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The Wire

L-Acoustics L Series and L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound Team Up to Create the Moody World of The Outsiders on Broadway

Complex immersive sound design featuring an array of professional audio loudspeakers, including L, A, and X Series, plus Syva, assures that audiences get every dialog nuance clearly and every sound effect impactfully

Photo above: “Great Expectations”: Jason Schmidt (Sodapop Curtis) and Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis) (credit: Matthew Murphy)

When it was first published in 1967, S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders, struck a chord with readers with its gritty-yet-tender tale of social and familial upheaval, aptly articulated by an author who was, herself, a teenager. Sixteen years later, celebrated film director Francis Ford Coppola brought the eponymous story to the silver screen with a cast full of young actors that would all go on to become Hollywood A-listers. Fast-forwarding to 2024, The Outsiders is vividly being reimagined once again, this time as a critically acclaimed Broadway musical that is dazzling audiences with its immersive L-ISA technology and the NYC Theater District’s first L-Acoustics L Series loudspeaker deployment. The new show is nominated for 12 Tony Awards® including Best Musical and Best Sound Design of a Musical for Sound Designer Cody Spencer.

“The Greasers” (top row, left to right): Jason Schmidt (Sodapop Curtis), Renni Anthony Magee (Steve), Daryl Tofa (Two-Bit), Tilly Evans-Krueger (Ace), Sky Lakota-Lynch (Johnny Cade), Joshua Boone (Dallas Winston), Brent Comer (Darrel Curtis); (front row): Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis) (photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

“People’s expectations of the aural experience in a performance have changed, and I think it’s up to theater artists to stay in front of that,” contends David Strang, Vice President, Audio Sales for PRG, which supplied the L-Acoustics systems for the new production playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in Times Square. “This isn’t a movie that you’ll get to watch at home later—it’s live theater—and this new production of The Outsiders truly draws you into the story.”

“The Curtis House”: Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis), Jason Schmidt (Sodapop Curtis), Brent Comer (Darrel Curtis), Sky Lakota-Lynch (Johnny Cade) (photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Like many Broadway houses, the Jacobs Theatre was once a vaudeville venue, designed to project unamplified speech and music. “Acoustics are always a big issue when it comes to Broadway houses, just by their nature, so it definitely was something we spent a lot of time figuring out how to deal with,” says Cody Spencer, adding that L-Acoustics Soundvision design and prediction software was critical in defining the boundaries of coverage, keeping energy away from reflective surfaces and on the audience in every seating area. “It’s a lot of trial and error with these big old vaudeville houses, because before there was amplification, they just spoke loudly, and you could hear them everywhere—and that’s very counterintuitive to what we do with loudspeakers. L-Acoustics is a great speaker choice even for a conventional system design, but we wanted to do something really special and engaging with this show.”

“The Rumble” featuring the cast of The Outsiders (photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Consequently, Spencer and his team, including L-ISA programmer Stephen Jensen, production audio lead Mike Tracy, and front-of-house engineer Heather Augustine, went all in on immersive sound and L-ISA technology. “The reason that I chose to use L-ISA is because early on, in communication with my director, music department, and choreography team, we wanted the audience to be encompassed by the sound. With much of the show, the audience is ‘inside’ the actors’ heads—it’s a play in which much of the action is being recalled by characters instead of happening in the moment. Using L-ISA, we’re able to get people feeling the sound from all around them at all times. Early on in the show, for instance, our lead character gets kicked in the face, and you can hear the kick, but then you also hear his ears ringing—not just in front of you but all around you. Those kinds of effects help to make you feel like you’re actually part of his world.”

The Outsiders’ frontal truss features Broadway’s first deployment of L-Acoustics L Series arrays (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

Spencer says that L-ISA also enhances the show’s minimalist live music, an Americana-esque, mostly acoustical ensemble. “In a lot of shows these days, the music is very processed, but we wanted it to be as if you’re listening to this band play in the room with you. We were able to easily do that with L-ISA by separating the band in the system, to attain the spatial sound we’re looking for. It worked well and we’re very happy with how we ended up.”

A view of Broadway’s Jacobs Theatre, currently home to The Outsiders, seen from the stage (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

The system has some unique design aspects. For instance, Augustine’s monitoring array at FOH is its own mini-immersive environment. “She’s in the middle of the house mixing on X8 spatial fills that are right in front of her, and then for surround, she’s got more X8 around her to the sides and behind,” he says. “It mimics the larger arrays that the audience is hearing.”

