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article on Disney Hall acoustics
Old 15th November 2003
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar

article on Disney Hall acoustics

There is an article in today's LA Times Calendar section offering a rebuttal to all the glowing reviews of the hall's acoustics. Unfortunately, the online version of the article is only available to LA Times website subscribers. (I'm not one either, I read the "real" paper this morning)

The article discussed a performance by a jazz trio that questioned whether the acoustics that are claimed to be "fantastic" for orchestras, might be less wonderful for other types of music. The article was very short on technical specifics and filled with strange concepts like "the sound travels better from the audience to the stage than from the stage to the audience." One possible reason for the problems was thought to be the unusual seating layout, similar to an "arena theatre" only on a grand scale. The unsupported conclusion was that the facility would have been better off with a tradtional proscenium stage.

I've got to stress that this was one very non-technical article based on a single night with one band. Hell, its probably a good thing that not everyone is raving about the room - I was starting to think it was one of those Hollywood "productions" associated with a certain cult where all press is unfailingly positive, no matter what a turkey the show, album, ride, etc. happens to be. A little negative press is usually a good sign that no one is controlling everything from 'behind the curtain."
Old 15th November 2003
Gear Maniac

There was an article in the NY times about the hall's grand opening...

the article mentioned that the hall was designed and tuned by a japaneese acoustical firm, and they had a philharmonic in there for a month to test out things...

the building sure looks cool on the outside!
Old 15th November 2003
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar

That was sort of my point. The acoustician that worked with F.G. was named Toyota and the two of them received nothing but massive praise. And the opening gala concerts (classical) all were reviewed as if the reviewers were hearing music for the first time. That's why a little negative press doesn't concern me that much.
Old 15th November 2003
Lives for gear

I've played in some of Toyota's halls in Japan and I'll say they are nothing short of stunning.

That said I read the article and I see a few issues at play here. I haven't been inside the hall yet, so this is pure speculation...

First of all a great orchestral hall does not necessarily make a great hall for listening to jazz. Royce Hall at UCLA is another amazing orchestral hall. It is *very* difficult to amplify music in that room... Really the only thing that works there is trying to amplify so little that you almost don't hear it. Some of the crappiest sound I've ever heard there was a Sonic Youth concert about a year or two ago (part of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival).

Next, their own sound person did the mix... While that makes for a certain amount of consistancy, it is a difficult board to use (if you haven't used it before- they have a PM-1D), If you are new to a room and on a piece of gear that you may not have used (I don't know this to be the case), things get really difficult to sound good.

Next, the reviewer is known for giving crappy reviews when it comes to sound. I don't know what he expects, but he rarely has anything good to say about sound.

Next, one of main complaints was bein uncomfortable about the audience surrounding the performers. That is completely understandable... Also, I've heard this from many folks, but the audience noise is easily heard on stage and that can be distracting...

I'd say the verdict is still pretty far out... There will be more amplified shows in there later in the season.

Old 16th November 2003
Gear Maniac

Did you know that this hall has a pipe organ with 6,125 pipes! The floors, walls, ceilings, etc are all covered in Douglas Fir!

Here are a few informative links about the hall:

Some info on the hall's designer:

More on the hall's design team:

last but not least, the hall's fact sheet:
Attached Thumbnails
article on Disney Hall acoustics-mission2.jpg  
Old 16th November 2003
Lives for gear

Pipe organ isn't quite done yet... I believe the first performances on it are still months away. Tuning that beast is a feat in itself.

Old 16th November 2003
Gear Maniac

All we need now is to get a "taper friendly" jazz or jamband in there so someone can do a nice stereo recording...

I have bands that would love to play there, anyone have any disney connections?

hey, it's worth a shot... There is a Steinway Gallery near one of the venues I do regular work at, and I struck a deal with the manager to record him and his kids in exchange for me being able to record a client there on a sunday.
Old 16th November 2003
Lives for gear
Frost's Avatar

As well as being a sound engineer, I have a minor in acoustics and have taught classes in acoustics at a major university. The idea that a venue has great acoustics for everything seems just silly to me. A venue that is great for a symphony is NOT going to be great for a small jazz group period. Halls like symphony center in Chicago have tried to address this problem by making acoustic clouds that move to change the decay of the room, they use a shell around the performers that moves to change the shape of the stage to change its throw to the audience.

Ive been to the Concertgebouw in amsterdam which is regarded by many as one of the finest in the world. I saw a choral concert that gave me shivers, I saw an organ based jazz set that should have been in a little club.

Saying that a concert hall is great but not as good as it could be because it doesnt sound right for all types of music is like saying a reverb box sucks because one setting doesnt work on everything.

I think the hall is going to sound fantastic on the music its designed for.
Old 18th November 2003
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hollywood_steve's Avatar

I think the hall is going to sound fantastic on the music its designed for.

Unfortunately, the owners of the hall and their design consultants all knew that the Disney Hall was going to be utilized for a wide variety of musical styles. Unless these occasional jazz combos are sneaking into the Disney Hall, some sort of arrangements should be made to accomodate them. You can't spend nearly twenty years and some huge amount of money and then say that the facility will only sound good on certain nights. Either limit the bookings to suitable performers or alter the facility to suit the acoustical needs of the various styles of music.

Does anyone know if the Hall, as currently designed, has any capabilities for varying the acoustics for different situations?
Old 25th November 2003
Gear Maniac

That is a beautiful building!
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