Monday, July 24, 2023 | 12:27 p.m.
The MSG Sphere is inching closer to opening.
The Las Vegas Strip’s newest event and entertainment venue, which is located behind the Venetian and slated to open this fall, has unveiled Sphere Immersive Sound, powered by HOLOPLOT — an ultra-advanced audio system uniquely conducive to its round shape.
“Sound, as part of the human experience, is very, very important,” Jim Dolan, executive chairman and CEO of Madison Square Entertainment, told members of the media at the Sphere on Thursday, adding that the venue will ultimately engage four out of the five senses, and “sound is key.”
The custom sound system, developed by Sphere Studios and Berlin-based HOLOPLOT, includes about 1,600 and 300 mobile loudspeaker modules — weighing about 400,000 pounds in total, said David Dibble, CEO of MSG Ventures — as well as 167,000 individually amplified loudspeaker drivers.
The equipment is hidden behind the dome’s massive LED display and “acoustically invisible,” said Roman Sick, CEO of HOLOPLOT.
“It’s a perfect sphere, which is the nightmare of every acoustic engineer,” Sick joked with media Thursday, noting that the whole system design was created using several layers of sound cabinets.
HOLOPLOT technology and one-of-a-kind algorithms will not only keep audio quality and volume consistent for any audience member in the 20,000-seat Sphere — no matter their proximity to the speakers — but also have the ability to make their experience completely immersive and even hear different sounds in different corners of the venue.
Seats in the venue have even been outfitted in a material with the same audio reflective value as “human skin,” Dibble said, so that audio will sound the same no matter how many seats are actually occupied.
He said a set of tools will allow artists to come in and “tweak” their existing content to fully use Sphere Immersive Audio, powered by HOLOPLOT — which has already been introduced at New York’s Beacon Theatre.
The intimacy of the Sphere’s bowl-shaped theater and immersive audio experience is a page out of Ancient Greece’s entertainment playbook, Dibble said Thursday. It took four to five years to complete, he said, and people at the Sphere are “very, very proud” of the final product.
“Creating this experience required us to go far beyond existing audio technology, and in HOLOPLOT we found a partner at the forefront of innovation to help achieve our vision and truly transform what is possible with audio,” Dibble said in a statement Monday.
MSG and HOLOPLOT executives on Thursday demonstrated the audio system’s two modes to members of the media at the Sphere.
They began with full coverage, concert mode by playing an acoustic version of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2 — the iconic Irish band scheduled to play the Sphere’s opening. A version of the song mixed specifically for the venue’s unique capabilities rang out in such startling clarity that it permeated the entire bowl, allowing the audience to feel each crescendo and diminuendo.
Next was a demonstration of immersive mode, which covers half of the venue and is more attuned to a theatrical environment. Attendees of Thursday’s demo were treated to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, as well as a track playing sounds of the forest. Both surrounded the listener so fully that it was impossible to be certain where any one sound originated from.
People are already lining up for the audio system, Dolan said, which is so clear and accurate that some artists may actually find it “daunting” because one wrong note will be heard by everyone in the venue.
The intent of the sound system — which will now become widely available as a product for other venues — is ultimately to connect with the audience, Dolan said.
“No building in the world will do that better,” he emphasized.