Commissioned in 1929 by the then-named Warner Brothers Productions and opened in 1931, the Warner Theatre is a landmark in Erie, PA that now serves as a live performance arts venue, and it’s recently been equipped with a new main sound reinforcement system JBL Professional VTX Series loudspeakers and Crown I-Tech Series amplifiers as part of an extensive renovation project.
Warner Theatre production manager Ryan Patsy teamed up with consultant David Bateman, CTS-D of Acentech and integrator Todd Pander of Dobil Laboratories on the design and installation of the new system to deliver coverage to the 2,250-capacity venue. In addition, Keith Caggiano of HARMAN provided support in the final system tuning process.
“They were looking for a house sound system that could meet as many of the touring acts’ riders as possible,” Bateman explains. “Erie Events was bringing in more Broadway-style big performance bus-and-truck type shows, and it wanted to be able to facilitate that. The JBL system is rider-friendly because of name recognition, performance and longevity. If JBL was doing something wrong for all these years, it wouldn’t be here this many years later. If you see JBL on a rider, you know it’s going to work and it’s going to sound good.”
“I’ve had a lot of experience with JBL in the past,” Patsy adds. “It’s as rider-friendly as they come, in my experience making bands happy on riders. I knew that JBL is where we’d get the most value for the dollar.”
The main left-right hang consists of 18 JBL VTX A8 array modules, suspended nine per side. Additionally, the team installed four JBL VTX B18 subwoofers deployed on the ground for reinforced bass response.
“The A8s are crisp and clean. We’ve had no complaints with the new system,” says Patsy. “We used to have complaints before, largely in part because we’d do shows in one day, and they wouldn’t have time to tune the system properly under the gun. We’ve eliminated that step for a lot of our smaller performances. We just need to hook the system up and it’s going to cover the space great with intelligibility everywhere in the room.”
JBL AC25 and AC26 loudspeakers deliver front and balcony fill. All loudspeakers are powered by Crown I-Tech 4×3500 amplifiers, with the Crown plugin for Q-SYS enabling the production staff to monitor the status of all amplifiers remotely from front-of-house. “The Crown plugin for Q-SYS is really cool,” Patsy states. “I can put it on a touch screen display at FOH that’s easily visible by anyone on the crew so we can just look at a glance and make sure we’re running the system within the right parameters without blowing anything up.”
On the rare occasion that a touring production insists on providing its own sound system, the VTX A8’s auto-locking rigging mechanism helps the venue team streamline the breakdown and subsequent re-deployment processes. “It takes us less than an hour to completely strip the PA,” says Patsy. “When the promoters are here paying for every minute that the guys on the clock, it’s a huge time saver that the VTX arrays go up and down so quickly.”
Bateman adds, “A system needs to match the acoustics of the venue itself — if those two things don’t work together, it can do more harm than good. If the box is too big for the room, it can be overpowering and sound horrible. I’ve seen it before. This particular JBL A8 is the right box for the room.”
After two years of being closed, the Warner Theater reopened in 2022 with a performance by the Erie Philharmonic. “JBL has some very happy customers here at the Warner Theatre,” Patsy concludes. “Bands and production crews are really happy when they roll in and see the JBL VTX system in the air. They know their artist is going to be happy with the sound that their audiences get. We are ecstatic with it. We’ve heard nothing but compliments from everyone about how good our new VTX system sounds.”