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Downtown Los Angeles
Architecture by: Frank Gehry
Acoustic design by: Yasuhisa Toyota
Glenn Campbell

The Walt Disney Concert Hall
By Bryan Dailey

We all strive to make our home theater systems sound as good as we possibly can. New speakers, that high-end DVD player and some fresh new cables will bring your room to audio nirvana, right? Yes, having the best gear your bank account will allow can certainly help, but how much have you thought about your acoustics? There is nothing like the sweet sound of a room that has been properly tuned for optimum sonic performance.

Our quest to find the ultimate example of a “properly tuned” room lead us not to a recording studio or a multi-million dollar mansion’s dedicated home theater room, but instead to the new, absolutely striking and architecturally brilliant Walt Disney Concert Hall. Conceived of and designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry alongside the Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is not just an amazing place to hear live music, but also a study in architecture and acoustic. Gehry said that he wanted this theater to be “Los Angeles’ living room,” so let’s step inside the fall/winter home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic to see which design elements from Los Angeles’ amazing-sounding living room you can incorporate into your own living room or home theater system.

Most concert halls are designed from the outside in, with the primary focus first being the outer structure. The seating and shape of the stage and seating are then built to fit inside of the structure but the Walt Disney Concert Hall is different. Despite what you might think by looking at the massive, soaring, sweeping silver panels that make up the non-linear, non-right-angled lines of the hall, the primary focus of this project was making sure that it was a beautiful-sounding structure before it became a beautiful-looking structure. Toyota calls the hall a “vineyard design,” a groundbreaking new type of layout for a concert hall that provides an amazing combination of unobstructed sightlines, and even frequency response for all audience members. When at maximum capacity, the hall holds 2,265 concertgoers. You’ve probably been to a movie theater that featured “stadium” seating, which provides exceptional views of the screen but sacrifices in the sonic department by blasting sound against a very sharply sloped wall of seats. The more subtle elevation change of the seats in the vineyard layout of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is now frequently used in larger home theater rooms by placing each row of seating slightly higher than the one in front of it and making the rows slightly wider as they go further back. Unlike most shoebox halls that simply have a stage at one end and the crowd in front, the Walt Disney Concert Hall has seats that almost completely envelop the stage.

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