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American Idol is the country’s most-watched   TV series, and has been the number one show for six years in a row,   thanks to its blend of stars in the making, audience participation and   the often-unpredictable reactions of celebrity judges Randy Jackson,   Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. For American Idol’s 2011   season, wrapping up this week, the main house PA and dialogue system   has included a total of 300 JBL Professional loudspeakers, including   VERTEC® line arrays and Control® Contractor loudspeakers, ensuring the   contestants and judges are clearly heard no matter how loudly the   audience cheers the performers.

The system has been installed in Stage 36 at CBS Television City in   Hollywood. The main system has included 20 JBL VERTEC VT4889 fullsize   line array elements, and the dialogue system has comprised 275 JBL   Control 25 loudspeakers. The system was designed and installed by   Patrick Baltzell and ATK/Audiotek of Valencia, California.

“The look of the set is a big part of the show, so the audio system   could not be visually intrusive,” noted Baltzell. “We needed speakers   that could provide full-range response all in one box, without having   to use separate subwoofers or high-frequency elements, because we   needed to use as few boxes as possible.” The VT4889 line array   elements have been set up in two main groups of 10 speakers each, in   locations selected to deliver even sound coverage to all 620 members   of the studio audience.

For the dialogue system, a compact Control 25   speaker (measuring only 9.3 x 7.4 x 5.8 inches) was placed underneath   every other seat in the audience.  “We needed a distributed audio system in addition to the main music   system because during a broadcast there are sometimes up to 12 or 15   lavalier microphones open and in use at the same time,” noted   Baltzell. “We don’t want to mix all of those through the main PA   system.

With the separate dialogue system, it’s much easier to work   with all those lavalier mics, and achieve better, more articulate   sound for the audience.”  Baltzell added, “Although it’s a music competition, there’s a ton of   dialogue going on between the judges and contestants. On some shows,   there’s actually more dialogue than musical performances, so the   dialogue support system is just as important as the main house PA.”  The series’ 2-night grand finale will be staged in Los Angeles’ Nokia   Theatre L.A. Live on May 24-25 in front of a theater audience of over   7,000, as well as being broadcast on FOX to millions of viewers   watching at home.

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