Consistently ranked as one of the best outdoor amphitheaters in the U.S., the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands, Texas suffered extensive damage when Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast in September, 2008. Now, after a $9.5 million renovation project funded largely by charitable donations, the 16,040-capacity venue is back at the top of its game, equipped with a brand-new Electro-Voice sound system designed and installed by LD Systems of Houston, Texas.
A concert by the Dave Matthews Band on May 1 marked the official reopening of the Pavilion, followed on May 3 by a capacity crowd for country superstar Kenny Chesney. Over the course of the summer, the venue will host shows by some of the biggest names in music, including Coldplay, No Doubt, Rod Stewart, Three Doors Down, Depeche Mode, Kid Rock, Chicago, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard. Celebrating its 20th season this year, the Pavilion is also a major venue for classical musical performances.
The new-look Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion features many new post-Ike perks, including an expanded roof and almost 4,000 additional covered seats, but it is the sound system covering the outdoor lawn area beyond the amphitheater’s Teflon roof that’s causing the biggest stir. The lawn, which can accommodate over 11,500 guests, is addressed by a state-of-the-art EV XLC system comprising 32 XLCi127DVX (120-degree horizontal coverage pattern) and eight XLCi907DVX (90-degree) line array loudspeakers, mounted in various configurations on a total of nine posts. All the boxes are level-three weatherized. The system is powered by 31 P3000RL remote-control amplifiers, and controlled via a NetMax N8000-1500 digital matrix/processor with FIR-drive, running IRIS-Net control and supervision software.
Robert Ausmus, Director of Production Services, LD Systems, comments on the EV installation: “The lawn system is an essential part any ‘shed’ style venue (industry coinage for a combination covered/outdoor auditorium venue). Whereas an act’s touring PA will be deployed to cover the covered seating area, the house lawn system—typically one or more permanently installed delay rings—is critical to cover the large part of the audience out on the grass. The main Front-of-House speaker systems can change from night-to-night, but the lawn system always needs to sound great, and needs to be of the highest quality to meet the most stringent rider specifications. Since the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is considered one of the premier outdoor venues in the US, we looked to the EV product line that has proven itself to us on dozens of our major tours, such as our most recent Sarah Brightman North American Tour and/or at major annual events like the Houston Rodeo or NFR Rodeo Finals – Las Vegas.”
Already a cut above other outdoor venues in the US, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion now has what Ausmus calls “the ultimate dream lawn system — and more than likely one of the best lawn systems on the North American shed circuit.” As well as sounding superb, the system is also easy to use, thanks to NetMax: “The touring engineers provide a matrix feed of their mix, which is fed through NetMax,” explains Ausmus. “From there, the lawn system is time-aligned to the sound wing, so the audio can be delayed to the first ring of speakers; the second ring of speakers is then delayed back to the first ring to ensure accurate time alignment. This is all built into the N8000-1500, and common groups of speakers over the nine positions can be controlled and monitored in IRIS-Net, which is unheard of in typical lawn configurations. We’re able to better control and manipulate more zones to get the best possible results.”
The system proved its superior flexibility and control when it made its debut at the venue’s reopening, alongside the Dave Matthews Band. “The concert sounded great,” says Ausmus. “We’re very happy with results, and the venue was thrilled to be back with an even better sound than they had before. It even impressed the band, and that’s saying something, because the Dave Matthews Band’s crew has very high standards. They are one of the few crews that will come to a venue like this and take a lawn system to task because they take every aspect of their concert sound so seriously. Everyone knows that lawn systems are typically where old speaker systems go to die, so expectations for lawn sound are never very high. But the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is one of the top outdoor amphitheaters in the country, so everyone expects a lot from it in terms of sound quality. It needed to have the very best for its lawn system.”
Kenny Chesney kept the Pavilion rocking two days later when his tour rolled in with one of the biggest touring systems in the US, featuring a Midas XL8, two Midas PRO6 consoles, 12-over-12 main hangs of EV X-Line Xvls and Xsub line arrays, 16 XLC127DVX loudspeakers for out-fills, and Dynacord VL 262s for apron fills, all processed with EV N8000 processors running FIR-drive and IRIS-Net control software. Needless to say, the XLC arrays installed at the venue blended in seamlessly.
“After this weekend’s performances, the future definitely looks bright for the new Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion,” says Ausmus. “We’re just scratching the surface of the potential this system has. It was exciting to channel our success and expertise with EV equipment in the touring realm into a prestigious permanent installation project like this. The whole process was a smooth collaboration between our Production Services Department and our Systems Integration Department. Tom Smith, the LD Systems Engineer on the project, mapped the system and Mike ‘Monk’ Shear (LD) and George Georgallis (EV Tech Support) provided all the NetMax / IRIS-Net programming. LD’s Nelson Wilcox served as Project Manager on the project, efficiently and effectively guiding the installation process under a very aggressive construction schedule.”
32 XLCi127DVX (Level 3 weatherization)
8 XLCi907DVX (Level 3 weatherization)
31 P3000RL Processed with NetMax N8000-1500 w/ FIR-drive
The world’s most effective system control and configuration software, providing a unique set of tools with easily configured, user-defined interfaces. IRIS-Net provides the ultimate in control and configuration flexibility and performance. Proven on the world’s largest tours, at the biggest events, and in the most prestigious installations, IRIS-Net reaches new heights of user-friendly sophistication in 2009 with Version 2.0.
Developed and field-tested on the Kenny Chesney tour and at the Houston Rodeo – two of the world’s biggest, most critical proving grounds for audio technologies – the FIR-drive system employs state-of-the art Finite Impulse Response filters and processing to provide linear phase performance for sonic clarity and improved pattern control beyond all other DSP and system drive packages.