Created as an open-air venue for the San Diego Symphony, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego, California, opened on 6 August 2021. The structure is 57ft (17.4m) high and 92ft (28m) wide at the stage front, and features a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system.
The Rady Shell was designed to be suitable for large productions while enabling orchestra musicians to hear and respond to each other as well as they would in a top-tier concert hall. A Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system was installed inside the shell to create an optimum acoustical listening environment that can be fine-tuned for various performances. It is the first Constellation system designed for stage acoustics in an outdoor venue.
Equipping the shell structure with an active acoustic system for monitoring was strongly recommended by Shawn Murphy, an Oscar-winning film score mixer (and frequent FOH engineer for high-profile outdoor orchestral events) who served as special consultant to the orchestra.
Meyer Sound’s Constellation team designed the acoustic system, with complementary physical acoustics entrusted to Salter, the project’s acoustical and AV consultant.
Because many performances at the venue – most notably amplified pop or rock – would not use the Constellation system, the Salter team was given a two-fold brief: design a baseline acoustic that would support Constellation but would also provide a good environment when Constellation was turned off.
“As far as the acoustic signature inside the shell, it is quite similar to a large Hollywood sound stage,” said Jason Duty, Salter’s vice president, who took over as principal acoustician on the retirement of David Schwind. “It has a mixture of diffusive and absorptive elements, but little for reflection across the stage because that is handled by Constellation. We didn’t want it totally dry, as they wanted the stage to have a bit of life when the system was off. We definitely understood what the Constellation team was looking for.”
For Duty, the shell structure’s size, location and variety of performance styles made active acoustics the preferred solution. “Constellation is incredibly helpful in situations like this,” he said. “The venue is right on the harbour, and having the control to let musicians clearly hear players on the other side of the stage is beneficial. In addition, there is the flexibility to adjust the acoustics to what you are hearing in the moment.”
As installed, the Constellation system comprises 25 UPM-1XP and 22 UPJunior-XP remotely self-powered loudspeakers, with 12 UMS-1XP remotely self-powered subwoofers to extend the reverberation envelope to the lowest registers. DSP for driving the system is supplied by an eight-module D-Mitri digital audio platform, with two modules dedicated to hosting the patented VRAS variable room acoustic algorithm. Ambient sensing for the regenerative reverberation is provided by 20 Schoeps MK41 microphones with CMC6 preamps. The system integrator for the project was Solotech.
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park was a big undertaking, with a number of other key players involved, directly or indirectly, with audio and acoustics. Tom Schindler of Salter took charge of AV system design, with Joshua Grossman contributing on behalf of Schuler Shook Theatre Planners and Lighting Designers. Greg Mueller of Tucker Sadler Architects was lead designer and architect of record of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, and Soundforms and its London partners Flanagan Lawrence, Expedition and ES Global designed the performance shell. Rob Webster of Gardiner & Theobald provided design and construction project management, and vice president of venue operations Travis Wininger served as a project liaison on behalf of the San Diego Symphony.
Thanks to San Diego’s mild weather, the new venue anticipates year-round operation. The plan is to host more than 100 concerts and events a year, either by the symphony or other organisations, promoters or convention groups. Although Constellation was installed principally for the San Diego Symphony, it will be available with the symphony’s approval for use by other classical or acoustical music ensembles performing at The Shell.