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L-Acoustics Ai Series loudspeakers head up the new system helping the Long Beach State Walter Pyramid overcome its inherent acoustical challenges.

L-Acoustics Deployed In Sonic Remake At Long Beach State Walter Pyramid

Idibri and Vizual Symphony equip unique sports and events space for the California university's athletic deparment with new system incorporating Ai Series loudspeakers joined by KS21i subs and more.

The Long Beach State Walter Pyramid, one of four architecturally true pyramids in the U.S. and the sports and event space for the California university’s athletics department, has been outfitted with a new sound reinforcement system headed by L-Acoustics Ai Series loudspeakers in a project handled by the team of Dallas-based Idibri and Burbank, CA-based Vizual Symphony.

Opened in 1994, the uniqueness of the building’s exterior also presents interior geometric challenges. Believed to be the largest space-frame structure in North America, the Walter Pyramid measures 345 feet on each side of its square base, accommodating three full basketball courts and four additional half basketball courts, with a unique cantilevered seating system mounted on moveable platforms.

The venue’s previous and original PA system utilized outdated technology. For example, the truss-hung loudspeakers had stopped working earlier in the year and were being supplanted by portable loudspeakers.

“It was the original sound system, installed in the early 1990s, and it was pretty old technology that was simply ineffective for this type of building,” says Mark Edrington, senior associate athletics director at Long Beach State. He also knew that sourcing a new sound system for the venue would be a challenge, citing its geometry, its unique seating system, and the venue’s requirements to accommodate a wide range of activities from sports to banquets. Unlike many venues with retractable seating, the lower bowl at Walter Pyramid is hinged and raises in drawbridge-like sections to create an open flat floor. In this “seats up” configuration, the metal undersides of the seating sections become acoustical reflectors around the lower bowl.

“In terms of audio, they were limping along in there,” says Susan Holguin, founding CEO of Vizual Symphony, the integrator that installed the new system, which was the culmination of two years’ development of a system design by consultancy Idibri, a Salas O’Brien company. That system would come to include, after safety inspections, a replacement of the entire truss system, which was no small task in a building with no parallel surfaces.

Then, the entire cable path had to be rewired, with new, heavy-duty 8-gauge audio cables needing to run as long as 190 feet to the highest point. In retrospect, says Holguin, who worked on the project with Long Beach State project manager Marc Joves and Production Access Group CEO Ben Frederick, it made the installation of the loudspeaker system seem like a breeze.

The new loudspeaker configuration is typical for an arena installation: a four-sided cluster with A15i Focus speakers as the main enclosures, two per hang except for one hang, which has only one A15i in order to shorten it above an area with no bleachers. All four hangs are buttressed with one A15i Wide on the bottom and one KS21i sub on the top. A horizontally-hung array of four A10i Wide provide court-floor coverage. One LA2Xi and one LA4X amplified controllers power and process the entire system.

Edrington, who has oversight of all of the school’s athletics facilities, is the sports administrator for women’s and men’s volleyball and water polo as well as women’s soccer, and also oversees the implementation of all Athletics capital improvement projects. He states that he was receptive to the idea of the L-Acoustics brand. “They’d been in touch with us over the years,” he says. “Prior to the pandemic, they even came in and did a sound assessment for the Walter Pyramid.”

That would prove helpful, he adds, noting the venue’s very tall structure and what he calls its “tricky” acoustics. “The old sound system had acoustical challenges because of the unique shape and design of the building. The volume setting for the lower seating area would be at one level while fans in the upper seats were literally getting blasted,” Edrington notes. “Sound in here is challenging, but L-Acoustics seems to have conquered it by making the sound consistent throughout.”

Idibri’s Ryan Knox adds, “We used the flexibility of the Ai Series’ vertical and horizontal patterns to maximize coverage of the seats and minimize sound hitting the walls in both the ‘seats up’ and ‘seats down’ configurations. Soundvision proved out the coverage quickly and EASE was used to verify that the design was optimized for the unique acoustical environment and would achieve the intelligibility goals, which it did.”

Holguin concludes, “The loudspeaker system went without a hitch, and when we turned it on, it was exciting. They’ve also installed a nice, big video wall, and seeing and hearing all of these new systems makes it feel like a brand-new arena. I think the highest compliment it’s gotten so far is on social media, where people were posting that they could hear the announcers clearly over the noise of the screaming fans. Now that’s a powerful PA.”

Go here to find out more about the Long Beach State Walter Pyramid.

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