MSG Sphere immersive sound comes to the Beacon with help from Trey Anastasio [Photos/Video]
A new era has begun in beacon theater friday like Trey Anastasio burst into the New York venue’s new Sphere Immersive Sound setup, touted by MSG Entertainment as “the world’s most advanced concert sound system”.
The system uses 3D audio “beamforming” technology, developed with the German company Holoplot, to deliver clear, consistent sound to every seat in the building. Instead of constantly expanding waves from an array of individual speakers, Sphere immersive sound is transmitted in thousands of separate beams, ensuring consistent sound over great distances and delivering the optimal sound mix for each member of the audience, no matter where they are seated.
The system now permanently installed at the Beacon is divided into five networks designed to cover the four main areas of the theatre: orchestra, dressing room, lower balcony and upper balcony. Where conventional loudspeaker technology inevitably falls prey to architectural dead spots, which can lead to inconsistent sound in different parts of the room, 3D beamforming ensures that sound levels remain consistent from point of origin to your ears.
While the Beacon is the first active venue to implement state-of-the-art Sphere Immersive Sound technology, an honor that vindicates the historic theater as the best sounding venue in the world, the new audio technology has been developed with a different place. in mind. The MSG sphere at The Venetian, currently under construction in Las Vegas, NV, will expand exponentially on the 52-speaker Sphere Immersive Sound setup currently operating in New York. The futuristic venue will use 164,000 individual speakers to deliver an immersive audio experience for up to 20,000 people at once, among other extrapolations from the system’s various applications.
[Photo via MSG Entertainment – Construction continues on MSG Sphere in Las Vegas]
A demonstration of the Beacon’s relatively “modest” Sphere immersive sound setup on Friday morning gave a glimpse of the system’s vast potential. MSG Sphere EVP & COO Rich Claffey and SVP of Advanced Engineering of MSG Entertainment Stuart Elby walked through the intricacies of the new technology and showed the precision of the system’s audio targeting by playing an electric blues tune and “grouping” audio from different instrument parts in different parts of the room. True to their word, each section of the orchestra came alive with a different piece of the overall mix while maintaining the overall sound quality. They also demonstrated the Sphere Immersive system’s ability to reflect sound off the walls of the room, spread sound in narrow and wide beams, create a surround sound effect using a single set of speakers and the organic contour of the room. The seemingly endless applications effectively turn sound design into another instrument – another creative role in live production.
Given the extremely complex capabilities of the technology, a solo acoustic guitar show seemed at first an odd choice for its first outing. Claffey, however, was certain of Anastasio’s choice as the system’s official guinea pig. “Trey Anastasio is probably the best rock star to debut in this genre,” he explained.
As Elby postulated, this type of performance relies on the intimate connection between the performer and the audience, on the purity of the sound delivered by the rudimentary instrumentation. Indeed, with a one-man acoustic show, the onus is heavily on the sound system to deliver pure, clear sound to the thousands in attendance.
In June, Claffey explained, Trey stopped at the Great Dome immersive development studio in California to hear what they had been working on. “They were blown away by our content creation studio and what they heard in regards to our audio. He was so impressed with it that he wanted to know more. Of course, Trey being Trey, the best guy ever, he just wanted to know more, and here we are.
In a promotional video for the system, Richard Glasgow, Trey’s tour manager, added, “Trey’s acoustic shows are so intimate and so connected with the audience. He is so close that he tells stories and connects with them in a very different way than he can on a huge stadium stage or even in an amphitheater or in a garden. It’s so close to the audience and it’s such a connecting experience… Really, for me, this is the perfect opportunity to use this system… Trey is playing solo acoustic here.
Added Gary BrownTrey’s front engineer, “Walking around the room [at rehearsal] it sounded the same everywhere. I went up to the top, to the front, and everything sounded the same. It doesn’t happen. You try to do it, but it never happens.
[Photo via MSG Entertainment – Sphere Immersive Audio at the Beacon Theatre]
Of course, the relationship between MSG Entertainment and Anastasio extends far beyond the latter venture. Anastasio has a long history with MSG Entertainment venues, as a solo act, with Trey Anastasio’s groupand with Phishing, and lives just steps from the Beacon on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This sense of familiarity was a driving force behind her live residency at the theater in 2020, Beacon Jamswhich raised over a million dollars for the Sky fund divided. Before Friday night, Anastasio’s last Beacon show was in June 2021, when he welcomed a capacity crowd into the building for the first time in 450 days.
Despite recent reports that U2 will christen the MSG Sphere – and leaving aside MSG’s long relationship with Anastasio and his various bands – Rich Claffey has remained dutifully mum on who might be in talks to play in the new Las Vegas arena when it opens in 2023. “It’s a work in progress,” he said live for live music. “But we are Madison Square Garden. We talk to everyone.
Trey Anastasio returns to the Beacon Theater on Saturday night to complete his two-night run with the new Sphere Immersive Sound system. For your chance to hear the new system in action, check out the schedule of upcoming concerts at the Beacon Theater here.
For a full recap of Trey Anastasio’s Friday performance at the Beacon Theater, go here.