Tectonic Audio Labs in Woodinville, Wash., was selected to provide installed front-of-house loudspeakers for the historic Empress Theatre in Vallejo, Calif., a beaux arts venue that opened in 1911 and recently completed a renovation. A critical mandate was that any new sound system must not be visually intrusive or require any architecturally disruptive room treatments. Tectonic Audio Labs produces large format flat panel, high definition sound reinforcement speakers using exclusive Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) technologies developed by NXT.
"It's thrilling to see that the Tectonic Plates are actually here," says Don Bassey, Empress Theatre General Manager. "We've been talking about this for a year now. For a theater, it's amazing what they can do."
Bassey had been in the speaker business for 15 years, having worked as pro audio manager at speaker designer and manufacturer NHT (Now Hear This). "These aren't the first speakers I've ever heard, and yet my initial response was 'Wow!' It's a phenomenal experience to stand here and feel the difference. Musicians hearing the new system are freaked out. They can't believe it.
"The system spreads sound up to a six octave range evenly throughout the theater," Bassey continues."With this state-of-the-art technology, sound no longer bounces around the room as with traditional sound systems. The system delivers audio of equal quality from all speakers to all points of the room."
"The new sound is very different from before," adds Empress board member Susan MacDonald. "Each instrument is heard but still comes out as a distinctly beautiful sound. I could hear the brushes on the drums. It was amazing! We had four horns on Friday night and each instrument was separate but part of the whole sound.
"The sound is the same no matter where you are in the theater because the speakers deliver sound in a different way," continues MacDonald. "Feedback is eliminated, so no more ear splitting screeching or squealing mics."
"You can move around to anywhere and hear the same thing," says house sound engineer Gustav Hobel. "The Empress Theatre's former conventional speakers were very directional and sent the best sound up the aisles into the front lobby. Now the sound is dispersed evenly throughout the theater. "
"We were first asked to the Empress by Gustav Hobel to do a demo and see if our technology could help them solve their sound quality problems, without affecting the look of the renovated venue," says Tectonic CMO Dave Firestone. "We knew that our distributed mode, flat panel technology could help out with the highly challenging acoustics of this vintage hard-walled theater. What is truly satisfying is the translation of speaker technology into a better musical experience, appreciated by the musicians and patrons of the Empress. We couldn’t be happier with the results; both from a sound quality and aesthetic point of view. And we now get to hang out at the Empress for great music whenever we are in the Bay Area."
Tectonic Audio Labs will be using the Empress as a demo showcase for Northern California. "It will give the Empress some great exposure," MacDonald says. "We're the first venue in the Bay Area where these award winning speakers can be heard. We are excited to be a part of this revolution in sound. I think it will be a big attraction to musicians and patrons alike."
"It's so great knowing you're walking into a venue and you know it's going to be killer sound," sums up Bassey. "Word will get around about the great vibes coming from the Empress."