An L-Acoustics Kara II sound system was installed just in time for the 2021 NBA season, which was part of a larger $230 million project to update the Phoenix Suns Arena.
It’s had multiple names since it first opened in June of 1992, but Phoenix Suns Arena – formerly America West Arena, US Airways Center, and Talking Stick Resort Arena – has been the home of NBA's Phoenix Suns since day one.
What has changed recently is how the venue sounds, with a new L-Acoustics Kara loudspeaker system in place just in time for the 2020-21 NBA season, which began with a Suns win over the Dallas Mavericks on December 23, 2020.
Designed by AV consultants at WJHW and installed by Pro Sound & Video, a Solotech company, the new Kara II system is part of the $230 million Project 201: PHX Reimagined, designed to convert the nearly 30-year-old arena into a state-of-the-art sports entertainment venue for Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury fans.
According to Pro Sound & Video, the arena’s management specifically requested an L-Acoustics PA system as part of the ongoing and extensive venue renovation, including new distributed sound systems for the arena’s concourses and back-of-house areas.
“The venue’s management has had positive experiences with L-Acoustics in other locations in the past, and the brand has become widely accepted by NBA arenas,” said Pro Sound.
The integrator points out that Kara II was chosen for its lightweight and powerful output capability:
“We had to stay within certain weight limits on the steel for this project, especially since the system is designed to be pulled up and out of the way, potentially, when touring shows come through with their own sound systems.”
“We worked very closely with the structural engineers to make sure we were well within the weight limits. At the same time, this is a large venue and the sound needs to cover the entire seating area and court. Kara II is not only compact and lightweight, but it also has a lot of power for its size. And it offers a lot of sonic transparency as well.”
With the number of fans in attendance still being strictly limited per current safety protocols, acoustical reflection and reverberation issues from empty seating areas are a potential concern.
“Thankfully, Kara II has a tight dispersion directivity and high degree of speech intelligibility,” Pro Sound added. “Those have become more and more important in sports venue sound designs and are reasons why L-Acoustics is seen in more arenas and stadiums.”
Phoenix Suns Director of Engineering and A/V technology Gary Gillespie agrees, citing hearing L-Acoustics systems installed at the NFL Arizona Cardinals State Farm Stadiumand NHL Arizona Coyotes Gila River Arena in nearby Glendale.
“I’m also a live-sound mixer, so I’ve had a lot of experience with L-Acoustics, and I’m a fan of their sound,” he said. “But our team leadership also highly values the intelligibility that Kara II brings to speech in the arena and the fact that L-Acoustics WST systems never cause ear fatigue for the fans. It’s just a great-sounding system.”
The arena’s new system comprises six arrays of 14 Kara II enclosures for a total of 84 Kara II, plus a hang of four SB18i subwoofers flown in a cardioid configuration directly behind each Kara II array.
In addition, there are 28 short-throw X12 coaxials deployed as a delay ring. All of these are powered by 43 LA4X amplified controllers – 36 for the main PA and seven for the delays – providing over 170 channels of amplification.
Furthermore, a single LA12X powers eight A10 loudspeakers positioned underneath the centre-mounted scoreboard serving as court fills. Self-powered, coaxial 108P monitors are also installed in the new media editing suite to replicate the response of the Kara II main bowl system for accurate media reproduction.
The design of the Phoenix Suns’ new sound system originally called for eight hangs of Kara. However, this was changed to accommodate revised weight-load requirements for touring systems.
With last year’s addition of Panflex to the original Kara loudspeaker model, providing four-in-one directivity, Kara II was a game-changer for the Suns.