoustics. And even if it's not a huge contributing factor now, it will be when you put in a new sound system (as some have alluded to).
     
  16. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    A follow-up on the Mono/Stereo issue.

    Very important, and one I sort of forgot. (Well, no one is perfect.)

    However, when you do the Stereo to Mono conversion, make sure that both channels are getting summed!

    We've been bitten a couple of times when we just yanked off, say, the left channel. Hm. There was something important (ie: cue) on the right channel...

    Leo Kerr
     
  17. Evan:R

    Evan:R Agent

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    Wayne,
    I love it, smiley-face audio experts [​IMG]. I was one of those when I was younger :b. Are PE's hard to setup? I understand how a regular EQ works just fine, but haven't seen a PE before. They also have a Denon CD player with pitch adjustment, which should be functional, but they opted to use a DJ style deck for its looping functions and for the jog dials. I believe the Denon is a DN-C615. I must say that I'm quite surprised (and embarrassed?) to find out that they already have a majority of the gear being suggested!

    Maybe they should just hire someone like Leo to come do sound reinforcement [​IMG]. Anyone have any suggestions for someone in the SF Bay Area?
     
  18. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    SF is a little far for us to travel... (what, 3500 miles? It'd break your budget!)

    Anyway, setting a parametric EQ up isn't too terrible. Generally, there will be two or three knobs for each function: center frequency, and boost/cut. I think I can imagine seeing a third knob on some hardware that was a 'width' adjustment.

    Anyway, the Center Frequency is a knob marked with, say, 2K - 8K - which translates simply to somewhere in the band of 2K to 8K. No big deal. The boost-cut will probably be something like +/- 10dB (or 16dB.)

    The first and last 'bands' may, as Wayne mentioned, be selectable to be 'shelving' bands. This means, in essence, that they become high- and low-pass filters with a tunable 'wall.' (Think of it as a brick-wall filter, except they're generally a little more gentle than that.) Shelving filters are often known as rumble filters... and on one of our Allen+Heath boards, that one goes up to 400Hz!

    Leo Kerr
     

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