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They Shoot, They Score, He Mixes!

by Kevin M. Mitchell • in
  • Features
  • July 2018
• Created: July 18, 2018

Las Vegas Sound Engineer Finds Himself Mixing for the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ Remarkable First Season

Audio engineer Geoff Lissaman’s view of T-Mobile Arena from the sound booth.


For hockey fans everywhere, there were a lot of surprises in the NHL’s 2017-2018 season, particularly a certain expansion team. “From the beginning, everything had to be bigger and badder because, well, it’s Las Vegas, and two, who is going to get excited about an expansion team?” says audio engineer Geoff Lissaman, admitting that everyone’s expectations for the new hockey team were pretty low for a town whose experience with ice stopped at the cocktail. “So I told my crew that we needed to keep up the excitement so when they lose 12-0 to St. Louis, the fans will still have had so much fun they will come back next week to see them lose 12-0 to Vancouver.”

Well… funny thing about that “losing” part. “The team started winning.” Lissaman, a Canadian, was suddenly mixing sound at the Stanley Cup. (Alas, the Vegas Golden Knights ultimately fell to the Washington Capitals.) Combining lessons in loudness and intimate knowledge of the game, safe to say that Lissaman had a good season, too. “Mixing the Stanley Cup wasn’t that much different than mixing for the playoffs, which wasn’t that much different than the regular season games… it was just ‘more, more, more.’”

Audio engineer Geoff Lissaman

A Pretty Cool Gig

Lissaman grew up in Montreal playing in bands and mixing sound to meet girls. Now 35 years later, “I’m still waiting for that to happen!” He hit the road with various acts and shows and in 1998 he went to work for Harman International, where he worked for the dbx division for a decade. In 2013, he moved to Vegas, and started working with 3G Productions who handle the T-Mobile Arena. His duties are mostly being “the house guy,” helping touring sound engineers with the house, feeding music into the lobby, tying those sound systems into the in-house delay lines when desired, etc. He takes to the board on sporting events, like last year’s big Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight. So when rumors started circulating of bringing a hockey team to Vegas, “I was trying to get the gig even before the name of the team was decided on. And since I know hockey, I thought that would be a pretty cool gig.”

For the hockey season, Lissaman sat in the audio booth near the press box eight floors above the ice in that no man’s land between the rafters below and catwalk above. “I have a window that opens up to the bowl, but basically I’m mixing by braille — just working off my monitors and looking at the meters.” He mixes on a Soundcraft Vi3000, which he says is a good console, but not necessarily for the demands of a professional sports team. “I spend a lot of time tuning and configuring to get it where I want it to be,” he says. On the one hand, he finds it incredibly intuitive and it offers rock-solid reliability; otherwise, “the board has up to 96 inputs, but only having 24 outputs is the challenge.”

The house features JBL boxes, starting with 72 VTX V25-II and 36 S28 subwoofers for the main array. There are six hangs of 12 with six subs in a cardioid arrangement hanging behind them. The subs are set to zero and then each array is pulled back 12ms into them. The rest of the building is then pulled back to line up with the main array — “left right on either side, and then a mono stick on each end. The far side the L/R are reversed, so I can pan one way, and sound on both sides moves towards the same end of the arena. We do a lot of effect stuff so, when an archer fires a flaming arrow, the sound will track to the location. Having the audio track the actors and effects makes it all feel more real.”

There are 14 JBL passive 12-plus-horn boxes on the scoreboard outside lip, and then four more inside pointing straight down. He works with 24 JBL biamped 15-plus-horn boxes as a delay line. “They cover the top 10 rows or so. The main P.A. will cover up there, as it’s 175 feet, but cranking the delays up lets me darken the main P.A. some and gives me a few dB more before I’m in the limiters.” The main array is powered by JBL V-Racks and controlled by Performance Manager with Crown amps galore.

Along with the work he does for the home games, Lissaman also supports the audio needs for the Golden Knights on the road.

