Brooklyn’s New Boom Box: A Look at Barclays Center Sound
It’s worth noting that the Brooklyn Nets’ ownership group is Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and that little more than an ampersand separates those last two words. The entertainment component of sports loomed large in the design of the NBA team’s new home, Barclays Center, with a particular emphasis on bass, reflecting b-ball’s status as the national pastime for the hip-hop nation.
The Barclays Center is already proving itself as a pure entertainment venue: team co-owner Jay-Z’s six-night opening stand there the first week of October will be followed with shows by Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, and Justin Bieber.
Although those acts will all bring in outside concert touring PAs, the house system is no slouch. The main bowl is covered with six line-array hangs that consist of 10 EAW KF740 enclosures powered by 43 Lab.gruppen PLM 10000Q four-channel amplifiers generating a total of 210,000 W.
Each line-array hang also has four EAW SB1001 subwoofers attached, part of the heavy-duty low-frequency armament that hip-hop–heavy NBA venues require now. Processing is via Lab.gruppen Lake Processing technology customized for EAW: software modules embedded in the amplifiers create a QSC Q-sys converged network controlled by two QSC Core 4000 processors. The upper reaches of the bowl are covered by a distributed system featuring 40 EAW MK2366 speakers, which also fill in under the scoreboard. The system was designed by Parsons Technologies in collaboration with A/V consultant Dallas-based WJHW.
Low frequencies at high SPL can be a volatile combination. That was addressed, explains Parsons Project Engineer Dave Potts, by mounting the subwoofers behind the KF740 array enclosures and aiming them downward at 40 degrees, straight at the best seats in the house. Actually, he says, the seating acts as diffusion, keeping the bass off the hardwood floor to avoid reflections. With the subs attached to and behind the main line-array hangs, the mid- and high-frequency boxes had to be time-aligned, using various delays, to maintain phase coherency.
“You have the subs coupling with the [line] array itself,” says Potts. “That results in very off-the-chart bass, but it’s still highly controlled.”
Possibly the most unusual aspect of the bowl sound system is the use of a motorized Zbeam hanging system by audio-rigging company Polar Focus. The Zbeam’s pulley systems allow the arrays to be lowered from a single point, have their angles of dispersion and other directional parameters adjusted, and hoisted back up quickly. Potts says the crew was able to re-aim all six clusters in less than a day.
Barclays back-of-house audio ranges from concession areas to the Vault boxes, the high-end suites that cost $550,000 a season — with a three-season minimum. Speakers include Tannoy and JBL installed-contractor types, as well as 12-in. Soundtube subs to boost the bass in the Vault boxes.
Brooklyn is now home to a major-league sports team for the time in 56 years. And welcoming the Nets is the world’s biggest, best-sounding boom box.