The University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada recently upgraded the audio system in its University Theatre with a Yamaha M7CL-32 digital audio console and SB168-ES Stage Box.
Installation assistance was provided by Wavetech Sound & Lighting located in Southern Alberta.
The University boasts one of the fastest-growing post-secondary student populations in Canada with more than 8,000 students from 62 countries – one of the most geographically diverse student populations in Alberta.
The University Theatre seats 500 and is a multi-use venue hosting lectures, road shows, theatrical performances for young audiences, concerts, operas and about four major productions by the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts.
“Our existing console was due for replacement and an upcoming production of ‘Hair’ required more than the available 40 inputs,” states Kelly Roberts, Head of Sound for the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts.
The University of Lethbridge instituted a mandate that, as an instructional theatre, the sound operators be students, so the decision was made to install a digital console to simplify the operation during performances.
Roberts had researched consoles fairly extensively and kept coming back to the price/performance advantage of the Yamaha M7CL.
“I had designed and mixed several shows for the New West Theatre across town at the Yates Memorial Center and really enjoyed using their new 32-input M7CL, says Roberts. Previously, the Theatre had been using a pair of Yamaha O3Ds for years. However, the new console is light years ahead in sound, control, and ease of use.”
“We made the decision to go with the Yamaha M7CL but the approval to purchase it came late and left only two days for installation prior to the soundcheck for the biggest show of the season! Fortunately, any questions I had about the console, stage box, and cards were quickly passed on to Ashley Clarke at Yamaha Commercial Audio in Canada who provided a truly refreshing experience in customer service.”
Because budget constraints prevented the technical staff at the theatre from providing a wireless mic for every cast member of ‘Hair’, the assortment of lavalier and headset mics had to move from performer to performer during the course of the show requiring several gain and EQ adjustments.
“The quick, intuitive access of the Yamaha M7CL to channel settings (monitor mixes, EQ, dynamics, etc) meant that I had the luxury of playing guitar in the pit leaving student operator Katie Tesarowski to make mix adjustments during technical rehearsals and performances,” Roberts adds.
Roberts noted that access to output delays, EQ and dynamic control for every in and out was a very appealing feature of the M7CL. “I was particularly attracted to a digital, ‘full recall’ console because we could utilize presets stored on a USB thumb drive to quickly recall setups optimized for recurring events and virtually eliminate the need for the aging patchbay.”
A Yamaha SB 168-ES Stage Box is used to augment the existing distributed mic lines. Any setup requiring more than the six mic lines available on the proscenium wall boxes required running cables 40 feet upstage to the four mic jacks on the rear wall of the stage or to the six lines in the orchestra pit.
The SB 168-ES increased the total available inputs to 48 on 32 faders. “For ‘Hair’, Roberts continues, ‘we often used the console’s soft patch feature to swap channel inputs between the console and stage box inputs which is VERY handy! An MY8-AT 8-channel ADAT interface card is installed in the console for recording performances to Pro Tools and interfaces with a MOTU 896MkIII for running SFX cueing software.”
“As it turned out, the installation was pretty pain-free, notes Roberts. The CAT5e cable is still a temporary run at this point, and we’ll likely get a double run from the booth to stage later in the year when we get some down time. Overall, the system sounds fabulous; even when set to ‘stun’, there isn’t a hint of noise.”