Can you Sphere Me Now? Audio Coming to Vegas Venue’s Exterior

Estimated read time 3 min read

Soon, it may not only be eyes straining to make out the Las Vegas Sphere from far away, but also ears.

What does the popular emoji’s voice sound like? We’ll probably find out this summer. (Image: cookandassociates.com)

“We think that we’ll be able, this year, probably this summer, to be able to add an audio component that goes along with the Exosphere,” Sphere Entertainment CEO Dolan told analysts during a quarterly earnings call on Friday.

The Exosphere, the world’s largest digital display, has dramatically reshaped the Las Vegas skyline. It’s caused airline passengers to choose their seats based on viewing it from the correct position. It even helped spur a controversial new ordinance that forbids stopping along pedestrian bridges spanning the Las Vegas Strip. (Here, tourists commonly wait, often for longer than 10 minutes, for the perfect Sphere graphic to snap a selfie — usually, with the yellow emoji.)

Now Hear This

Neither Dolan, nor Sphere officials, are saying how the Sphere might solve the problem of projecting its audio without breaking Clark County noise ordinances. The main problem with the concept seems to be that hearing the Sphere would seem to require proximity that interferes with optimal viewing.

While the Exosphere, which is 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide, can be seen up from more than a mile away, the images it projects cannot be seen from directly beneath the venue. That’s because the top half of the Sphere curves away from view and, more importantly, because the images appear only as single pixels of unrelated light.

The best Sphere viewing requires a distance of at least a quarter mile. This is why tens of thousands have paid between $11-$38.50 (plus fees and tax) to park at the LAZ Parking structure, at 3763 Howard Hughes Parkway, just to enjoy the Sphere from its top floor.

Projecting clear audio that far seems highly problematic.

Audio Problems

Las Vegas has a long history of controversy over just about everything, so of course that includes the audio portion of its popular signs.

In 1968, City Commissioners voted to instruct the Pioneer Club to silence Vegas Vic. Since the famous neon cowboy’s installation in 1951, he had been greeting passersby with a loud “Howdy, Podner!” every few minutes — a feature that wasn’t wildly popular with guests attempting to sleep inside The Mint’s 26-story hotel tower, which opened directly across Fremont Street in 1965.

Contrary to a persistent popular myth, actor Lee Marvin didn’t break Vic’s voicebox by shooting an arrow through it. 

Though the logistics of the Sphere’s new audio system remain unknown, the company that will work through its challenges is a virtual lock.

On Monday morning, Sphere Entertainment (NYSE: SPHR) announced its acquisition of all remaining shares it did not previously own of HOLOPLOT, the Berlin-based 3D audio company that designed the immersive sound system heard inside the Sphere.

“This acquisition reflects our Company’s commitment to staying on the cutting-edge of immersive experiences as we explore growth opportunities for both Sphere and HOLOPLOT,” read a statement attributed to both Sphere Entertainment EVP Paul Westbury and MSG Ventures CEO David Dibble.

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