Built in 1938, Augusta, Georgia’s Miller Theater represented the state-of-the-art in cinema and vaudeville for over 40 years. An economic downturn in the ’80s eventually shuttered the theater and it lay silent and dark for more than three decades. Today, however, following a $25 million, seven-year restoration project, the venue has finally reopened, with a mission to present a variety of productions.
At the heart of the complex is the Brian J. Marks Hall, an Art Moderne masterpiece that seats nearly 1,300 patrons and offers clean sightlines from the front row to the back of the balcony. Chicago-based consultancy Kirkegaard Associates specified L-Acoustics Kara arrays to complement the theater’s exquisitely restored visual aesthetic. The system was integrated by Mankin Media Systems of Franklin, TN.
“This was a renovation of a historical space, so there were a lot of limitations that we had to work with,” explains Kirkegaard senior consultant associate Joanne Chang. “We couldn’t modify much of the architecture, and that had an impact on the space’s acoustics.”
Added to those stipulations was the fact that decisions made during the renovations affected both the budget and the hall’s purpose—it went from being intended as the home of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta (SOA) to also accommodating a much wider array of performances, including concerts and theatrical productions. And that, says Chang, is where the Kara system came in.
“The deep balcony, the shape of the room, and the kinds of shows that would take place there meant we needed a very flexible sound system,” says Chang, who first heard the Kara system at the Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. “I loved how it sounded there, and the Kara system is the perfect main PA for this hall; plus L-Acoustics offered us a lot of choices with the same sonic signature for the balcony and under-balcony areas, which were special challenges. The entire system sounded amazing even before the first tuning.”
Kirkegaard designed a main house system comprised of left and right arrays of 11 Kara each, flanked by sub hangs of three SB18i per side, with eight compact 5XT coaxial speakers spread across the stage lip for front fill. Coaxial X Series speakers were chosen for the balcony and under-balcony areas, the under-balcony is covered by three X8 enclosures mounted just under the front edge of the under-balcony ceiling, with another row of three 5XT mounted from the ceiling about 20 feet further back for back-of-room coverage. Audio coverage for the balcony is supplemented using an array of three X12, and all systems are powered and processed by a total of 10 LA4X amplified controllers.
The combination of Kara and X Series loudspeakers was an excellent choice from an installation perspective, notes Mankin Media Systems applications engineer Shane Weber: “The balcony was especially challenging. The room is about 45 feet tall, but the balcony is much shallower—approximately 10 feet—so the difference between the two spaces is significant.
“In addition, most of the balcony seating is covered by the Kara PA, but there were some potential coverage issues due to a lighting truss there, so we installed the three X12 speakers to cover the last eight to ten rows. Having the X Series speakers meant we could choose exactly the size of speakers we needed for each area, but just as importantly, we could then tune each set of speakers so that there is a seamless transition from the PA to the fill and delay speakers. Every seat in the hall gets a completely consistent sonic experience.”
The under-balcony experience is further enhanced by the input from a pair of microphones that Mankin Media Systems hung from the center of the hall and that are fed back into the delay loudspeakers through the LA4X amplified controllers, providing authentic ambience to the tight space under the balcony.
The reviews are in and they’re great. “One of the first shows I heard there was a rock concert and the front-of-house engineer was concerned that there weren’t enough subs in the system,” says Weber. “But he later told me that there was plenty of punch and presence. The system can do everything asked of it and it covers the entire room perfectly. The Kara and X Series combination is really the ideal solution.”