"I looked at all the PA systems on the market – JBL, EAW, L'Acoustic, etc. McCauley Sound had a really neat package, but, above all, the company impressed me with its 'Mom 'n' Pop' attitude to my project; they were never too busy, they answered every phone call. I worked closely with Bruce Anderson and Daniel Casado, who came out to Pontiac for 5 days and together we read the room right – it was an outstanding partnership."
Pontiac, near Detroit: A $3 million refurbishment of The Crofoot Building has provided the context for an innovative sound reinforcement installation, pairing for the first time a McCauley Sound MONARC Line Array system with Vortex amplifiers from the German manufacturer CAMCO.
In 1882, Michael E. Crofoot rebuilt one of Pontiac’s earliest commercial buildings which was first put into service in 1830 at Pontiac’s first corner at Pike and Saginaw. A checkered history meant that, as recently as 2005, The Crofoot was condemned and slated for demolition. Developer Blair McGowan, a veteran of Metro Detroit's entertainment scene, has breathed life into the location after a massive 18-month refurbishment program. Now a live music venue, the Crofoot will initially present alternative rock/emo but, with its own in-house booking agent Greg Baise, future performances could equally well be jazz or country music.
Long-time sound engineer and system installer Chris Panackia had collaborated with the Crofoot's owner Blair McGowan for 25 years. With a substantial track record in fitting out Detroit clubs such as the Magic Stick and St Andrews Hall, he was commissioned to design a system for the new Crofoot stage.
"I looked at all the PA systems on the market – JBL, EAW, L'Acoustic, etc. McCauley Sound had a really neat package, but, above all, the company impressed me with its 'Mom 'n' Pop' attitude to my project; they were never too busy, they answered every phone call. I worked closely with Bruce Anderson and Daniel Casado,
who came out to Pontiac for 5 days and together we read the room right – it was an outstanding partnership."
In the 1150-capacity venue, squarely shaped with a large balcony, Panackia has installed a McCauley MONARC system, with 8 MLA3 cabinets per side. Flown from the 22' ceiling height, the top half of the arrays provide coverage for the balcony area, while the lower cabinets are aimed at the ballroom. 12 McCauley CSM88 subwoofers are under the stage, isolation-mounted on neoprene rubber to eliminate vibration.
The system is powered by a relative newcomer to the fixed installation scene in the US – the Vortex Series from the specialist manufacturer CAMCO. Panackia keeps an open mind about equipment brands when he is designing a system, and has specified all types of PA for his club projects in Detroit. "It depends on the venue, what bands are going to use it, what consoles they will have. The Crofoot will accommodate the more discerning and demanding engineers, so we've put in a system that is better than anyone could possibly want – it's everything you need, and then some."
To fulfil this spec, he has opted for "the Bentley of amplifiers," which came highly recommended by a Detroit area sound rental company. Panackia A/B'd the Vortex against a prominent American-made alternative, and found them to be "just tremendous; they seemed to be cleaner, with more punch and more clarity, and held the power supply a lot better. The amp
room at the Crofoot will stop engineers in their tracks just from looking at it; they’re in awe! Touring engineers recognise the racks immediately."
Panackia acknowledges that the system represents "a lot of PA for a room that size, but we've done that more for coverage than anything else. Wherever you are in the room, you hear the same thing. This monstrous and beautiful PA and the Vortex amps go together so well. Typically we will run at 110dB, although our system trials were done quite comfortably at 120dB and then it went off the meter!"
CAMCO products are sold by Ashly Audio, and, as with McCauley Sound, Panackia was knocked out by the customer service that supported his amplifier purchase. "Bill Woods at Ashly was so helpful when I was installing the system. The CAMCO amps were more than twice the price of some of the other deals, but none of them could give me the punch, the clarity or the 6-year warranty."
Completing the system, the Crofoot is equipped with two 48-channel Yamaha M7CL digital consoles for front-of-house and monitor control, with a full complement of Klark-Teknik gates, compressors and EQ, plus TC Electronics M1 and D2 units.
On stage is a full McCauley monitoring system, comprising 10 SM72-2 wedges, with 2 SA155-2 drum boxes, and 2 ID4.212-64s as sidefills. All processing is done with McCauley proprietary devices.
"You look at the PA and the incredible venue, and you want to play there," says Panackia, who has already decided to repeat the McCauley Sound/CAMCO formula in a 600-seater venue that he is currently specifying. “Being a sound man, the audio is the beauty of it for me.”
Post-restoration, the Crofoot is an attractive combination of the old and the new. Complementing the high-tech PA system are many of the original features of a 19th century city building, as Blair McGowan describes. “Fortunately, we found a lot to work with. Old masonry arches. Brick. Old timbers. High ceilings. A floor plan that just laid itself out for us. We have attempted to re-use the old materials. But we have added new features like waterless toilets, a white roof that will reflect the heat of the sun, truck loads of insulation, and efficient air conditioning. Working with the buildings which our ancestors left us is very gratifying. We know that the public will love what we have uncovered and restored. It’s a very comfortable, pleasant and even exciting space.”