John Gallup Posted November 1, 2021 Share Posted November 1, 2021 (edited) I went to hear our San Diego Symphony lest night in their new waterfront venue, the Rady Shell. They were playing some of my favorite pieces (Beethoven #7, Schumann Piano Concerto, Wagner Tannhäuser Overture) rather than the summer pops stuff they used to do, and I hadn't been to a concert of theirs since the new conductor arrived. The names (of the conductor and musicians) are an artifact of their photo and not present on the real shell. They can do cool light shows on the surface but didn't do this last night. Not present in the photos are two large teevee screens on either side of the shell. Various soloists are highlighted at the appropriate points and it's neat to see them up close. I used this picture because it shows a number of interesting details from the audiophile point of view: (1) There are a lot of speakers to convey the sound of the orchestra. Not shown are the "surround sound" speakers on towers behind the audience. The setting is very nice, and some boats from the adjacent marina pulled up to freeload on the performance, but the vendor who did (some or maybe all of the acoustic design says they tried to keep the sound confined to the performance area to avoid noise complaints from nearby offices, hotels, condo towers, the convention center, etc. (2) The orchestra sits pretty far back in the shell, presumably for sound reasons. The fabric covering the structure is a mesh with transparent material over a white fiber structure. This would seem disastrous from an acoustic point of view. The wall behind the orchestra actually is mostly glass, but they had the curtains drawn last night as shown above. Last night the seating configuration was different from what's shown in the picture above, but we were approximately at the left edge of the white area in the middle of the photo. Any closer and it would have been harder to see the performers. I'm not a fit judge of which municipal orchestra is better than another, but the playing sounded very good. Unfortunately both my non-audiophile wife and I were quite aware of the sound seeming to come mostly from the left-hand speaker tower rather than the orchestra itself. And in fact the whole thing was quieter than we would have liked, particularly in the softer passages. The finale of the Beethoven was good and loud, though, and Rafael Payere, the conductor, is athletic and energetic on the podium, great fun to watch. On several occasions, though, horn passages seemed to enter too loudly and the percussion was often muffled and indistinct. Seagulls made occasional contributions to the performance, which was fun. It occurs to me that this is kind of the ultimate problem in "room" treatment. The conductor ensures that the performance sounds right to him, and then the technicians have to somehow make it sound right to an audience. In the linked description the acoustic vendor talks about digital signal processing so in fact we really weren't hearing an "acoustic" performance at all. I lived in Denver when the now-defunct Denver Symphony Orchestra debuted their "vineyard-style" facility, the Boettcher Concert Hall, which I believe was the first of its type in the US. It was modeled after the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, and is supposed to provide good sound in every seat. It took them quite a while to tune it , and a lot of the effort involved adding the conical sound-reflective disks visible above the state in the photo above. So I'm hopeful that SDSO can make some progress on this, but I'd still rather hear them in their regular venue, which is an old Fox Theater with modern office buildings and hotels wrapped around it. Edited November 1, 2021 by John Gallup Get photo of Boettcher Hall 1 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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