The Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., has more than a century of history, dating back to 1914 just before the start of World War I, when it was known as Ringler’s Cotillion Hall.
The Romanesque building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, has served as a live music venue since the 1960s, when it hosted performances from artists including the Grateful Dead, Ike and Tina Turner and Buffalo Springfield, among others.
The latest reincarnation of the ballroom began in 1997, when McMenamins, a family-owned Pacific Northwest hospitality business, acquired the structure.
Today, it’s in the midst of another new chapter with a major audio equipment refresh, thanks to a Bose ShowMatch system facilitated by design, sales, and integration company Tone Proper AV, located in nearby Gresham, Ore.
The room, which accommodates 1,500 standing customers, presents myriad acoustical challenges.
The trapezoidal floor plan measures approximately 130 feet front to back and tapers significantly in width from the semi-circular stage, tucked into a front corner, to the rear bar. Adding to the challenge, the angled wall features eight massive windows.
“If you were to install a traditional line array in this room, you would have wasted 50 percent of that array’s energy just blasting the glass,” said Nick Moon, owner of Tone Proper AV.
Working with Bose Modeler sound system software in consultation with the team at Bose Professional, he configured the left and right hangs with eight Bose ShowMatch modules each:
- 6 SM5 (with five degrees of vertical dispersion)
- 1 SM10 (10 degrees)
- 1 SM20 (20 degrees) per array
The horizontal waveguides on each module of the stage’s right array direct the energy away from the windows. “It’s asymmetrical,” said Moon. “That blows people’s minds a little bit.”
The waveguides on the upper six SM5 boxes are set at 55 degrees and 70 degrees, and the SM10 and SM20 at the bottom are 100 degrees and 120 degrees, respectively.
“What’s cool is that they do it mechanically, not with DSP,” said Moon. “We’re putting the energy where we want it and it sounds really good. Many experienced mix engineers have stated it’s the first time in that room that they’ve heard a stereo perspective.”
Twelve Bose ShowMatch SMS118 subwoofers are ground-stacked six wide and two high against the curved front of the stage.
“We time-aligned all of them and got everything phase-aligned,” said Moon said.
“We deployed a cardioid array to create a null at the lead singer position on stage. If you’re playing bass-heavy music and you’re where the singer is, it’s tight, not boomy.”
To cover those audience members standing front and center, Moon installed two SM20 modules for front fill that sit atop the subs.
“There’s a balcony about 100 feet back where we have three Room Match Utility RMU208s providing under-balcony coverage,” said Moon.
“We’re running the whole thing bi-amped with 12 PowerMatch PM8500N amplifiers, so we’re able to do high-frequency shading on each module.”
That means there’s power to spare, said Moon.
Processing for the PA includes a Bose ControlSpace ESP-00 II engineered sound processor configured with a single AES3 8-channel input card as well as one Dante card, one ESPlink 8-channel output card, two four-channel mic/line input cards, and two four-channel line output cards.
“This configuration provides a high level of flexibility for visiting engineers when they bring their own desks to the venue,” said Moon. “For a loud rock venue you can put a lot of power in a very small footprint. Everybody said it was a huge improvement. All of their guys were freaking out about how much better it is.”