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Yamaha consoles make Curve sound as good as it looks

May, 2009

Rare is the opportunity that a major British city has the chance to design and build a brand new, state of the art theatre. But that’s precisely what has happened with Curve Theatre in Leicester, a venue that has made many headlines because the ability for those outside to see straight into the foyer, auditorium and main stage through the building’s vast glass frontage.

Curve’s visuals may have grabbed the media headlines, but the venue’s audio virtues are just as impressive. With no less than eight Yamaha mixing consoles and two digital mix engines within its walls, every production sounds stunning too!

A vast amount of planning went into every facet of the venue, with Capital Project Director Graham Lister bringing together a wide variety of specialists in an ‘end user consultation team’ to ensure that every department offered the optimum end product for the theatre’s most important users - the ticket-buying public.

Ben Harrison and John Owens were two high profile names invited to the committee to oversee the design of the audio systems. And, as a long-term Yamaha user, sound designer Ben was well aware of what Yamaha consoles were capable of.

“The brief was that the sound equipment had to be state of the art and able to cater for every kind of production that Curve might be likely to stage, with minimal extra hire costs,” says Ben. “We knew the productions would be diverse, so we went through the requirements of everything from stand-up comedy to plays, orchestral and rock’n’roll-based musicals. It was a long process trying to plan for every single kind of production and possible use.

“Everything also had to be to current ‘standard’ in theatre, because there would be a lot of one-off sound operators involved and so it made sense to specify the most widely-used and known equipment. Yamaha seemed the obvious way to go, because it is an approved standard on many shows.”

Curve offers a main performance auditorium, plus a studio theatre, recording studio, rehearsal and seminar rooms, so having the flexibility to use the same console for different spaces, as well as performance types, was also important.

“Yamaha’s digital consoles work together seamlessly, meaning we could specify a PM5D as the main space console and an M7CL as the main studio theatre console. But we can also use the two together in any of the spaces. It means we could provide maximum flexibility,” says Ben.

Audio equipment was supplied by Oxford Sound & Media with, in addition to the PM5D and M7CL, a DM1000 in the recording studio, three 01V96s for use wherever required and a couple of MG166C analogue consoles for use in rehearsal spaces, where the flexibility of digital isn’t required.

In addition, a DME64N digital mix engine is installed in the main auditorium and another in the studio theatre to provide control of the house loudspeaker systems and to manage other audio processing functions.

“We also specified a number of AES/EBU cards which can be used in the PM5D, M7CL or 01V96, because there is an audio network throughout the venue. It makes for quick and easy turnaround of shows and means we have unprecedented levels of control in a complex building,” says Ben.

“The DME at the front end means that the system isn’t limited in any way. It can be configured exactly how any designer wants the system to work. Indeed the systems in the main auditorium and studio theatre can be very easily run seamlessly as one, if required.”

“It is an incredibly versatile system and the way it’s configured offers the choice of using the DME for system management or the mix outs from the front of house desk can go straight to the amplifiers. You really can do almost anything with it,” adds Simon Moloney, Curve Technical Manager (Sound).

“This was proved at a recent show which Ben did the sound design for - we used the PM5D at front of house, but we literally ran out of channels. So we brought the M7CL in for extra things like playback, chorus mics and so on. The consoles worked perfectly together and the show sounded fantastic.”

Having had relatively little experience of Yamaha’s digital systems prior to his appointment at Curve, Simon found the transition very straightforward.

“For the last three years I was working at Stratford where they use a different manufacturer’s consoles. My main concern really was the learning curve, but I have found the Yamaha consoles far simpler and more intuitive than the consoles I was using,” he says.

“The way the DME works and its user interface is also very sensible. It makes life very straightforward.”

Indeed, Yamaha’s well-renowned ease of use is playing a major role in all aspects of life at Curve, for experienced and inexperienced operators alike.

“One of Curve’s fundamental purposes is to host small groups as well as major productions. We have a lot of smaller community groups coming in who worry about using a digital console. But once they’re here they rapidly realise it’s far easier than they thought,” says Simon.

“You see it in their eyes - a whole new world opens up for them when they realise that they can save scenes. Being so used to analogue consoles in local venues, for the first time they can come into a space and instantly recall their settings. The fact that they’re in a situation where they don’t have to spend ages putting things right if somebody messes up their settings obviously means a lot.”


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