The AXIS at Planet Hollywood


4600 concertgoers are consistently packing The AXIS at Planet Hollywood for Britney Spears’ popular “Piece of Me” residency. While they’re in their seats at one of the most famed theaters in Las Vegas, no one has to think about why they’re hearing precision, full-frequency sound – all they have to do is enjoy the show.


Criterion Acoustics (CA) was selected to provide the acoustical design as part of a full renovation for The AXIS at Planet Hollywood (aka The AXIS Theater) just prior to Spears’ residency, ensuring that there would be 21st Century production values for the platinum artist. Working closely with architectural firm Gensler and the venue’s ownership, CA took on the challenge of working with the existing theater geometry while elevating it to the world-class acoustical standards that Las Vegas theatergoers expect.


The project itself was complex, but the timeline made it even more daunting: CA had only three months from the point that they began drawing up plans, to the renovation’s completion. “We really fast-tracked the acoustical treatment’s design and production to get everything completed on time,” says Dave Kotch, President of Criterion Acoustics.


The constant evolution of large performance venues meant that the renovated AXIS Theater would have to meet a significantly higher standard than its previous incarnation. “Loudspeaker systems have gotten better,” Kotch observes. “Distortion is significantly reduced, so shows are getting louder. The objective is to have an essentially dead theater, with excellent low frequency control.


“The venue had multiple issues with the internal room acoustics prior to the redesign,” continues Kotch. “When The AXIS Theater was originally built, they didn’t have the Vegas-style performances of today in mind. The room has a huge dome, for example, which makes it hard to handle acoustically. To make matters even more complicated, the dome is a wooden structure – it was an architectural element that we couldn’t change or modify.”


Kotch and Sam Neff, Vice President of CA, devised a plan that would control the reverb time, and manage low-frequency buildup in the theater. The centerpiece was a massive broadband low-frequency absorber measuring 50 feet high by 400 feet wide. “It’s huge,” says Kotch. “There were limited places that we could place treatments, so making it work within the constraints of the space and budget were obstacles we had to overcome.”


CA’s analysis also revealed that the AXIS Theater’s dome was throwing unwelcome energy back onto the stage. “The artist would hear the reflections,” Kotch notes. “We placed treatments strategically around the perimeter to eliminate the issue.”


In addition, CA provided systems engineering and documentation support for 3G Systems, the live sound provider.


The result was an acoustical overhaul that helped transform the sound of the AXIS Theater — and Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” show keeps going on, with two extensions in 2015.

Glenwood Place Studios

It’s not easy to hide away in the middle of LA. But the artists who make it to Glenwood

Place Studios will tell you that it is possible. These famed studios manage to feel concealed from the public eye in Burbank, allowing platinum clientele to create within an inspiring oasis.


Criterion Acoustics (CA) was called on to expand on Glenwood Place’s offerings, by turning its existing Studio D into two new studios, Glenwood Gold and Glenwood Silver, with a lounge and private outdoor patio areas. Led by CA President Dave Kotch, his team provided architectural design, studio design, interior design and landscape design for the studios. In addition, CA fabricated all custom acoustic diffusers and loudspeakers for both spaces.


“Our goal at Glenwood is to provide very creative surroundings for the artists—visually inspiring, comfortable and inviting,” says Kit Rebhun, Director, Studio Operations for Glenwood Place. “We accomplish this by taking every element into consideration from the choice of colors, lighting, furnishings, and garden courtyards. Our studios strive to be one step ahead both acoustically and technologically.” 


“Glenwood Place has a rich history, and they wanted a forward-looking addition with these new rooms,” Kotch says. “They needed to feel refreshing – not like a studio, more like a living room that’s a great place to make music. The Gold and Silver studios also needed to be fully networked, so two teams could collaborate if desired. This being LA, a beautiful outdoor lounge space was also a must.”  


CA oversaw a design that incorporated spacious control rooms with a warm, inviting feel. Collaborating with Rebhun on the interior design, CA paired neutral colors and warm lighting with wainscoting, brick, and exposed beams, as well as taking advantage of a skylight in one studio for additional ambiance. Neve Custom Series 75 consoles are paired with custom self-powered Augspurger monitors designed specifically for Glenwood Place, providing punchy and robust critical listening in a compact speaker footprint.


Each studio has an adjacent live space that extends the capabilities. One of the live rooms is midsize to easily accommodate a piano or drum kit, while the other functions as a vocal iso booth.  


“Obviously the rooms have to sound fantastic and translate well, and this was achieved by Criterion Acoustics,” notes Rebhun. “The sense of ease and the flow came together with a sensitivity to aesthetics, making every space appealing and refreshing. Visually, technically and acoustically it all combined perfectly for a timeless, limitless feel.


“Criterion Acoustics were extremely open to the new ideas and materials we wanted to use,” Rebhun continues. “We had a very clear idea about these rooms visually, and they incorporated the acoustics that worked perfectly.”  


