Symnet At The Heart Of The Historic Rose Theater’s Much Needed Audio Upgrade

The building that houses The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska originally opened its doors in 1927 under the name The Riviera.

Lavish in every respect, the building boasted ornate tapestries and Oriental rugs, sculptures, a mosaic floor, decorative fountains, Mediterranean-style murals, and a ceiling painted with sunset clouds and dotted with electric stars… not to mention stunning acoustics.

Like many other theaters built in that era, hard times fell upon The Riviera during the depression, and the theater changed hands numerous times in the ensuing decades.

Each time, the new owners changed several aspects of its original architecture and charm until what remained in 1981 bore little resemblance to what had once been so magical.

That year, furniture magnate Rose Blumkin purchased the building to save it from the wrecking ball and generously deeded it to the Omaha Theater Company for Young People, along with the first $1 million towards its full restoration and an endowment for upkeep in perpetuity.

More recently, a parallel tale played with regard to The Rose Theater’s sound system. Installed in the mid-1990s, the system was passable, though hardly exemplary, when new. Coverage, in particular, was mediocre.

After a brief maintenance-free run, console channels began failing, amps stopped working, and speaker components lost the crispness and intelligibility they once had. The theater was moved to action, spurred by the volume and quantity of complaints about the sound system from patrons and renters.

Julie Walker, managing director of The Rose Theater, turned to the Designed Systems Group at Omaha’s prominent Midwest Sound & Lighting, who had been dutifully applying band-aids to the old equipment.

Initially, David Walters of Diversified Design in Lincoln, Nebraska drew up a plan for the new system using equipment other than SymNet. However, Tim Burkhart knew that SymNet could do the job better with more flexibility and eventually convinced Walters that SymNet was a better choice for this project.

“Walters didn’t have anything against SymNet per se, rather he simply felt most comfortable recommending the manufacturer that he was familiar with,” said Burkhart. “We lobbied hard for SymNet, as we have had several very successful SymNet installations in the area and we felt that the SymNet ARC remote control panels would give The Rose Theater the sort of simple, intuitive user-interface that they were hoping for.”

Burkhart invited Walker and the other interested parties at The Rose Theater to visit the Omaha Community Playhouse (the largest community theater in the country), where a recent Midwest Sound & Lighting installation had been a big hit. “The group was impressed by the system’s performance, and there were several bits of functionality with respect to the ARC controllers that they wanted to go directly into The Rose Theater renovation.”

Everyone, including Walters, was sold on SymNet and so the project went forward. Working with speed and flexibility around a non-stop performance schedule, Midwest Sound & Lighting gutted the old system and replaced it with something vastly better.

A SymNet 8×8 DSP forms its heart, with a SymNet BreakIn12 and a SymNet BreakOut12 bringing the I/O count to twenty on each side. Three Crown CTS600, four CTS1200, and two CTS2000 amplifiers power an array of JBL loudspeakers. Left, center and right arrays, composed of one JBL AL6115, two JBL ASB6118s, two JBL AM6315-95s, and three JBL AM4212-00s for the balcony, provide elegant coverage of almost all the seats in the theater.

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A handful of JBL Control-25 loudspeakers complete it with front fill. A new Yamaha M7CL-48 upgrades the system’s capabilities at FOH, and a Lectrosonics Venue wireless microphone system provides the system with a high-end input.

Two SymNet ARC-2 wall panels greatly simplify control of both large-scale performances and smaller-scale events. “A lot of the time small events will rent The Rose,” said Burkhart. “Before, they had to wrestle with the FOH console, even if they simply wanted a few microphones for speech reinforcement. With the SymNet DSP and remote control, they can put mics up in simple situations and bypass the console entirely.”

“SymNet’s auto-mix function and feedback suppression makes the system fully automatic and foolproof. An interface at the stage manager’s position makes simple volume tweaks intuitive. A second ARC-2 at the FOH position allows an engineer to send the program mix or a submix to anywhere in the building.”

“We used to get so many complaints about the sound system,” said Walker, “It really compromised the quality of our productions.”

“But after this fabulous renovation, not only is there an absence of complaints, but a steady stream of compliments, which we like! I also want to add that the professionalism of Midwest Sound & Lighting made this the smoothest project I’ve ever been involved in.”


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