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Everything In The Right Place: Audio Helps Revitalize A Venerable Philadelphia Theater

An inside look at the sound system renovations for a classic venue built for opera in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein.

Dustin Goen of K2 Audio worked with Clair’s Josh Sadd to model the environment in EASE. “I was hired by Live Nation to design the system, help them manage the bidding process, select the final contractor, supervise the construction, and make sure everything worked as it should in the end,” Goen says, doing his best to succinctly describe the many hats he wore over the course of the project.

“This is an old opera house with multiple balconies, and some of them are very shallow. The EASE modeling was invaluable for determining locations for the fill and distributed systems in order to overcome countless architectural challenges. I probably worked on this for a year and a half. Just the bidding process was considerably lengthy with us weighing a number of solid options and dealing with an ever-changing budget. Live Nation waited till the last minute to select a contractor, and at that make-it-or-break-it point I was happy they chose Clair, as I knew they would get in, get the job done, and do it right at the same time. That’s what counts most for everyone.”

At the heart of the blueprint lies the main system, is comprised of 16 of Clair C12 line array modules per side joined by eight flown iS218 double-18-inch subwoofers (again, per side), and six CS218-M double-18 subs under the stage. This is supplemented with a variety of loudspeakers throughout the house. Within the five tiers gradually ascending from the stage and main floor, a half-dozen low-profile FF2-R loudspeakers on the stage provide front fill, kiTCurve curved array elements add reinforcement underneath the balcony to the left and right of the stage, and more kiTCurves support the main coverage in four other locations in the room.

Further, an underbalcony delay ring fills in appropriately as well, while 16 C8 loudspeakers distributed around the balcony and box seats bring even coverage to other areas. To manage coverage in the top half of the upper balcony, three delayed arrays of three kiTCurve12s each were deployed.

Consoles for the house and monitors were not initially part of the package bid upon by Clair for the project, but shortly after the PA rounded the corner to completion DiGiCo SD9s were added at both front of house and onstage, as was a complete, turnkey Clair monitor rig.

Clair installed the system racks in two locations – one stage right and the other stage left – using an approached based on 4-channel Lake DSP-equipped D Series amplifiers from Lab Gruppen that spread power throughout the space in the following fashion: A dozen D120s run the PA’s C12s, six D200s power the subs, and all the fill loudspeakers are fed by nine D80s. Processing, in its entirety, is all done within the amps.

Far From Conventional

Vast and varied, areas served by the distributed systems in the design sprawl throughout the structure from lobbies to VIP areas and bars. Residing upon a Q-SYS backbone from QSC utilizing a 510i core and combination of networked CXD-Q 4- and 8-channel amplifiers, the distributed systems are highlighted by one built for The Met’s Grande Salle, a beautifully appointed, upscale, 3,400 square-foot lounge.

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“The Grande Salle may be outfitted with a distributed system, but it’s just about the furthest thing from a conventional 70-volt plan that you can find,” Goen explains. “It’s truly high fidelity, just what the nature of the pre- and post-show events held here demand.

The seating configuration that’s covered by the new system in the beautifully revitalized venue.

“On the loudspeaker end of the equation, we used what is in my opinion one of Josh Sadd’s most unique designs, and that’s what Clair has named the 10SPOT. The box has broader coverage at the bottom – 110 degrees horizontal – than the top, where it’s 90 degrees. It has vertical coverage of 40 to 45 degrees,” he continues. “We painted the 10SPOT cabinets to blend in with the walls and hung them throughout the space with some subs and loudspeakers placed between. The resulting coverage runs right up to the walls on all sides and back without any comb filtering between the devices because of the way the patterns were worked out. No one else makes a loudspeaker like this, and everything adds up to create a truly great-sounding room.”

The Right Place

Utilizing some of the fiber Live Nation had installed for other purposes but had plenty of room for the distributed blueprint’s needs too, the installation crew kept the length required for the loudspeaker runs as short as possible. “We just ran across their fiber,” Goen notes, “put in a network switch and networked QSC CXD-Q amplifier as needed, and away we went. Q-SYS touch panels are located in strategic locations and do an excellent job of unifying the control end. From the touch panels, we also offer control over the AMX distribution system for video, so both sound and picture can be addressed from a single source.”

Fans of Joel and Ethan Coen’s cult classic film The Big Lebowski know only too well how well The Dude’s rug tied things together in his apartment. In the case of The Met, Goen feels that careful planning is analogous to this famous floor covering. “All of us spent a lot of time and gave considerable thought to making sure that every loudspeaker installed was in the right place,” he offers on a final note. “That’s what tied things together for us here so well. It was easily 85 percent of the battle.”