The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) has implemented a new Meyer Sound LEOPARD linear sound reinforcement system in its home, Davies Symphony Hall. While highly regarded for the orchestral acoustics, the hall's warm and reverberant characteristics pose a suite of challenges for its amplified events, which have evolved and diversified under the leadership of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Now with LEOPARD, SFS can offer the same world-class experience it brings to traditional orchestral events to its range of amplified programs, such as film series, pop concerts, Broadway favorites, and leading-edge contemporary music.
"Regardless of content, sound reinforcement should feel natural and undistorted and defined and clear so that you can focus on what is on stage," says SFS Operations Director Andrew Dubowski. "LEOPARD is an exponential improvement in how we're able to offer amplified concerts. The system can fool me into thinking the sound is not really amplified, even though I know it is—that feels like magic."
LEOPARD replaces a central above-stage loudspeaker cluster installed in the 2,743-seat venue in 1992. The new configuration includes twin arrays of 14 LEOPARD line array loudspeakers and three 900-LFC low-frequency control elements per side. The system's first show was a performance of John Cage's "Renga" narrated by actor Tim Robbins.
"It's extremely comfortable and reassuring, in that I'm not getting boxed in by the system and its capabilities when I'm mixing," says Head Sound Engineer Hal Nishon Soogian. "The system isn't fighting me. If I need some higher end, it doesn't get brittle. I use very little EQ on my inputs. I try to pick the correct mic for the correct instrument and do very little to it, so you get no coloration."
Stage Electrician Jim Jacobs adds: "It's exciting, after so long trying to solve some of these problems, to have a system that puts sound presence so clearly in every seat."
The San Francisco Symphony, founded in 1911, presents more than 220 performances annually and reaches an audience of nearly 600,000 through its concerts, education and community programs, media initiatives, and national and international tours.
The newest and smallest member of Meyer Sound's growing LEO Family, the patent-pending LEOPARD boasts tremendous power-to-size ratio with ultra-low distortion. Each LEOPARD loudspeaker is optimized for an array of six cabinets or longer, with default low-mid array compensation for utmost simplicity out of the box.