Housed in a historic church, Salt Lake Acting Company premieres new, original plays with bold themes. When it came time to buy a new mixing console, in-house sound maven Cynthia L. Kehr Rees chose the Yamaha IM8-32, an analog board with a straightforward layout and feature set.
Kehr Rees, who is a member of United Scenic Artists local 829 and serves as a sound designer, system designer and sound engineer, has had extensive training on Yamaha’s digital consoles, including the O1V, the O2R and the LS9, but prefers the sound of analog. She also considered the learning curve it takes to operate a digital mixer when deciding to purchase the IM8-32.
“I was looking for a console that would be accessible to any operator walking up to it,” said Kehr Rees. “That is especially important here because we have a lot of people who appreciate having all the channels available without having to flip through screens. And I’m partial to the sound of analog; people say there’s no difference, but to me there’s a warmth you get with analog that has yet to be duplicated in a digital console within a comparable price range.”
The main theater seats 160 and occupies a space built as a multipurpose room within one of the earliest churches in Salt Lake City by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The room, which has never been acoustically retrofitted, presents interesting challenges that the IM8-32 helps tame.
The company presents dramas and musicals, with live accompaniment, but uses hanging microphones instead of a wireless mic system. During Saturday’s Voyeur, the theatre’s annual summer musical that parodies the local politics and society of Salt Lake City and Utah, audience members sit around the edge of the stage and enjoy picnic lunches.
“Often, the space changes entirely for each show. I like how the output structure, with four matrices, eight subgroups and eight auxes, with pre-post assigns grouped in pairs, offers a lot of flexibility for live theater. We need the flexibility to accommodate monitor systems, outputs for FOH, effects playback systems and other feeds; given the price point, especially, this board stands alone in its class.”
Kehr Rees praised the microphone preamps, the smoothness of the faders, EQ that rivals outboard devices and the onboard single-knob compression. “With the hanging mics and the gain structure set up on our old console, the loudest voices were the only ones we heard properly,” she said. “When we opened up the gain so we could hear the softer voices the big voices would peak out the system and we would have to ride the gain to keep from distorting. Yamaha’s input compression acts as a safeguard so no one voice can destroy the mix.”
Kehr Rees, who earned a BFA in Theatrical Design and Technology from Otterbein College and an MFA in Sound Design from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, has garnered experience at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, in Montgomery, the Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, Fla., Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and many other regional theatre companies.
At Salt Lake Acting Company, she uses virtually all of the inputs of the IM8-32. “Things are spaced so you can actually use them,” she said. “Some manufacturers try to cram so much in that unless you have itty-bitty fingers, you can’t use the different functions on the channels. I have small fingers, but on some consoles I’ve used, you can’t get a hand in there to turn the potentiometers. The IM8-32 is a flexible console with an ergonomic design. Someone finally addressed the needs of the smaller professional theater.”