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Author Topic: sound system for theater  (Read 5405 times)

Joe Cughan

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sound system for theater
« on: June 20, 2004, 07:09:21 pm »

Im the sound tech at a 1200 person theater.  The system there now is horrible.  The mains are two flown carvin TCS210 speakers, with two apogee subs flown behind big concrete pillars, and way out of time with the mains. There is only one good listening spot in the house.  the coverage of the system is terrible. In short, the system sucks.

The theater itself wasn't made for PA systems, and has a lot of concrete walls, with very little sound absorption or diffraction material.  The sides of the theater are 4 huge concrete pillars.  So there is a lot of reverberation from the speakers, causing feedback and somewhat incoherent sound.

My question, what kind of system would work for a place like this?  I'd love to get a line array with delayed balcony fills, mezzanine under fills, and front fills, but the cost is just out of the question for this theater.

We're looking at what we can do for 10k.  Any suggestions?  I can leave more info, i just didnt want to ramble on too long.
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Karl P(eterson)

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2004, 10:39:40 pm »

I am sure others will reply in long detail.. But let me try and be sweet and simple.


for a 1200 seat auditorium, take the 10k and hire an acoustical firm to come in, model the room, and make up what needs to be done to "help it" (since you probably can't "fix" it at this time) then spend the next 10~20k and implement those changes.

After that, take the model already made for your room, and have a consultant/design build house help you decide and get speakers for your space.

While you could do something like call McCauley up and have them model your room in EASE (they will for you if you ask) This isn't the solution you really want to go with, as it will more than likely product less than stellar results
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Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2004, 10:39:46 pm »

Mark,

What’s up with those Carvins?  The TCS series are supposed to be pretty good stuff.  Not enough of them to cover the room perhaps?

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but in a concrete room, no amount of money spent on hardware will get you good sound. Unfortunately you’ve already ruled out the only thing that has a chance of working well – multiple near-field speakers.

It may make things more intelligible if you ditch the subs.  Theater is primarily for voice, after all.

Naturally the best thing you can do is acoustical treatment.  Probably the cheapest, easiest thing to do is apply carpet to as much of the walls as they will allow – starting at about 7’ and above will help considerably.

If the ceiling is also concrete, they could install a drop-ceiling.  That would also absorb a lot of sound.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt


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Joe Cughan

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2004, 02:25:55 am »

Mark,

Thanks for your advice.  

The problem with the Carvin speakers is definitely the coverage.  

The subs I think we need to keep, we don't just do theater stuff, we cover a lot of different types of shows, especially concerts.  I'm going to at least get the subs hung in line with the mains so they're at least in time with each other.

As far as putting carpet on the walls, I've thought about that.  The problem is it would have to be aesthetically pleasing, and not very expensive, otherwise it would be a hard sell.  Do you or anyone know of any sort of acoustical treatment for live venues that doesn't look like someone threw some carpet or drapes up on concrete walls?

thanks

JC
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Joe Cughan

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2004, 02:30:38 am »

Karl,

Yeah, I think that is what I am probably going to end up doing.  I realized that this is a problem that is out of my area of expertise.

My only problem is trying to sell to them that we need to spend the money on hiring outside people to model the room.  This is a community theater, and is always in the red as far as income goes, because they charge such low rates, and give venue time to schools free of charge.  So I'm not sure I'll be able to convince anyone that we should go this route.

Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it!

JC
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Karl P(eterson)

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2004, 12:24:17 am »

Well, I don't know the thoughts on the management at your theater, but I have watched community theater before, and when in that large of a room, people will gladly pay a dollar or two extra for good sound (at least I know I would). As the sound quality increases (and light... and and and) then the rates can go up more. I am not, of course, saying that community theater should be be a thriving money making machine, but very few people question a fair price for a good show.

All that being said, Carpet on the walls is probably not the best solution in that it will create a false sense of security. It will help a lot to deaden out the "mid-midrange and up" of the audio spectrum, but do very little for the bottom end of the spectrum, serving to provide you with GBF grief for the rest of time. So, unless after measurement you find that it is midrange and up giving you problems, that probably will not help you out a lot in and of itself (Although it could be a valid ingredient to a complete system).

That being said, Community Theater is challenging in that a lot of times the money just isn't there. A lot of places either have the money and don't want to spend it, or just wont spend it. Its quite another thing to just plain not have it at all. Thus, compromises must be struck at some point. With that in mind, what you must do is find a very unique individual, someone who is willing to do the science work with you *measuring your room, doing some acoustical work, etc) yet be able to work with very creative and cost effective solutions (heavy duty laminated cardboard concrete form tubes cut in halve anyone?). Not a lot of those exist, but it might be worth your while to write/call up Syn Aud Con and see if they might be able to recommend some people out of there database. It takes some time, but you should be able to find at least one that would be willing to help you.

