The NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY, is one of Long Island’s best-known music venues, growing from less-than-glamorous origins in 1956 as an unheated outdoor tent to a premier Live Nation-owned concert hall.
Formerly the Westbury Music Fair, the current 3,000-seat venue was built in 1966 and has since undergone multiple renovations, the most recent being an upgrade to its audio system with Harman’s JBL Professional VerTec line arrays powered by Crown Audio I-Tech HD amplifiers.
“The former audio system was 30 years old, was underpowered and had significant issues in many areas,” notes Dustin Goen, system designer and project manager for systems integrator Clair Brothers.
The venue is a theater in the round with 360-degree seating surrounding a circular stage that rotated during most performances. The main loudspeakers, lighting and video screens were mounted on a truss ring hanging above the stage, with fill loudspeakers placed around the front of the stage and at other locations in the hall. The main loudspeakers were pointed downward but because of the design of the truss ring, they could not deliver adequate coverage to all the seats.
“To supplement the main loudspeakers, a kind of patchwork arrangement of fill loudspeakers was installed throughout the venue in an attempt to get adequate coverage,” Goen explains. “As a result, no matter where someone sat they heard a mixture of up to four different loudspeakers, all with different timings and sonic characters.”
Patrons in the first row might have scored the best seats to see the show but they heard the worst audio mix—almost no sound from the PA and too much from the stage monitors and amplifiers. The low-frequency reinforcement was inadequate, with only four subwoofers mounted on the overhead truss. There were a number of nodes in the room where the bass was almost inaudible.
“On top of all that,” Goen adds, “the old system didn’t actually cover the front of house mixing position. The engineer had to walk out of the sound booth and down the aisle to hear the mix. You basically had to use your imagination to figure out how things sounded.”
As vice president of production for House of Blues/Clubs and Theatres, Live Nation’s Dan Schartoff spearheaded the audio system renovation effort and determined that not only would an all-new sound system have to be installed, the overhead cage of trusses would have to go. Goen and crew had to complete the job in two weeks start to finish, from tearing down and installing the new truss to mounting the loudspeakers, lighting and six 80-inch video monitors.