SSE Audio Group has completed the installation of a new PA system in the 1500-seater Butterworth Hall at Warwick Arts Centre following a rigorous selection process.
When the tendering process began in January 2012, the objective for Warwick Arts Centre’s technical director, Howard Potts was to achieve the best sounding PA system for the approved budget. Following a number of product and system demonstrations in the auditorium, where SSE went head to head with a number of other suppliers, it was decided that the L’Acoustics KIVA demonstrated by SSE Audio Group was the most impressive.
"We may have used a rather unscientific set of criteria in the demonstrations, but they were equally and uniformly applied across all the systems demonstrated" says Howard Potts.
"Several of us listened and took notes as to how each system coped in a space that is not the easiest to work in. We were particularly interested in how much reflected sound we were hearing and how that impacted on intelligibility as we have a lot of speech going through the system. Music was also important of course, and we were looking to hear the tone of the system, without lots of EQ and how the bass end was handled."
The audio design submitted by SSE incorporated two main hangs with two out-hangs of KIVA with two flown SB18i subs per side. In addition, six L’Acoustics 8XTi front fill cabinets were specified to cover the front edge of the stage.
During the demonstration to various members of centre’s technical team, SSE was able to show how the design provided full and even audio coverage across all of the venue’s seats.
SSE Audio Group has worked with French manufacturer L’Acoustics for a number of years and is recognised as an L’Acoustics Systems Integrator for audio installations in addition to its status as a Rental Network Partner for L’Acoustics K1 flagship system.
Warwick Arts Centre is one of the largest arts centres in the UK with audiences that number upwards of 200,000 each year across a range of outstanding performance venues - the Theatre, Studio, Cinema, Gallery in addition to the recently refurbished Butterworth Concert Hall. The arts centre is located at the heart of the University of Warwick in Coventry.
SSE Audio also enjoys a long term working relationship with Warwick University Students Union on the campus, installing an L’Acoustics dV-DOSC system there in 2009. The backup and support provided to the students union by SSE provided additional confidence to the arts centre when selecting a supplier.
RIGGING & CABLING
The installation in the Butterworth Hall offered some key challenges in terms of rigging and cabling.
From a rigging perspective, two single flying points were available on each side of the auditorium. This wasn’t ideal as each hang could not be secured in a fixed position from only one point. As the design specified two hangs side by side, the solution was to build a custom bumper to accommodate both L’Acoustics hangs.
By using a custom lifting bar for both hangs, with the L'Acoustics standard bumpers utilised underneath, SSE were able to suspend the system from two points, removing the possibility of any lateral movement in the hangs.
A safety chain was also employed on a third central point which acts as a guide for setting the height of the hangs, and therefore removing any margin for error when resetting the flying height of the main PA. A chain clutch was also fitted so that the system can be raised fully into the roof space, and safetied, out of sight when not needed for a show.
It was originally suggested that the L’Acoustics LA8/4 amplifiers should be located in the control gallery at the back of the auditorium, but this would require very long speaker cable runs. SSE proposed instead to install the amp rack in the roof space above the stage in order to keep speaker cable lengths and signal loss to a minimum. Similarly, the amp rack for the front fill was installed locally to the speakers. SSE’s electronics manufacturing department built a custom mains distro unit to enable the main amp rack to be switched on/off remotely from the control gallery.
Audio signals and control data are sent over the existing in house tie lines to the front fill rack, while new signal cable was installed between the control room and the main amp rack. All LA8/4 amplifiers are also monitored and controlled via LA Network Manager 2 running on a rack mounted PC installed in the control room.
In addition to the L'Acoustics equipment SSE installed a Lake LM44 processor to run the main drive of the system.
SSE's technical manager Simon Gladstone commented
"While we have fine tuned the system within the L'Acoustics LA8 amplifiers, by including the Lake processor in the signal chain, the venue and visiting engineers can tune the system for a specific show. This has the added bonus that Warwick Arts Centre’s technicians can quickly and easily reset the system to SSE’s commissioned settings once a visiting engineer has left. The Lake also able enables us to send audio to the amp racks in AES format, even if we only have an analogue input into the Lake."
SSE has also installed an AES output card into Warwick Arts Centre's existing Soundcraft Si3 mixing console. This now allows audio to be kept in the digital domain from the input to the desk, to the output from the amplifiers.
THREE DAY INSTALLATION
The tight schedule of bookings and events at the venue meant only very small window of three days was available to carry out the complete installation.
“The Install schedule was tight, but with a great install team and good planning we were able to achieve the required deadline” commented Mark Hatfield, SSE’s project manager.
The investment in this new system was proposed to improve the concert hall’s facilities and acoustics. Since the venue was refurbished in 2009 a temporary PA system has been in use.
"I had high expectations of SSE and I'm happy to say those expectations were met. There has been good attention to detail and a great deal of perserverance in dealing with issues relating to our existing FOH desk" Howard Potts reflects.
The introduction of the L'Acoustics KIVA system now means that the many touring acts and artists performing at the venue will be able to leave their own PA on the truck and use a system which will improve the experience from the perspectives of both the production and their audience.
"We have now been using the system for a few weeks and so far it has more than coped with everything we've thrown at it. We are looking forward to using it as much as possible, hopefully for many years to come."
Related stories and links
Warwick Arts Centre
L'Acoustics Products from SSE Audio Group
L'Acoustics KIVA - SSE Product Catalogue
L'Acoustics SB18 Sub - SSE Product Catalogue
KIVA & KARA Listening Demo
KIVA Package supplied for Production Support
KIVA and XT Systems Available for Hire
Dante™ is a combination of software, hardware and network protocols, developed with the objective of delivering uncompressed, multi-channel, low-latency digital audio over a standard Ethernet network.