After you get the acoustics in relatively good shape... Hopefully the same gentleman who helped you with the acoustics will be able to help you with your sound, but if not you will need to find another gentleman who is similar in the sound side. In any case you probably want to look into either adding onto and fixing your TCS installation (I have heard they are a good system) or look into replacing with things like the LAB Subs and MCcauly In.Line / Nexo GeoS / SLS LS6500 / other good price/performance boxes (all cost effective boxes that i have seen/heard work well in that type of room).

It's all a balance, even more so in this type of application.... but it is doable if you get the right people to help you.

Let me also say, that the "Right People" might not be the most popular, but they will most likely be nice enough people themselves, and will know there stuff.

Karl P
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Joe Cughan

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2004, 04:23:49 am »

thanks again karl,

The mccauley inline looks like my best hope, and I think is what i'm going to try for.  Mccauley isnt any more then 15 miles from our venue.

I know that having a better sound system will be more attractive to possible clients, and I think the management realizes that too.  I think the biggest budget issue is that we get a budget every year, and every year we have a certain amount leftover to spend on new equipment.  Whatever we don't spend though, goes back into a pool (we are funded by the city and school districts mainly) and then they give us a new budget to work with for the next year.  So we can never build up enough money to spend on major expenses.  I hope this makes sense.

But, hopefully the venue can work out a possible financing thing.

JC
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Karl P(eterson)

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2004, 10:44:26 am »

Well, if you really are 15 minutes from McCauley, you can call them (if you like) and they will come out and measure and build you a real EASE model (normally they do it off of architectural drawings, but if you call and talk to Bruce, they will work something out) and help you out. If you had that, and then they brought over a demo rig and flew it, you would have a good chance of knowing if the speakers will work for you or not. In any case, this does _not_ take the place of acoustics, and they need to be dealt with as well.

Karl P
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Too Tall (Curtis H. List)

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2004, 12:30:11 pm »

kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09

Im the sound tech at a 1200 person theater.  The system there now is horrible.


As others have pointed out in this thread the first and obvious move is a consultant. Of course this only works if there is enough money to pay for it and the people with the checkbook can be convinced or you can find a kindhearted consultant to do it for a very reduced fee.
Next you look for any of your contacts that know more (or even less) about this subject then you do and ask for some advice gratis (knowing full well it may worth exactly what you paid for it)
   So for the sake of discussion lets say that none of the above is going to happen.
Now what?
Well you nibble at it yourself and see what you can figure out just like you are doing now by asking questions on this forum.
Is your experience mainly in mixing live sound?

kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09


The mains are two flown carvin TCS210 speakers, with two apogee subs flown behind big concrete pillars, and way out of time with the mains. There is only one good listening spot in the house.  the coverage of the system is terrible. In short, the system sucks.


Do you know specifically what is wrong with the system you have? Beyond "it sucks" can you name the individual problems or are you guessing?
Have you measured it with an analyzer? Do you know all the drivers are in good working order. Have you tested all the amplifiers, active xovers, EQs, any electronics in line, wiring, etc???
   BTW what do you have for test gear? Would you know how to run Smaart if you had it?
   You say the coverage is terrible. Do you know that the problem is the cabinets are aimed incorrectly? Are thy hung in an obviously ridiculous place? Do you think it is a basic coverage problem caused by the dispersion of the cabinet not fitting the room and where they are hung?


kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09


The theater itself wasn't made for PA systems, and has a lot of concrete walls, with very little sound absorption or diffraction material.  The sides of the theater are 4 huge concrete pillars.  So there is a lot of reverberation from the speakers, causing feedback and somewhat incoherent sound.


Just taking the description above and the little you have mentioned it sounds like one of the problems may be horizontal dispersion. Those concrete pillars are something I have dealt with on a regular basis. Placed there scatter sound from a symphony, but killing intelligibility when you use your PA.
   You have two choices concerning them. Crossfire the PA enough to miss them (the edge seats will suffer, sorry) or drape them. Carpet is not enough, you need depth from pleats. The ones nearest the stage are by far the most critical.



kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09


My question, what kind of system would work for a place like this?



At this point I am not convinced what you have can't work a lot better. Barring the help of an experienced consultant trying to tweak what you have and noting what improves the situation will point you in the right direction.
   Carvin products are NOT my favorite. In addition your box only costs $400 each so we can't expect too much from them (obviously at 70Hz for lower limit the sub have to stay unless you only wish to do voice).
   All that considered I have run some truly cheap piles of trash and had them sound acceptable as long as I kept the volume down to what they can handle. You need to separate SPL limitations of the speaker from any other problems as a starting point.

kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09


 I'd love to get a line array with delayed balcony fills, mezzanine under fills, and front fills, but the cost is just out of the question for this theater.