Jacob Dennis, Chief Engineer for Glenwood Place, adds, “In my experience being in the studio, and particularly for writing sessions, I feel the environment plays a major role in putting people in a creative mindset. Additionally, as an engineer I need the room to be functional and also translate. Glenwood Gold and Silver do a fantastic job of marrying those two worlds.”


With its new spaces, Glenwood Place Studios sets the pace for music production. “The traditional studio model is changing,” observes Dave Kotch. “We’re seeing it move from a few studios with sizable live rooms to multiple studios with larger control rooms, which makes it even more inviting for artists to hang out and make music together. With its dual directives of pristine acoustics and a warm look and feel, Glenwood Place pushed Criterion Acoustics to innovate with our materials and design choices. The result is a new creative haven for LA’s top artists and emerging talent.”


Studio Design Team: David Kotch & Marc Picciotto – Criterion Acoustics

Interior Design: Kit Rebhun

Contractor: Brad Keeler – Progressive Designs

Studio Integration: Bruce Millet


Technical Specifications: 

Studio Gold

Console: Custom Series 75 (8 Channel) 

Main Monitors: Dual 10” Custom Augspurger

Near Field Monitors: Focal Trio6 be

Room Dimensions: Control Room = 21’ 6” X 11’ 5”  

Vocal/Overdub Booth = 5.5w X 13l X 8.5h

Outboard Gear: 

Mic Pres — Chandler TG2 (2), Neve 1073 (2)

Dynamics — Smart Research CL1A (1), SSL 611DYN (2), Tube-Tech CL1B(1), Teletronix LA-2A (1)

Equalization — Pultec EQP-1A3 (1), SSL 611EQ (2)

Other — A Designs REDDI V2 Dual Mono Tube Direct Box (1); Heritage Audio BT 500 (1)


Studio Silver

Console: Custom Series 75 (8 Channel) 

Main Monitors: Dual 10” Custom Augspurger

Near Field Monitors: Focal Trio6 be

Room Dimensions: Control Room = 19’ 8” X 13’ 11”  

Vocal/Overdub Booth = 10’ 4” X 5’ 2”

Outboard Gear: 

Mic Pres — Chandler TG2 (2), Neve 1073 (2)

Dynamics — Smart Research CL1A (1), SSL 611DYN (2), Tube-Tech CL1B(1), Teletronix LA-2A (1)

Equalization — Pultec EQP-1A3 (1), SSL 611EQ (2)

Other — A Designs REDDI V2 Dual Mono Tube Direct Box (1); Heritage Audio BT 500 (1)


Ore Hill & Swyft

When two different restaurants share one space, attention to acoustical design is paramount. In Kent, CT, the dining destination Ore Hill & Swyft called on Criterion Acoustics (CA) to assure sonic separation between dual establishments under one roof.


Swyft, a casual tavern-style pizza parlor is on one side, while the more intimate Ore Hill and its farm-focused tasting menu is on the other. Making things even more interesting for CA was the fact that both restaurants were built within a historic circa-1780’s post and beam farmhouse.


CA made sure that while all of the sound isolation was effective, no treatments negatively impacted the renovated building’s unique atmosphere or structure. “There are often weight limitations and historic preservation concerns in a project like this,” says Dave Kotch, President of Criterion Acoustics. “The architect and interior designer might want the old wooden beams to remain exposed, for example. So the acoustical treatments you select must strike a balance between sound absorption and appearance.”


To maintain the design vision at Ore Hill & Swyft, CA specified high-end materials that were equally effective and discreet. As a result, noise transfer between the two restaurants is minimized, allowing diners to focus fuly on the outstanding culinary creations of award-winning chef Joel Viehland.


“People have high expectations from the moment they enter Ore Hill & Swyft,” Kotch says. “If a place like this looks and feels amazing, but diners can’t have a conversation, that’s a problem. The acoustical design and sound isolation here are essential to a transporting experience.”

Drai’s Vancouver


One of the newest additions to Vancouver is also its most eye-catching: the stylish sophistication of Drai’s Vancouver.


More than a bar and restaurant, this day-and-night destination spot sports a pool as well as a breathtaking visual environment. Establishing it as a danceclub to attract Vancouver’s discerning nightlife crowd called for pristine sound, a requirement that was entrusted to Criterion Acoustics.


CA performed an environmental noise study and all room acoustics for the complex space, which presented myriad challenges. “Musical intelligibility was a top priority for management in order to attract elite DJ’s and the fans that follow them,” says David Kotch, President of Criterion Acoustics. “A centerpiece of Drai’s Vancouver is its glass atrium. It’s a visually stunning feature that creates a great deal of acoustical reflections. The presence of a swimming pool within the club introduced further complications.


