Lake Technology's Contour digital speaker processor and Mesa Quad EQ 4x4 digital matrix processor recently debuted on Broadway and are being used by sound designer Peter Hylenski. Two Lake Contour units and two Lake Mesa Quad EQ units are in use on Little Women at Broadway's Virginia Theatre, with an additional four Lake Contour units and four Lake Mesa Quad EQ units used for system optimization on Sweet Charity at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
"They are basically doing the full system processing for the two shows," explained Hylenski, whose many sound design credits include productions from Broadway and London's West End, as well as other locations around Europe and the United States. He also works in the recording studio on a variety of music, film and commercial projects.
For the musical version of Little Women, the installation of the four Lake Contour units, supplied by leading production services company ProMix, replaced 15 industry-standard processors. Hylenski reported, "We had the full rig up and running, then did a complete change-over and turned it on again a couple of hours later. You rarely get to do an A/B test like that. We really noticed a significant improvement in sound quality."
The improvement was particularly noticeable on the orchestra speaker system, which comprised Meyer Sound MSL-2 cabinets. Hylenski said, "It's such an open speaker anyway, and the 15-inch gives you a full, warm sound, but as soon as we turned the Lakes on, the range of the MSL-2s opened up and everything just seemed fuller and rounder and warmer. That was something we were really impressed by—we still had extreme clarity with no smearing.
"I'm really surprised with the way the software works on the wireless tablet—it's so intuitive,” he continued. “The Lake units just fit so well with the way that I work in a theater. I might want to apply the same type of processing to multiple speakers, which might be fed from different things. With the Lake units, you just group them together. That's been invaluable and really speeds things up."
For Little Women, 10 matrix outputs from the show's Cadac mixing console fed directly into the Lake Contour units, where they were either sent directly to specific speakers or distributed to multiple locations. "I have a split band and vocals system," Hylenski explained. "But when I do my mono feeds, I take a feed from the band system and a feed from the vocal system and combine them. It gives me independent control, with separate EQs and delays so I can image the vocals and the band. So there's a full set of processing for the vocals and a full set for the band; where appropriate, we sum the two together and send them to the speakers.
"We'll send down a vocal mono feed that will hit all of our fill speakers—delay speakers, frontfills, sidefills—which are all driven from a single matrix. That runs into the Lake unit and gets distributed to multiple outputs." Conversely, for the proscenium system, "I'll have double speaker cabinets for vocals and band so I can feed my matrix straight through the Lake and into the speakers."