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Carnegie Hall Makes History

-First Concert Hall to House Yamaha PM1D Digital Console- (July 17, 2001)
For over 100 years, New York City's Carnegie Hall has been a name that is synonymous with musical and sonic excellence, playing host to the world's greatest orchestras, conductors, soloists, dancers and even political rallies. Architect William Burnet Tuthill, an accomplished musician, designed the landmark structure at 7th Avenue and 57th Street based on similar European venues with superior acoustics. At the first concert, performed on May 5, 1891 under the direction of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the premier benefactor, tycoon Andrew Carnegie, noted, "I believe that this hall will have significance in the history of this country, and the history of the world."

That sense of history came into play when Carnegie Hall began an extensive renovation and restoration project in May of 1986, re-opening in December with its Recital Hall and 2800-seat main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, restored to original 19th century magnificence with famous acoustics remaining intact.

Renovations extended beyond aesthetics to include upgrades to the house sound system in 1988-a work in progress, explains John Cardinale, house sound engineer, as constant advances in music technology and changing demographics pose the unique challenge of acoustic versus amplified sound.

"Carnegie Hall has a reputation as a natural acoustic venue," Cardinale explains. "Isaac Stern is a live room, with a 1.8 reverb time, RT60. When required, amplification and reinforcement needs to be so transparent that it falls to the quality of an acoustic show."

As part of the on-going renovations, the sound system was upgraded to include, most recently, a Yamaha PM1D digital mixing system and speaker systems from Meyer Sound. Consultation and design was completed by David Andrews of Andrews Audio, John Monitto from Meyer Sound and acoustical consultants Art-Tec, who performed extensive acoustic and RASTI measurements. The decision to purchase a large format digital front of house console came about through recommendations, and the need for future expansion. "We had an analog board for 11 years, and it worked very well," Cardinale explains. "However, we were intrigued by the capabilities and the sound of digital consoles when they were first introduced, so we convinced management to make an investment in a quality front of house console as part of our upgrade. Our decision to go with the PM1D was based, for the most part, on an established paradigm in sound reinforcement," he continues, "and that's the signal flow and layout of the Yamaha PM4000."

"The majority of the touring acts that come to Carnegie Hall specify a 4K on their rider, and the control surface of the PM1D is very similar. We found that you can set it up to work on the surface, and don't have to page through menus. Once it's up and running and you're comfortable with it, you start looking to get into deeper layers and want to start storing scenes. We are hopeful that over time, the PM1D will establish a new paradigm to the point where a visiting engineer can get out a FLASH memory card and simply recall their show."

"The selection of specs seemed to meet our needs," he adds. "Space is always an issue, and this board was much more compact than some of the others we auditioned. We lose three seats, maximum. We're using everything on the PM1D. What impressed us the most is that it's extremely stable, and sounds very quiet and clean, almost like a digital recording console. And, it translates the audio passing through without colorization. We were also impressed with the on-board effects, and that saves additional rack space."

Carnegie Hall's main PA consists of a center cluster, comprised of three Meyer powered MSL4 cabinets and four CQ1 cabinets, with side stacks consisting of four MSL4 and two PSW2 cabinets. "The front fills are UPM1Ps that lay across the stage, since there's no way they could be installed in the fascia," Cardinale adds. "The delay lines consist of 14 Meyer UPM 1's in the balconies."

"The main PA system is aligned, balanced and EQ'd with the Meyer SIM System II, which 'proof tests' and keep the system running. For the delay lines, we have Meyer CP10s for EQ, and an LD-1 line driving unit to balance the levels. A Meyer RMS (Remote Monitoring System) provides an amazing amount of information on the powered speakers. For instance, if a driver or amp is blown, the temperature in the box, that type of data. All the subsystems are delayed, even the cluster is delay tapered to itself. The SIM system will show interference patterns from one tier of the cluster to the next. The only difference in the system is amplitude-you really don't have to run it at a certain level to sound good. It's a clean, linear system with a very flat response, and all in phase."

Eight precisely-matched-response Countryman EMW microphones (each personally equipped by Carl Countryman) with lavalier heads set in OMNI pattern, hang throughout the house as sources for the SIM system. A pair of Schoepps MK2 mics hang over the stage to provide source for the in-house recording studio (located on the third floor), while an AKG C422 stereo microphone, set in Blumline pattern, feeds program material to the offices and backstage, and has also been used for live-to-2-track archival recordings.

Backstage, an external rack holds the RMS computer, front of house IRP Transversal 30-band graphic equalizers, a dbx 900 Series rack with gates and compressors, Yamaha SPX900 and SPX1000 multi effects processors, and a Lexicon PCM70. "We're also using the onboard reverbs of the PM1D to save space," Cardinale notes.

A portable house monitor system consists of a RAMSA WRS40 console, seven Meyer UM1 cabinets driven by Crown MA1200 amplifiers, and a rack containing IRP EQs and dbx compressors. "Our amplification format is small," he says, "but we have the ability to supplement it with outside gear."

Cardinale notes that while classical music has lost some of its audience, it is not in decline in the quality of performances. Union contracts and house rules limit the size of the shows, which also precludes some types of performances. "Back in the 70's, there was a season where Carnegie Hall hosted 75 rock performances, which was very hard on the facility, those types of bookings were cut back. In addition to the classical dates, we handle a variety of pop, jazz and comedy.

"The rock shows we do generally have more 'panache,' such as the Wyclef Jean Foundation Benefit, Sting's Rainforest Benefit, and John Mellencamp."

Audience demand for a variety of programming has led to the construction of Zankel Hall, located directly under the main structure. When completed, the 650-seat venue will serve as a multi-purpose facility dedicated to non-traditional productions, modern and experimental electronic music, performance arts, as well as parties and banquets. Set to open in late 2002, the facility will be set up in "black box" style, and feature surround sound, moving lights, motorized rigging and flooring controlled by a JR Clancy Shamrock system.

Construction involves the daunting task of blasting and digging out 10-12 feet of bedrock to accommodate the flyrails and pits for the platform motors. Acousticians specified a minimum of 30-ft of ceiling height from the stage for the necessary volume for good acoustics.

"It's a huge job, but it will move us into the future," Cardinale adds. "Carnegie realized how important this facility was for cultural history, and everyone who works here maintains that sense of history and importance. After all, people aspire to come here."

For more information on the PM1D, write Yamaha Corporation of America, Pro Audio & Combo Division, Commercial Audio, P.O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90622; telephone (714) 522-9011; e-mail; or visit

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