WNXP opens a sonic cathedral

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This story appeared in the Radio World ebook “Spectacular radio studios.”

Stations: WNXP(FM) and WPLN(FM), Nashville Public Radio.

The mission: to create a state-of-the-art video and audio recording studio for the purpose of producing live music videos as part of NPR Music.

“As broadcast engineers, we know how to build facilities and studios to deliver audio over the airwaves,” said Jeff Schroeder of Schroeder Services, the lead installation engineer.

“This studio was audio, video and lighting. Venturing into video switching, DMX lighting and Dante audio routing and switching is a different world. Different, but the same,” he said.

“A few of us have tried ‘live sound’ on a small analog scale. It’s different – in audio, for the huge number of potential sources. We use at least seven mics just for drums. Doing all the Allen & Heath SLink protocol and Dante routing alone was a learning experience. Then do the lighting.

The staff enlisted friends in the company to help them get to grips with working with lights and video. “We are blessed to be in Nashville,” he said.

“But we had a ton of delays because of the pandemic. And we actually changed some of the gear orders because we just couldn’t get what we wanted initially.

One of the changes was for a Blizzard Lighting console and lights. “It was a blessing in disguise as their support – while I was learning DMX – was crucial. They are a US based company and actually answer their phone when you call with a question.

Sonic Cathedral occupies what was Studio C, which served WFCL’s classical music format. When the station switched to indie rock as WNXP (for “The Nashville Music Experience”) in late 2020, Nashville Public Radio decided to convert the space to host performances by such local bands and artists. The space accommodates about thirty spectators.

Stage audio is transmitted via two Allen & Heath DX168 stage boxes to a front-of-house A&H SQ-7 digital mixer via SLink protocol, then distributed to the SQ-5 digital mixer in the control room, computer recording and personal monitor system with Dante.

The control room in fisheye view.

There are six A&H 16-channel personal mixers on stage for individual mixes. EAW amplified main and secondary speakers are complemented by half a dozen EAW stage monitors. In the room’s microphone cabinet are Sennheiser e945 vocal dynamic mics and e906 instrument mics, Shure SM57s and 58s, Lewitt drum mics, and several other types.

Also on stage: Mapex drums and Hercules microphone and guitar stands, both provided through sponsorship.

A Global Truss system supports lights, speakers and cameras. At the heart of the lighting system is the Blizzard Enigma M4 dual-universe lighting controller, which manages over 30 Blizzard and Chauvet stage lights, including pars, light bars, spots, and wash lights.

“We have four fixed-position, IP-controlled StreamEye 10 1080p cameras on the beam for recording to the Atomos Sumo 19 four-channel video recorder. We also feed all cameras into the Roland V-60HD video switcher for recording. “live mix” recording and future planned live streaming of performances or events on the WNXP or WPLN websites. »

Key control room components, in addition to the A&H switcher and Roland video mixer, include Quested VS2108 studio monitors and OREI 8×8 HDMI video matrix switcher and video extenders.

Another view of the Sonic Cathedral space with the FOH position in the foreground.

For audio recording, Adobe Audition with a Dante driver is used for direct recording or mixed recording from the SQ-5.

Sonic Cathedral is equipped with a total of 10 LG HDTVs. Two 42-inch TVs on stage are matrix-fed for logos, sponsors, or other creative content. A 75 inch television is used in the same way and can also be used for meetings, conferences or for watching football matches.

“There are five 42-inch TVs at the front door that will usually have a logo on them but are also matrix powered, so we can put whatever we want on them,” Schroeder said. “Most TVs are fed through the OREI HDMI Video Extenders directly from the matrix – it’s a very cool system.”

Fourteen works of art line the ceiling, all made by local artists; canvas frames are backed with sound-absorbing material to help with acoustics.

The planning and preparation for this project was a team effort led by Nashville Public Radio Chief Engineer Cameron Adkins and Vice President of Finance and Technology Carl Pedersen. Architectural concepts and design were provided by V Three Studios; equipment was by SCMS and SoleSource AV. Jeff Schroeder led the installation and configuration.

The group Middle Kids performs at Sonic Cathedral.

Construction began in February 2021 and the space opened in September with a performance of Girlhouse, Nashville-based artist, a solo project by Lauren Luiz.

Our goal was to create a memorable space to showcase our new music discovery station,” said Steve Swenson, President and CEO of Nashville Public Radio.

“Sonic Cathedral has made a big impression on musical performers, labels, management companies but above all the public. The space far exceeds my expectations not only in terms of aesthetics but also technical capabilities. We quickly gained national recognition for our audio/video performances on NPR Music’s Live Sessions digital portal and locally here in Nashville.

Mission accomplished.

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