Supplied by PRG, the main L-ISA Scene system addressing the orchestra and front mezzanine seats features L2D arrays and KS21 subs, while the balcony delay L-ISA Scene system is comprised of A15 arrays (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

The frontal array of the system, for orchestra and front mezzanine seating, comprises five Scene hangs of the new long-throw L-Acoustics L2D arrays, spaced across the top of the proscenium. “The Outsiders represents Broadway’s first use of L Series, and the enclosures nicely helped resolve an early design challenge for us,” Spencer notes. “Initially, I wasn’t convinced that we needed them on this show. However, once I learned how far out we had to move the front-of-house speaker points to account for the rain curtain and other effects that needed to be downstage of the proscenium, I plugged them into our Soundvision model and quickly found that L2D gave us three more rows of coverage in front of the orchestra over traditional line array loudspeakers. At that point, L Series was the clear winner for providing better immersive coverage to more of the room’s ‘money seats.’”

The house-right Syva balcony surround system (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

Two centrally flown sub arrays of three KS21 each are bolstered by two more KS21 positioned left and right, under the stage. The balcony delay system features five Scene arrays of two A15 Focus flanking Extension arrays of two A15 Wide. Seven spatialized X8 mounted across the face of the stage serve as front-fills for main-floor seats, and various combinations of X12, X8, and 5XT are deployed as other fills, as needed. A combination of LA7.16, LA12X, and LA4X amplified controllers drive the system.

“We also have a row of compact 5XT speakers for the middle of the orchestra that helps get the high end to the very front of the overhang,” he says, “and then another row of X8 as spatial fills to fill in the back of the orchestra underneath the overhang.” The main system’s surround arrays utilize a combination of X8 and A10 enclosures, while the balcony surrounds are four Syva, deployed two per side, he adds.

Coaxial X12 enclosures are positioned on the left and right sides of the stage for monitoring (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

“The monitoring system on stage for this show is bigger than most entire house PA systems in typical Broadway theaters,” Spencer adds, pointing out that it comprises six X12 flown three per side as stage side-fills, six X12 in two rows of three as overheads, ten X4i spread across stage lip firing stage-ward, for downstage-fill, one X8 on each side of the proscenium arch firing toward center-stage as proscenium fills, and a dozen 5XT in two rows of six as under-platform monitors.

An additional X12 loudspeaker is also mounted into the back seat of a car onstage (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

“We wanted to ensure that everyone—not only out in the house but also up on the stage—would be able to hear every single word crystal-clear to best create intimacy, emotion, and connection,” he says. “When you only have a few loudspeakers onstage and the actors are all the way downstage, fostering that connection can be quite a challenge. So we extensively covered the stage to make sure that wherever the actors were, we could turn up various voices or instruments in specific locations to give them exactly what they needed in those positions. And the compact X Series systems very nicely give us the control we were looking for.”

One of The Outsiders’ FOH racks, equipped with a pair of L-ISA Processor II units and two LS10 AVB switches (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

The sound system is managed by a redundant pair of L-ISA Processor II, and the entire setup relies on Milan-AVB for networked routing, which has “been a real lifesaver,” says Spencer. “It just makes life so much easier being able to grab streams and not have to run a whole bunch of copper. Some of our amps are up in a jump that is 60 feet in the air, and the other half of our amps are downstairs. From the amp room we were able to send fiber everywhere, allowing us to grab networks from anywhere and easily pick up speakers, making adjustments or changes to the system fast and simple.”

The Outsiders reflects how Broadway is investing more deeply in immersive sound for its shows. “We’ve been doing different versions of surround-type sound in theaters and on Broadway for years, but the new tools, including L-ISA, make that a whole lot easier and a lot more fun in terms of what you can do with image manipulation,” says Strang. “It used to be a lot more difficult when you were doing it yourself with pan and delay parameters programed into a digital console. L-ISA unlocks creativity for sound designers, mix engineers, and artists.”

Compact coaxial L-Acoustics X8 enclosures supply rear surround reinforcement to the balcony area (photo credit: Cody Spencer)

For more information on The Outsiders, visit PRG can be found online at