Line arrays are nice in a theater for getting a lot of output from smaller packages. Especially with the advent of the current crop of "mini" line arrays. On that subject just keep in mind that it takes continuous structure of a certain height to make it operate as a line array at a specific frequency and smaller cabinets means you need more to reach that height. There is no way of cheating this.
   The other possibility to keep in mind is one problem may be that your current Carvin boxes have 90 degree horizontal coverage. If you trade them for a brand new line array with similar horizontal coverage you now have something that costs several orders of magnitude more, still sucks, but is MUCH louder. [/quote]
   
kassel wrote on Sun, 20 June 2004 19:09


We're looking at what we can do for 10k.  Any suggestions?  I can leave more info, i just didnt want to ramble on too long.



In you position I would do two things. Look really hard at where your boxes should be and what kind of coverage you need from those points to have the sound hit the seats and nothing else.
   Then I would ask for demonstrations from various manufacturers and any local sound companies.
BTW have you had other systems in there ground stacked and how did they work?


Keeping in mind that nothing will work unless the dispersion fits the space just about all the serious stuff starts at $3k to $4k a box. The McCauley is somewhat less for some reason.
For boxes under that you might look at the Yorkville "Unity" series (IF it fits for dispersion)
If you want to invest some time you could download the free demo version of Ulysses (something like EASE). If you spend some time you can plot out the coverage patterns and see what might work and what is really a bad match.
www.loudspeakers.net
or
www.ifbsoft.de

This place is just like talking to a medical doctor on line. If it's anything serious the doctor tells you to go and see one in person (a consultant in this case). It is the only right way to handle it.
I'm not a trained or experienced consultant. My degree is in "Make whatever is here work as well as possible in the time allowed". If you are in the same position that is what you have to rely on when you can't afford a "Doctor".
I've worked around various theaters for more then 20 years. It is hard enough to convince the commercial theaters that make a tidy profit to pay a consultant. Convincing a community theater that does not have enough money to buy enough mic cords is a miracle and means you are blessed with some truly far sited and gracious benefactors.
The only real argument you have is that without a consultant you may spend the $10k and find you need to do the project over again in two years.
"Never money to do it right; Always money to do it twice."
It may take that. You may have to try something, find it doesn't cut it and do it again.

Well I stirred the pot some and should get a few flames. Since I retired they don't bother me so much. In any case the worst that could happen is I might learn something.
Too Tall
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Too Tall
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Joe Cughan

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Re: sound system for theater
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2004, 04:13:20 am »

first let me say I appreciate all the advice Too Tall, second let me try to answer your questions:

my sound experience is mainly in live sound, but i do have various other sound experience



-Do you know specifically what is wrong with the system you have? Beyond "it sucks" can you name the individual problems or are you guessing?-

I think a big problem is of course the subs being so far out of time with the mains, being they are hung far away behind the big concrete pillars i am talking about. Second is the coverage of the carvin speakers, they sound ok when you are sitting 15-20 rows back in the center.  beyond that little pocket, you lose any intelligibilty.  third is the reverberation of the speakers off the concrete side pillars making the sound even less intelligible.  We could point the speakers elsewhere, but it will just solve a problem in one area and create problems elsewhere.

Also, I really don't like the carvin mains, they seem to lack a lot of highs, and boost the low mids.  There is a graphic EQ inline, but I haven't done anything with it as I don't think it will help the situation.


-Have you measured it with an analyzer?-

I did measure it with an analyzer and pink noise, and it had considerable drop off on the high mids and the highs when i measured from about 20 rows back in the center.  I didn't meausure other spots  

-Do you know all the drivers are in good working order. Have you tested all the amplifiers, active xovers, EQs, any electronics in line, wiring, etc???-

Yes, and everything is in good working order

-BTW what do you have for test gear? Would you know how to run Smaart if you had it?-

I do have smaart on my laptop, but i haven't used it in this theater yet.  I will soon though.

-You say the coverage is terrible. Do you know that the problem is the cabinets are aimed incorrectly? Are thy hung in an obviously ridiculous place? Do you think it is a basic coverage problem caused by the dispersion of the cabinet not fitting the room and where they are hung?-

Again, I dont think the speakers are necissarly aimed incorrectly, they are probably aimed as well as they can be.  Its more that they don't have the proper verticle coverage to cover the whole seating area and balcony.  The subs are definitely hung in a rediculous place, and I hope to at least change that soon.  
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