VARIA Helps Millsaps College Solve a Sonic Challenge

Jackson, MS | October, 2014 - Founded by members of the Methodist Church in 1890, Millsaps College is a privately supported national liberal arts school located on a sprawling, leafy 103 acre campus near downtown Jackson, MS. Like many small colleges, the school's main auditorium acts as a multi-purpose venue, used for a wide range of events that includes lectures, city council meetings, panel discussions, recitals, music performances, and movie showings.

As Philip Boyd of Ridgeland, MS-based Academic Technologies explains, the college had long struggled to achieve consistent sound coverage across the venue, particularly with regard to vocal intelligibility. "It's mostly a recital hall, a very live room, with brick walls and a big pipe organ in it," says Boyd. "The previous two box center-cluster solution was underpowered and covered only a portion of the room – mostly a hot spot in the center about eight rows back. They wanted the ability to have a true versatile dynamic – to go from spoken word to musical programs. Achieving clarity in a board meeting or a panel discussion in that room with no treatment was difficult."

The hall's layout and design was another major contributor to poor intelligibility. "The room is about 85 feet deep by 50 feet wide, with steeply raked seating," Boyd continues. "So the ceiling is 25 feet at the stage, but only 8 feet at the back of the room, which makes uniform coverage even more of a challenge. It also created line-of-sight issues – the screen was partially obscured at the back of the room by the old center cluster."

After thorough assessment of the room, Boyd recommended the school replace the current system with a Renkus-Heinz VARIA Modular Point Source Line Array system. "The VARIA system was the best option to achieve the versatility we needed," Boyd observes. "VARIA's modular design gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of system placement and configuration. And VARIA's range of vertical and horizontal dispersion angles, together with its transitional waveguides, enabled us to custom configure a system that easily addressed the multiple challenges we had to deal with in the hall."

Academic Technologies replaced the old center cluster with left and right VARIA arrays. "We used two 7.5x60 degree VARIA systems on top, and then a 7.5x60/90 degree and a 22.5x90/120 degree, and complementing subs for each array," says Boyd. "The subs were flown beside the main array to minimize the vertical and visual component of the system, both to avoid interference with the large center video screen as well as the visual of the pipe organ when the screen is not in use. The VARIA arrays are 35 feet apart over the front of the stage, and we're still able to get coverage for the first two rows."

Boyd reports Millsaps college officials are exceptionally pleased with the new system. "The VARIA arrays enabled us to address both coverage and line-of-sight issues, and to achieve excellent intelligibility without changing the sound qualities of the room. Everybody has been very happy with the results."