Lamar University upgrades audio with Unica platform

Neches Federal Credit Union Arena at the Montagne Center, a multi-purpose indoor arena and events center at Lamar University in Texas, USA, has replaced its outdated audio system with an all-new setup powered by Powersoft’s cloud-based Unica amplifier platform.

Neches Arena is home to the Lamar Cardinals and Lamar Lady Cardinals basketball teams, both of which compete in the top-level NCAA Division I. The 10,746-seat Neches Arena also hosts volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling, boxing and martial arts events, as well as concerts and other live entertainment. Lamar University, the venue’s owner/operator, also rents the arena floor (which can be expanded to 1,855 sq. ft.) for graduations, proms, dances, banquets and conferences.

Kendall Bowman, acoustic engineer at Anthony James Partners (AJP), who designed and specified the new audio system, explains that the upgraded system had to deliver on multiple fronts as it had to be able to “meet the multi-functional needs of the arena, increase intelligibility, and provide sufficient power to meet the demand of the space.” The AJP-designed sound system replaced a previous setup consisting of just “a large full-range box and a pair of delay speakers,” which had fallen into disrepair and now no longer met the needs of the space, he adds. “The university wanted to bring the system up to date with current technology and improve the experience for event visitors. The design had to be robust and allow for years of consistent use.”

The specified system, as installed and configured by Bluum Technology, consists of four Unica 8K8 (8,000 W/eight-channel), two Quattrocanali 8804 DSP+D (9,600 W/four-channel) and one Ottocanali 8K4 (8,000 W/eight-channel) channel) amplifier platforms, along with a Midas M32 console, four Shure ULXD wireless microphones, a Q-SYS Core 110f processor and Netgear M4250 switches. The Powersoft amplifiers power a full Fulcrum speaker setup consisting of 20 FH15 and 24 CX826 speakers and four Sub218L subwoofers.

The speakers use the DSP built into the Powersoft amplifiers, with additional processing and control provided by the Q-SYS Core, installed by Bluum in a rack under the seats on the basketball court. The pull-out seats also house the Netgear switches, a touch panel and audio jacks. A redundant Dante AV-over-IP network transports sound via fiber optic cable to the control room, reveals Trey Bracamonte-Harrell, head of integration technology at Bluum.

As with many renovations of older venues (the Montagne Center was built in 1984), the design of the new sound system was limited by available space, with AJP having to work around the existing infrastructure – including the remains of the old system – Bowman continues and outlines the challenges his team and Bluum faced: “The old system had been repaired and updated many times, leaving traces of the old system behind, with many parts of the system in different locations. We wanted to ensure that the new system would have a permanent home and provide a clean result with as few locations as possible to house the equipment. Ultimately, we managed to work with the university to find a suitable location for the amplifiers and processing equipment, while maintaining easy access for maintenance and monitoring.”

That suitable location was a Middle Atlantic WRK rack, which houses the Powersoft amplifiers and networking equipment. This complements the under-seat rack (also a Middle Atlantic model) and a portable audiophile rack containing the console and microphones; elsewhere, AJP used the arena’s existing steel grid to find suitable mounting points for the speakers (while still leaving room to use the grid for staging visiting events).