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44 l November 2012 For the latest installation news SOUNDBITES

The St James Theatre in London SW1, the first newly built theatre complex in central London for 30 years, features EM Acoustics products throughout. London-based consultancy firm Theatreplan specified a proscenium LCR system of EM Acoustics MSE- 159 two-way medium-format passive loudspeakers for the main theatre with three EMS-61s as delays. The Studio Theatre has a pair of MSE-159s as a main PA with a single EMS-81X compact full-range loudspeaker for balcony fill.

A DIS conferencing system has been chosen for the Landmark Hotel in Amman. Advanced Solutions, the exclusive distributor of DIS products in Jordan, has ordered three DDS 5900 Digital Discussion Systems for the venue, which features a large conference centre.

London Waterloo, one of the UK’s busiest railway stations, has installed a TannoyVLS PA system. The series is the first from Tannoy to incorporate FAST (Focussed Asymmetrical Shaping Technology),

delivering acoustic performance benefits not previously seen across a full range of passive column loudspeakers.

d&b’s T-Series has been chosen as the new PA system at The Svenska Teaten (Swedish Theatre) in Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki-based Msonic via entertainment integrators Hedcomprovided the d&b system while the installation design was mostly the work of Andreas Lönqvist the theatre’s head of sound. In total 130 d&b loudspeakers were installed throughout the theatre, all driven from 50 D6 and D12 amplifiers.

installation UNITED KINGDOM L-Acoustics slays PA monster

Leading London theatre upgrades “mish-mash” of speakers with a flexible KARA/ARCS system, writes Dave Robinson

A FEW thousand people were lucky enough to see the run of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank two years ago. That show, for the record, employed a Funktion One system to carry Underworld’s “deep, dark, death-like” soundtrack. But everyone who has ever seen a production at the Olivier – the largest of the NT’s three venues – will have encountered the Frankenstein’s monster that is the in-house PA system. Ed Ferguson, head of sound for the Olivier, was responsible for wrangling the beast. “I inherited a system that had

grown organically – [Meyer] MSL2s and 650s for music, and a mixture of d&b E3 and E9s as a vocal system. Tannoy and Duran Audio were in there too for surround. The way that grew is, you’d find holes in the system and buy items on a show budget to ‘Polyfill’ those holes.” A roll-over on the NT’s

capital expenditure two years ago meant the sound team had the budget and the opportunity to revisit the Olivier’s design and replace it with something that was not created from a hybrid of parts. This upgrade project has been split into phases. First in was a new EM Acoustics PA to replace the “mish-mash” of stage and surround speakers. “On-stage speakers are used for anything from spot FX to giving focus to vocals or music,” says Ferguson. The boxes vary from the 5” compact EMS-51 to the

The KARA/ARCS set-up was put to the test on London Road

Ferguson says he was keen to

(L-R): Chris Vass, Ed Ferguson and Andy Huffer

15” EM152, all powered by Lab.gruppen C Series amps. But, says Ferguson, the

upgrade stalled when it came to the bigger ‘vocal and music’ system, because of the greater

move away from a fixed system, and arrive at a flexible solution that would hand the power of control and creativity back to the sound designer – rather than holding the designer hostage, which is what the old hotch- potch arrangement did. The final decision was

between Meyer, d&b and L-Acoustics. “We knew these brands would stand the test of time, and still be relevant in 15 years,” he says.

“Sometimes we mic up actors to ‘energise’ the space – rather than amplifying them – and that requires transparency in the PA”

budget commitment. Initial design considerations led to a number of demos to explore whether the concept of a line array would work in the theatre. “And it was such a headache, because in the Olivier we had to find a system that would satisfy the hugely different styles of plays. I had to look at what the old system had given us, how we’d used that – and more importantly, what it didn’t give us.”

Ed Ferguson, head of sound, Olivier Ideally the size and width of

the Olivier dictated that if a line source gave enough throw for ‘music’, then a point source centre cluster for the vocal system would be required to tie the whole together, “but the whole system needs to be flexible and capable of doing anything”. The ‘vocal’ system needed to

be adaptive, too. “Sometimes we mic up actors to ‘energise’ the space – rather than amplifying them – and that requires

transparency in the PA. [This is a case of: if you can hear the speaker, it’s too loud.] But in addition to that, when we need high SPL, it should supply that too.” Ultimately, then, the Olivier

was after a system that was capable of doing more or less anything. Not a small demand for any sound reinforcement system. The three finalists got

whittled down to two… and L-Acoustics emerged the winner. “We’ve got a tie-line

infrastructure in an amp room, whereas the Meyer speakers are self-powered and that would mean additional infrastructure which we didn’t have,” he reveals. “Also, there were questions of maintenance for such a powered system. “It was a hard decision to

make – but the ARCS tipped it.” The ARCS II point source array in the central cluster position, that is; and the ability to create a horizontally-coupled 120º dispersion by flying six 22.5º cabinets. “ARCS are designed for a wide space like the Olivier,” says Ferguson. Add that to two flying KARA line array columns on the proscenium and you have a winner.

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