WAUCHULA, FLORIDA: Home to some 4,500 Floridians, the quaint town of Wauchula serves up a country lifestyle with proximity to Tampa, the Gulf Coast, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and even Disney World. But the city is an attraction in and of itself, with a beautiful historic downtown that has retained its vibrancy and a full calendar of community events, including holiday parades and frequent concerts. But in recent years, Wauchula had been more focused on rebuilding than relaxing after not one, not two, but three hurricanes devastated its buildings, houses, and infrastructure in 2004. Only now emerging from that process, the town is pleased to have a brand new audio system with which to enjoy those community events that so define its idyllic summers.
No Wauchulans will remember 2004 fondly. Hurricane Charley came early in the season and decimated 85% of the town’s buildings with sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts in excess of 160 mph. Wauchula was declared a federal disaster area. That would have been enough for any town to deal with, but in the coming months Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne plowed through the state close enough to exacerbate the damage and set back the recovery. In all, some 95% of Wauchula’s homeowners applied for federal assistance for repairs or, in many cases, rebuilding.
After tackling the more pressing concerns, Wauchula raised funds to upgrade its public address system. The old system was hanging by a thread and sounded like all those hurricanes knocked the spirit out of it. This was not the sort of tired statement the town was hoping to make to either its citizens or visitors! Michael Chafee of nearby Sarasota’s Michael Chafee Enterprises, a pro audio manufacturers rep and audio consultant, designed a beautiful system centered on a Symetrix Zone Mix 760, with installation performed by John Altamura and Greg DeGiorgio of Gulf Coast Technical Services of Largo, Florida.
Chafee designed the system to cover both the four principal blocks that constitute Wauchula’s historic downtown and the adjacent park and gazebo where speakers speak and performers perform. Thirty One Systems 108IM all-weather loudspeakers hang from the light poles along those four blocks. With 105 X 60-degree dispersion patterns and the clever use of building reflections, Chafee was able to cover the entire street, sidewalk to sidewalk. He mounted two One Systems 312CIMs to fly points on the gazebo, which serves as the stage. The 312CIMs are removed when not in use. QSC amps power the system.
To make the entire system behave like a true sound reinforcement system, and not just a bunch of speakers on poles, Chafee delayed the speakers on the street in two separate zones, one closer to the gazebo with a shorter delay, and a second further back with a longer delay. He set the delay times to work within the window of the Haas Effect – a psycho acoustical principal whereby a person will perceive the location of a sound based on the location of its first wavefront, subconsciously ignoring the locations of subsequent wavefronts. The delays ensure that the first wavefront arrives from the stage.
A Symetrix Zone Mix 760 provides all of the processing for the system. The Zone Mix 760 is a cost-effective, fixed-architecture, DSP for use in small to medium-sized installations. It harbors all of the most frequently used processing blocks from the SymNet line of open-architecture systems. “The 760 was ideal for this job because it contains all of the processing algorithms we needed at an incredibly low price point,” said Chafee. “Each zone gets compression, EQ and filtering and, of course, delay. Symetrix ARC wall panel interfaces make it easy to provide an appropriate level of control to the user.”
A bank of four Symetrix ARC-K1 wall panels and one Symetrix ARC-SWK wall panel located in a weatherproof stage rack provide that control. Users have multiple input sources at their disposal: AM/FM radio, CD player, iPod docking station, four handheld mics, and an auxiliary input for bands and the like to tie into. Users select gain and switching with no other deeper-level controls or parameters to distract them.
“There’s really no comparison between the old system and the new one,” said Chafee. “The clarity and intelligibility of the new system is phenomenal – like auditory gold. Plenty of headroom and very low distortion are worlds away from the tinny sound of yesterday. Not only do they use the system for the bands that roll through every few weeks and parades, but also for background music! That entire four blocks is immersed in really nice tunes, either from an iPod or from a local radio station.”