Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium Never Sounded So Good

The upper collegiate sports tiers venerate their aging stadiums as they would a great library or chapel. Fortunately, sound systems aren’t included in landmark-status qualifications, which lets these “mature” facilities be updated so that they can sound like freshmen again.

That’s the case at Michigan State University, where Spartan Stadium recently finished an audio overhaul that saw the 80,000-seat venue, which will be 90 years old next year, get a multimillion-dollar audio/video-systems upgrade. Included in the renovation are the Big Ten’s largest video board (at 5,412 sq. ft.) at its south end, two auxiliary video boards at its north end, and a new sound-reinforcement system.

The sound system, designed by Anthony James Partners Director of Audio Engineering Larry Lucas and installed by Pro Media/UltraSound under the guidance of Senior Designer/Engineer Demetrius Palavos, is surprisingly compact for its output, using just six Danley Jericho J3 boxes. Whereas the facility’s previous sound-reinforcement system resided in the south end zone, Lucas designed the new system to fire only from the north end.

“Previously, additional energy spilled out of the north side and into the community of East Lansing,” Lucas explains. “By placing all of the loudspeaker elements at the north side, we could be sure that any excess energy would spill out onto the campus instead.”

Lucas’s design uses the two smaller scoreboards on the north side as rigging points for the Danley Jericho J3s and the Danley TH-812 subwoofers that support them. The scoreboards are approximately 200 ft. apart, and the coverage from each effectively splits the stadium in two.

“Firing 500-600 ft. to the south-end-zone seating was the most complicated and difficult throw,” Palavos observes. “It’s a balancing act to get that right and to still get even coverage and SPL at midfield, beneath the clusters, and the upper deck.”

The system affixed to the northeast scoreboard is a mirror image of that attached to the northwest scoreboard. On each, a pair of stacked Danley Jericho J3s handle the far throw, whereas a single J3 handles the intermediate throw for the near- and medium-sideline stands. On each scoreboard, three vertically stacked Danley TH-812 subwoofers collapse the low-frequency beam to provide throw. Ten smaller Danley SH-46 loudspeakers provide fill for north-side areas that are in the acoustical voids of the larger boxes, such as very near the scoreboards and under the near balconies.

Other platforms in the system include a Yamaha LS9 mix console, whose output feeds a pair of Peavey MediaMatrix NION processors equipped with Dante cards, which in turn feed HP ProCurve network switches over fiber. At each scoreboard, Lab.gruppen 7000 and 9000 Series amplifiers power the Danley TH-812 subwoofers (with crossovers provided by the MediaMatrix NIONs) and the Danley SH-46 full-range loudspeakers.

The sound system has considerable operational robustness built into its design to allow for potential weather- and moisture-induced bugs. For instance, an analog backup over fiber allows the system to operate even if the MediaMatrix NION or its Dante network goes down. “In its processor, Danley has optimized the crossovers and processing necessary to get the very best performance from the J3,” says Palavos. “You can’t really re-create that in another manufacturer’s processor.”

All rack equipment is housed in environmentally controlled conditions, which include both air-conditioning and heat.

The system has been the kind of success story that is becoming more common as college stadiums and arenas look to compete against each other and major leagues: early reports indicate that the system coverage measures ±3 dB to each of the stadium’s nearly 80,000 seats. This combination of vintage venue and new technology might make student loans a bit more bearable.

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