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Arena Will Install New System to Cut Sound

Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for the Pacific Amphitheatre agreed Wednesday to move ahead with a new digital sound system that marks their strongest proposal yet for confining noise and silencing the complaints of some Costa Mesa neighbors.

The arena’s attorneys laid out their plans in a closed meeting with Superior Court Judge Richard M. Beacom and the other players in the 6-year-old dispute. The judge endorsed the plan and refused a request by homeowners to resume a trial over the noise complaints, participants said.

Area residents--who have maintained that many rock concerts violate county noise standards--will get their first chances to hear the results next month with appearances by country-rockers Alabama on April 7, heavy metal bands Poison and Tesla on April 8, and pop star Rod Stewart on April 14 and 15.

Said Richard L. Spix, the attorney for the neighbors: “This has a greater potential to reduce noise levels than anything (the amphitheater operators) have proposed before. But this is a whole new system that hasn’t really been tried much, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

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Trial Resumption Proposed

Even with the new system’s potential, Spix suggested that the theater’s plans to control noise could be undermined by technological uncertainties and by the practice of many bands to bring their own sound systems to concerts. “I’m still skeptical that it’ll work.”

Out of such concerns, Spix proposed in court Wednesday that Beacom resume the civil trial for an injunction and other action against the arena’s operators, a trial that started last year but was postponed to allow further settlement talks.

But Beacom refused that motion, finding that amphitheater builder and operator Ned West Inc. had made good-faith attempts to negotiate the dispute with neighbors and to correct sound problems.

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And so the Ned West company plans now to contract with Audio Analysts Inc., a Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based firm that originated in Canada, to lease a new $180,000-a-year sound system to control noise levels. In all, arena operators said, the new system--if successful--would cost about $250,000 a year to operate.

Laurie Lusk, a Costa Mesa resident who took the amphitheater operators to court 6 years ago over the noise, said she was somewhat disappointed to learn that Judge Beacom had denied Spix’s motion to resume the trial.

But upon learning of Ned West’s plans to try a new sound system, Lusk added: “That’s all we care about. If they can do that, we don’t need a trial. And even if they say it will take five or six concerts to get the bugs out, that’s fine with me. All we want is some peace and quiet.”

Audio Analysts has employed a similar sound system at an outdoor facility near Toronto and at other locations over the last several years. But the system now being developed for Pacific Amphitheatre relies on a new technological component--a higher digital resolution filter--that has not been tested extensively, said Burt Pare, the firm’s marketing vice president.

Pare said in an interview that the new system sends out concentrated beams of sound whose direction can be more easily controlled than standard speaker systems. In addition to reducing noise outside the amphitheater, the system is aimed at better dispersing the sound within “so you don’t kill everyone in the first row,” Pare said.

And at the same time, Pare maintained, the system retains or improves clarity. “It’s like all of the sudden taking a cover off the speaker--to make the sound brighter and more responsive.” Audio Analysts plans to use about four dozen 1,000-watt speakers at the Pacific Amphitheatre, he said.

Ned West attorney Neil Papiano said: “There is no magic in this system. It’s going to have to be tested and modified, and there’s no instant cure. Nobody knows at this point how it’s going to work.”

He emphasized that the amphitheater operators were only installing the new sound system “as good neighbors,” since they dispute claims by attorneys for the neighbors’ association who say noise levels at concerts have consistently exceeded county limits.

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Attorneys will return to court April 14 for a hearing and may then have preliminary results from the sound system’s performance at the Alabama and Poison/Tesla concerts. If dissatisfied with the results, said attorney Spix, the homeowners will continue to push for a resumed trial or further legal remedy.


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