ASHEVILLE, NC 3.27.20—The Orpheum Theatre is one of the premier performance venues in Western Canada with a rich history spanning almost a century. The theatre and music venue located in Vancouver, British Columbia is part of the Vancouver Civic Theatres group of live performance venues along with the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, The Vancouver Playhouse and the Annex Theatre. The 2,688-seat Orpheum is also the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and a designated National Historic site.
At 93 years old, the Orpheum is an incredible setting for shows of all kinds and has hosted millions of people since its opening in 1927. Recently, it became apparent that the theatre was in need of an audio system upgrade. The upgrade was funded through a joint effort between The City of Vancouver, The Vancouver Symphony and The Department of Canadian Heritage. Renovations to historic venues often require careful planning due to their internal structure as well as a need to preserve aesthetics.
After some research and consultation, it was decided that Gearforce Rentals (Coquitlam, BC) would be best suited to tackle this project, in conjunction with the Orpheum Theatre’s own technicians. Gearforce is one of the largest distributors of d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers in Canada and recommended a V-Series loudspeaker system as the main system.
The Orpheum Theatre is a national Historical site that was originally built as a Vaudeville house and converted into a concert hall in the mid 1970’s. When the audio project started to move forward, the team realized that in order to put the PA system where they wanted it, they would have to create new rigging points in a space that didn’t have very good access and only had a couple of structural beams close in positioning. This involved designing a few different d&b ArrayCalc simulations in order to determine the best position for the new system and hiring an engineering company to oversee the design and installation of the new rigging points.
“We have been providing PA systems to the Orpheum for the last 10 years, as one of the preferred vendors,” states Robert Nevalainen, Gearforce. As soon as we invested in a d&b rental system, we found ourselves in the Orpheum regularly. When the Orpheum was ready to invest in an upgraded audio system, they contacted us to provide design and consultation, as we had many successful shows in the venue. The Orpheum received demos from a few different manufacturers and decided that the system that was rented most often for events was more appropriate for their application, which is the d&b V-Series.” Gearforce also installed d&b T-Series and E-Series loudspeakers for balcony and stage fills.
Nevalainen said Gearforce then augmented the system with enhanced under balcony rings, a flown center sub cluster, a center sub cluster and balcony fills. “We also spoke to the theatre management about using d&b ArrayProcessing because we believed it was the best way to get the most even coverage front to back, side to side, top to bottom.”
ArrayProcessing requires a direct amplifier channel per individual loudspeaker and can deliver optimization of an array’s tonal balance and level distribution throughout the entire defined vertical coverage area. The V-Series loudspeakers themselves are designed with an exceptional horizontal constant directivity dispersion control down to 250Hz. Combined together, the system ensures each audience member can enjoy the same audio quality no matter where they are seated, as well as keeping unnecessary reflections off the walls.
The building is full of reflective surfaces, Nevalainen added. “I’ve seen many shows at the Orpheum with touring sound systems that have suffered terrible reviews of the sound, primarily because the sound mixer excessively excited the room. After you’ve mixed the Orpheum several times, you understand the necessity for even distributed coverage. This is something that can be challenging in traditional left/right touring systems. We decided to augment the main system with a distributed double ring system under the balcony to enable even coverage to the back of the floor. Complementing this is a center sub cluster to help support the low-frequency coverage in the back rows of the balcony. During the design phase, we flew a few different sub configurations, and measured and listened to the results. Everyone involved felt that the flown center cluster provided the most even balcony coverage.”
All in all, d&b loudspeakers, subs and amplifiers included 16 x V8, 8 x V12, 2 x Vi7P, 2 x Yi10P, 11 x Ti10L, 18 x E8, 4 x V-SUB, 6 x V-GSUB, 9 x D80, 5 x 30D, 3 x DS-10, 10 x M4, 4 x Yi7P, 3 x V-GSUB, 5 x D20, 2 x E6, 1 x 12s-SUB, and 1 x 10D. The d&b amplifiers are connected to front of house via Dante networking.
Gearforce also installed new consoles and a fiber backbone. “I have mixed events in the venue for nearly 30 years, and hands-down this is the most even coverage I have ever experienced,” says Nevalainen.
“One of the biggest challenges we faced when looking for a new system was the ability to have a PA that could sound fidelic at both a low and high SPL,” states Paul McManus, Orpheum Technical Director. “The Symphony is our resident client and we needed a system to sound great at low, quiet volumes, as well as sound undistorted and full during our high SPL rock and EDM shows and to be able to get a comedian above a raucous crowd. We felt the V-Series system, along with the accompanying fill speakers that Gearforce specified, was the right system to fit all our varying needs. We weren’t wrong.”
McManus said he has mixed quite a few shows in The Orpheum before he became the Technical Director. “It was always a tricky room with so many reflective surfaces, as the visiting mix position being 18 rows under a balcony. With the addition of d&b ArrayProcessing, I was amazed at how the sound didn’t really change from the front of the overhang to the mix position. You can now feel confident that the mix you are hearing is what the rest of the audience is hearing. Another issue we found while we were testing various setups was the lack of low and sub frequencies in the upper part of the balcony. We decided to try a center cluster of 4 V-SUBS, and not only did this address the issue for the upper balcony, it didn’t add any unnecessary low frequencies to the stage area; especially important as the cluster sits right above the Maestro position. The end result is a system that provides exceptional coverage, an abundance of head room, and sounds phenomenal for both low and high SPL shows.”