“We used the modeling package in Odeon Room Acoustics Software to run simulations, and then create a design. The space had an extremely long reverb time, which required extensive acoustical absorption to tame. Working closely with Drai Vancouver’s interior designer, we created discreet treatments such as high-quality shades with great acoustical absorption capabilities. The result was a crisp, high-powered listening experience that works hand-in-hand with the venue’s spectacular look.”

Marquee Las Vegas Nightclub

The Marquee Las Vegas is a live venue that stands out on the Las Vegas Strip. A 3,000 capacity nightclub/dayclub within the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, its outstanding sound comes via Criterion Acoustics.


With the Marquee’s sister venue, Rose.Rabbit.Lie, right next door, eliminating structure-borne noise and vibration was essential for both venues. The firm floated the theater’s entire 25,000 sq. ft. floor, which successfully achieved extreme sound isolation.

Spartan Gym

CA’s deep experience working with gyms nationwide made them the choice of Spartan Gym, a 14,000 sq. ft. facility opened in partnership with 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami.


Filled with unique gear designed for functional fitness, including equipment like overhead ropes, nets, pipes, heavy ropes, and sleds, Spartan Gym offers a first-of-its-kind workout to hotel guests and residents of 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach.


The acoustical experience is in keeping with the gym’s elite design. CA provided comprehensive noise and vibration isolation for the gym, as well as sound isolation for the Bamford Hayburn Spa, created by noted luxury hotel and spa designer Spencer Fung.


Texas Live

Texas Live is a new entertainment facility located in Arlington, Texas. The project celebrated its grand opening in August 2018, welcoming the public to its 200,000 square feet of dining and entertainment options. Upon completion in 2019 Texas Live will also feature a 300+ room upscale convention hotel, 35,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, plus an outdoor event pavilion, Arlington Backyard, accommodating up to 5,000 people.


Criterion Acoustics (CA) was chosen to assure that Texas Live exceeds all expectations for audio. Services provided include an environmental noise study, sound isolation design, noise control for mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems, and internal room acoustics.


“Texas Live is a massive playground that reflects the modern pastimes and culture of Texas,” says Amanda Lind, Ph. D., of Criterion Acoustics. “Arlington Backyard presented unique challenges for CA to address. This outdoor area included an open-air pavilion with flown speaker arrays. The facility wanted to be able to achieve optimal listening levels there without distributing the adjacent hotel tower, which required special care to ensure high acoustic quality.”


CA performed extensive computer simulations to get Texas Live’s acoustical properties right the first time. “A well-run simulation can save a project considerable money and time,” Lind explains. “We simulated how sound from the outdoor pavilion propagated to the nearby hotel towers, and the subsequent transmission through glass and the reverberation within the towers. These exercises led us to design a directional subwoofer configuration for the facility, among other components.”


CA also simulated Texas Live’s indoor area where sports broadcasts are viewed, to achieve the ideal sound properties. “There is a large interior viewing area, as well as adjacent bars and retail spaces,” says Lind. “We made a point of keeping reverb times down there, conscientiously balancing costs and acoustic quality. For example, we recommended perforated wood absorption to go with Texas Live’s glass façade-driven aesthetic.


“Making an informed decision about acoustic treatments can save a lot of money on a project of this scale,” Lind continues. “The wrong acoustic treatments can be unnecessary or ineffective. And if they aren’t considered at all, a large-volume space such as this would be stressful and unappealing to spend time in: having a normal conversation in a bar wouldn’t be possible.”


With Texas Live already drawing in large volumes of locals and tourists, the facility shows the importance of a well-executed acoustical design. “Ownership didn’t overspend and the customer feels comfortable in the space,” concludes Lind. “Whether they’re experiencing live music or a sports broadcast, the program material sounds clear without being overwhelming. People can fully enjoy being here.”


APG “A Studio” Los Angeles

Criterion Acoustics’ (CA) expertise was essential to an important new addition to major label recording. The recently opened “A Studio” in Los Angeles is a next-generation creative space built around highly advanced recording studio facilities, founded by Artists Partners Group (APG), Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group (WMG).


Consisting of four studios, editing and writing rooms, executive offices and a shared communal space, the complex will serve artistic endeavors from across WMG’s family of labels – including Atlantic, Warner Bros. and their subsidiary labels – as well operating as an A&R incubator for new talent.


CA collaborated extensively with Mike Caren, Founder and CEO of Artist Publishing Group and Artist Partner Group/Creative Officer of WMG, and Atlantic Records Chairman & CEO Craig Kallman to bring the partnerships’ vision to life. Services provided by CA include recording studio design, internal room acoustics, noise and vibration control, sound isolation, AV systems, mechanical noise control, and more.


The “A Studio” was the subject of a feature article in Billboard. Discover more details about this groundbreaking facility here.


(Photo credit: Elisabeth Caren)