The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) has been Nashville’s link to the world of Broadway and off-Broadway theater for nearly 30 years, with TPAC’s four theaters home to as many as 500 productions annually.
When the decision was made to upgrade three of the theaters’ sound systems, all were outfitted with new Soundcraft Vi Series digital consoles. The Andrew Jackson Hall, which seats 2,472, now has a 64-input Soundcraft Vi6 for FOH mixing; the James K. Polk Theater, which seats 1,075, now also has a 64-input Vi6 FOH console; and the Andrew Johnson Theater, a black box-type venue that seats 256, is now equipped with a 48-input Soundcraft Vi4 at FOH.
“The core of this upgrade was our move from analog to digital consoles,” explains Larry Bryan, TPAC’s Chief Audio Engineer, who operates the audio systems at the Center along with Mac Whitley, Senior Audio Engineer, and Jeff Ent, Assistant Audio Engineer.
Bryan adds that the previous analog consoles, “couldn’t take us where we wanted to go for the future. There was too much signal loss, something that a digital console would resolve, and we wanted to improve the overall sound of the performances and have as user-friendly an interface as possible.”
The Soundcraft Vi Series consoles met all those criteria and then some. “The layout of the consoles is incredibly intuitive – as soon as you get behind the board it makes immediate sense,” he says. “It was designed for the way we think.”
The flexibility of the Soundcraft Vi series consoles was also a major factor – both Vi6 consoles can accommodate a second 32-input stage box, increasing input capacity to 96 inputs.
“When we did a production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ earlier this year, with 10 RF body pack microphones and a 12-piece band, that’s when we realized we did the right thing choosing the Soundcraft consoles,” Bryan says.
However, those kinds of capital expenditures for a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to providing and supporting the presentation of the performing arts are crucial decisions.
“Studer, whose consoles are used in top theatrical venues around the world, is Soundcraft’s sister company,” Bryan explains. “It really appealed to us that the Soundcraft consoles share a lot of the Studer research and approach to live mixing consoles, but that we could access the Soundcraft boards at a more cost-effective price.
“That’s very important because an organization like TPAC has to fund major upgrades like this using grant proposals. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Soundcraft consoles, along with their great sound and user-friendliness, made them the only real choice for us.”