Print This Page

Historic Royal and Derngate Theatre joins growing list of Yamaha System customers

Apr, 2008

Built in 1884, Northampton’s Royal Theatre was designed by the renowned Victorian theater architect C J Phipps, who also designed such prestigious venues as the Theatre Royal Bath, Theatre Royal Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Lyceum.

99 years later a second adjacent venue was added – the Derngate. Designed as a multi-purpose space, it complemented the Royal’s status as a ‘producing’ house by being a versatile venue in which a wide range of touring productions could take place: theater, opera, live music, dance, sports, live music and more.

Despite sharing a foyer and other facilities since the Derngate was built, it was only in 1999 that the two theaters merged in terms of organization and artistic strategies. Then between 2005 and 2006 both venues closed for a £15m redevelopment, including restoration of the Grade II listed Royal to its original Victorian splendor, but with 21st century standards of audience comfort.

Although it was understood that the installed audio system in the Royal Theatre needed considerable modernizing, it was the post-refurbishment gala reopening that was the catalyst for the installation of a brand new Yamaha system.

The system was supplied to The Royal by Orbital Sound, chosen for their expertise and experience in the theatrical environment.

Open in new window

Sound designer Alan ‘Whizz’ Mathieson was at the helm of a Yamaha PM5D for the opening event, and this led Royal & Derngate head of light and sound Liam Matthews to ask Mathieson and 2007 Olivier Award winning sound designer Gareth Fry for advice on upgrading the theater system.

Having heard, and been impressed by, Yamaha’s Installation Series loudspeakers, Mathieson arranged for an A/B test between the Installation Series and those of the nearest competitor in conjunction with equipment supplier Orbital. Yamaha’s reputation in this area may not have been as long-standing as the other product, but it is a reputation that’s growing rapidly.

“I was very surprised at the quality of Yamaha loudspeakers,” says Liam Matthews. “In terms of audio quality both brands were very close, although it was a big surprise for us that the Yamaha units sounded better in both passive and bi-amped modes. And they came in at a considerably lower price point.”

With the decision on the loudspeakers made, a far-reaching plan was initiated to go for a full Yamaha EtherSound based network mixing system, featuring a DME64N digital mix engine with AD8HR preamps, NAI48-ES 48 channel bi-directional EtherSound network audio interface, XM4180, XP 7000 and XP 3500 amplifiers, with an M7CL console for front of house mixing.

“It wasn’t just the loudspeakers that needed replacing,” says Liam. “After 20 years use the entire audio system was worn out. We’d had equipment on hire for nine months and had always had to hire equipment if we did productions that needed rear house effects, so this was the chance to install a brand new system for long-term use that would make the most of the money we had to spend and completely eradicate the need to hire anything.”

The digital mix engine is central to the system, allowing the speakers covering different areas of the audience to be switched off if, for example, the Upper Circle is not being used.

“Having three seating levels, this system allows us to have more speakers on the upper levels, increasing the audio quality for audiences because we now have six small speakers as opposed to two large ones in the Upper Circle,” says Liam.

“The DME allows us to mute all of those speakers as one zone, without having to switch them all off individually. There are also some productions where we have to move the subs, and the DME makes it very simple to reconfigure the system to take that into account.”

“Another advantage is that we can now trigger MIDI scenery calls from Stage Research’s SFX software, which we use for sound effects. This makes shows with one person doing both lighting and sound a lot easier.”

Installing the equipment was a major challenge, as the age of the theater and its original building techniques meant that an enormous amount of care had to be taken. And, with English Heritage making a major cost contribution to the theater’s refurbishment, the historical integrity of the restoration was not to be compromised by modern technical requirements. And it was simply not permissible to have cable runs across the extremely expensive hand-painted wallpaper recently hung in the auditorium.

Working closely together, the Yamaha, Orbital and Royal Theatre teams were able to install the equipment in such a way that everybody was happy.

“The technical team working here hated the old audio system, but we had to make the best of it for a long time,” says Liam. “The new system has made life a lot easier for all of us. It sounds much nicer, smoother and gives better coverage. The sound designers for our shows all feel that it’s a massive improvement.”

Indeed, so successful has been the project that a permanent Yamaha EtherSound based system has since been specified and is now being installed in the Derngate theater next door, which also features a DME64N and M7CL console.


Products M7CL , DME64N , NAI48-ES , AD8HR , XP Series , XM Series , Installation Series
Location Northhampton, UK
Company Orbital Sound

Return to Top