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New audio system with Yamaha-LS9-32 draws big names to a small cult theatre

Nov, 2009

The scenic Sternschanze district in Hamburg is a lively, colourful and cosmopolitan old quarter of the city. Its crooked cobblestone streets are lined with numerous pubs, taverns, restaurants and cultural institutions. Right in the heart of the 'Schanze', as the residents call their little world, the pretty "Delphi Showpalast" with its roughly 400 seats has been presenting musicals for the past 15 years and has acquired a definite cult status. Visitors flock here from all over Northern Germany to be entertained by the cheeky shows in the Delphi's wonderfully personal atmosphere.

In order to keep the Showpalast's demanding public satisfied in the future as well, manager Horst Kuska and his Delphi Showpalast operating company recently invested in a comprehensive technical upgrade, as part of which the sound system – which was very reliable, but by now no longer quite state of the art – was replaced with a new system. An old Yamaha M2000 mixer made way for a brand new digital Yamaha LS9-32 desk, which as a central control console handles not only the FOH and monitor mix, but also does part of the speaker management.

The system was conceived, assembled and installed by Sven Baumelt, an independent sound designer in Hamburg and manager of ASB Audioservice. Sven, who worked at the Delphi as a mixer for many years himself, likes to recall his days at the Showpalast: "I liked the M2000. It was a good, dependable mixer that did a splendid job and ran right up to the end. But ultimately it was getting a bit long in the tooth. Compared with the modern digital technology, the programming was almost archaic. You could prepare mute groups for the respective stage scenes all right, but with this analogue console you couldn't pre-program anything else. Over time the productions at Delphi simply became too much for the console."

With the LS9-32 the well-aged oldie was exchanged for the latest, most up-to-date Yamaha mixing console technology that was available. "This really amounts to a quantum leap, of course," Sven continues. "With the LS9-32 the theatre is suddenly moving to the beat of the times. Especially in musicals, different microphones and a completely new sound are required for every scene. Courtesy of the scene memories all scenes of a musical can be pre-produced in detail and simply skipped through during the show, and all the operator at the Yamaha needs to do is some fine-tuning. And that's a real blessing, because with musicals in particular operating the console demands the highest concentration and strong nerves. In addition, we now have an outstanding parametric EQ on every input channel with which noise can be suppressed on all mikes and a compressor that brings songs and speech to the fore. As far as sound is concerned, this console enables us to get everything out of the productions. We couldn't do that before. We did have a couple of external compressors, but that was not enough for all channels."

The house technician, Jan Sült, is also quite charmed with the new system: "The console is extremely comfortable and ideally suits Delphi's size. I am particularly chuffed with the USB player, which we can use as a source or an emergency source. Or we use it as a recorder during panel discussions."

Peripheral devices have now become scarce at Delphi. There are still a double CD player, an MD player and an M300 multi-effect device by TC Electronics, but in view of the LS9-32's four high-performance SPX multi-effect processors – whose new Rev-X algorithm can also deliver a real high-end reverb – the latter might soon be gathering dust.

Part of the speaker sound production is also managed by the LS9-32. While the main PA is still powered by a Behringer DCX, the LS9-32 handles the total processing of the front fill immediately below the stage, which delivers sound to the front rows. In addition, the complete stage monitoring is controlled from the Yamaha, besides the FOH mix.

"It's quite stunning what one can achieve with this little console. After the conversion we were able to shut down almost the entire peripheral installation in the theatre. Despite its compactness the LS9-32 takes care of things that used to require whole truckloads of equipment. Since the M2000 was removed we even have room for video equipment, if necessary, when we edit," Sven explains.

Thanks to the modern installation, the Delphi Showpalast is developing more and more into an extremely versatile multi-purpose hall. Besides musicals, all forms of benefit performances, company events, award ceremonies and even fully-booked live concerts are being staged. Now anyone who has a pub band round the corner in mind is sorely mistaken. Even international rock stars do not want to pass up an appearance in what used to be 'the nice little theatre next door'.

"It's gradually becoming quite a big show in the little theatre. The first major world stars have by now also heard about the Delphi and are booking performances," says a delighted Horst Kuska, adding: "Next up we will have an exclusive performance by the British progressive rockers Marillion here. Now that's really major league; elsewhere they perform only in huge halls. And perhaps the boys will also turn up, but they will certainly not come to me just because we have such a fine, informal atmosphere here at the Delphi. In the end everything here has simply become much more professional. And the quality of the audio system, which is working very well, is really making a fantastic contribution!"

Another famous British rock star also contacted the Delphi recently. Founder of Dire Straits and guitar legend David Knopfler and his band are also drawn to the little Showpalast in the middle of the Schanze. "And that's just the start," says a very satisfied Horst Kuska, who has every right to be proud of his fabulous theatre.

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