Adventures in Loud

So there he is, doing pre-season games, and as there were “not a lot of hockey people involved at the audio crew level,” Lissaman did more than just show up for the job. “They were all good people — we all did basketball together — but they didn’t understand hockey.” Otherwise, the mantra was, these games needed to be Las Vegas Big. So while they had the traditional organ typically heard at sporting events, it was able to store and play song clips, which is what they mainly used it for. “We didn’t want to play a Guns N’ Roses song on the organ, we wanted to hear the actual Guns N’ Roses song.” There were also two DJs spinning, special effects, and of course, showgirls.

Then there was the game.

Live team sports is an entirely different ballgame. “Unlike with a touring band, it’s a different ‘show’ every night. With a touring band, basically your job at the console is to create the same show every night. But with sports, you don’t know what is next at any possible second. After the opening and the national anthem, I have eight stereo channels of video coming, and they are loading 250 video clips, all with audio, and they just throw it at me. Also, you have to watch that ref all the time. If he flips the switch and you don’t unmute, and he’s on the ice talking, it would be bad.”

His philosophy was to move as much air as possible, at as high quality as possible. “I wanted the audience to feel it, but not be deafening loud.” He tuned the P.A. in an X configuration, which meant the 15’s went all the way down on the spectrum, with the 18 reinforcing the bottom. “I gave up some low-end clarity, and it does get a little muddy, but it was all to get the huge amount of energy that those drivers are capable of. By the time we were in the Cup finals, it was 107 dB for every seat in the arena, and the crowd was still drowning out the P.A.! It was an adventure in loud.” But as loud as it was, he got a request from an unexpected place for it to be even louder: The bench. “Early in the season we got a message from the players to turn it up.” But to get more on the ice, he had to open those 14 JBL passive 12-plus-horn boxes “pretty wide, compress the input, and then have them wide open some more. The subs were tilted down electronically to also get more onto the ice.”

As far as live mics go, the wireless system is a Shure Axient with Beta 87C capsules, which “I really like, much more than the regular 87s.” There were E-V RE20s on the P.A. announcer. There also was a drum line, which involved four Sennheiser ME’s on the floor. Naturally, dbx 160As were on the mics, and he says the building is all BSS Soundweb London controlled by Audio Architect.

A Soundcraft Vi3000 handles the mix.

A1 Golden Knights Fan

Lissaman found himself drawn into the games. “I became a fan of the team, cheering from the audio booth, but then I had to pull that back and focus on the work.” Prior to what became the last game, the production team had to have a serious “what if” conversation as in, what if the Washington Capitals won that night and were presented with the Stanley Cup on the Las Vegas ice. “I was joking that if we lose, I’d just power everything off and grab all the gear, and go home,” he laughs. “But when it actually happened, it ended up being the hardest part. I wanted [the Knights] to win, but then I had to make [the audio] good for the other team, and that’s what I did. It was emotional, though.”

Lissaman is appreciative of what an amazing season and experience it all was. “Overall — production-wise — I feel we raised the bar in making a sporting event an entertainment event. Will it influence what other teams do? Will they hire DJs? Will they hire 20 showgirls to do a routine up against the glass while the home team warms up on the ice? We’ll see!”

Team DJ Joe Green helped keep the party going during the team’s longer-than-expected first season.

The Audio Setup within T-Mobile Arena

Owned by AEG and MGM Resorts International, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is a world-class, $375 million, multipurpose entertainment venue available to host NBA and NHL teams, concerts, boxing, mixed martial arts, award shows and other major events. The 650,000-square-foot arena has a maximum seating capacity of 20,000. Managing the all-Harman Professional audio install was ATK Audiotek of Valencia, CA.

Central to the arena’s sound is a main six-cluster audio system that hangs next to the scoreboard and was designed by Dallas-based system design and consulting firm, WJHW. The clusters consist of 72 JBL VTX V25-II line arrays and 36 JBL VTX S28 subwoofers powered by 18 Crown VRacks. The house console is a Soundcraft Vi3000.




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