After more than two years of construction, Beverly Hills’ first performing arts center, the Wallis Annenberg Center – or simply “The Wallis” – officially opened in mid-October with a star-studded, invitation-only gala featuring a concert by Natalie Cole.
Since then, the center’s primary performance space – the 500-seat, proscenium-arch Bram Goldsmith Theater – has been hosting a steady lineup of world-class theatre, music and dance performances sonically reinforced via the venue’s new L-Acoustics amplifier and loudspeaker system.
The sound system was designed and installed by the Burbank team of Electrosonic, Inc., which handled AV design and integration for the entire complex – including the adjacent 1933 Beverly Hills Post Office, fully restored and repurposed as a grand lobby, café, gift shop, classroom and office space, and home to the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater.
According to Electrosonic Design Consultant Steve Coe, the L-Acoustics Certified Provider hung an array of three ARCS FOCUS and one ARCS WIDE on a two-line winch above the center of the Goldsmith’s full-sized theatrical stage. The compact array can fly from stage level to show trim at the top of proscenium, as well as fly out of sight above ceiling reflectors at the catwalk level when unnecessary for purely acoustic or orchestral performances.
At the request of the venue’s benefactors, the rest of the sound system is practically invisible. Coaxial 12XT enclosures are hidden in the proscenium on either side of the stage, while two more are flown above the ceiling reflectors as balcony delays. Also suspended above the reflectors are four individually flown SB18i subs for low-end.
For cinematic events, the venue additionally features a full 7.1 surround system built around L-Acoustics’ smaller XT series products. Eight 8XTi enclosures are mounted in acoustically treated wall recesses along each side of the room and covered with removable acoustic panels, while a total of four tiny 5XT enclosures are similarly hidden along the back wall of the balcony and deliver rear-balcony coverage.
Two LA8 and eight LA4 amplified controllers housed in a custom amplifier rack in the control booth power and process the entire system via LA Network Manager software.
“When we first got involved with this project way back in 2008, we knew even then that we wanted to have an L-Acoustics system in the main house,” Coe recalls. “We originally looked at KIVA-KILO and ARCS II, and then KARA as well. But as the project evolved, ARCS WIFO made its debut and was perfectly suited for the space. Having personally tested the Goldsmith’s new system with a string quartet, classical pianist, jazz band and rock band, I feel that it achieves such a level of purity and clarity – as well as lovely warmth – that many other manufacturers seem to lack. I’ve always loved L-Acoustics in the theatrical setting and this project absolutely confirms that.”
Wallis Annenberg Center Director of Production James D’Asaro shares Coe’s delight with the new system. “Our L-Acoustics house system works very well for producing a sound and expressiveness within the range of what our artists and guest companies expect without being overwhelming to our audiences,” he says. “The system doesn’t feel like it has to ‘pierce’ before it has real presence and power, but is well balanced in a way that allows it to become virtually invisible when we don’t want to perceive that it is doing something.
“During Natalie Cole’s performance at our opening gala, the system sounded clean and inviting. The soul in her music easily shone through, and she commented about the lovely sound from the stage. Natalie’s front-of-house engineer, who had never been in the Goldsmith Theater prior to then, also mentioned that he was very impressed. He was surprised by how amazing everything sounded from a system that, for the most part, is so well hidden. It truly belies the power, coverage and sound it’s capable of.”