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Yamaha enjoys an audience at the Palace

Nov, 2010

After 147 years of entertaining audiences - give or take the odd break - Kilmarnock’s Palace Theatre complex has recently installed a new, state of the art audio system for live events. With a wide range of criteria to satisfy, the combination of M7CL48-ES console and SB168-ES stage boxes was the perfect fit.

Originally opened in 1863 as the town’s Corn Exchange, the Palace Theatre was joined by the Grand Agricultural Hall 64 years later. Despite an occasionally chequered career, the venues are still going strong today.

With audience capacities of 500 and 1300 respectively, these days the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall form a truly multi-purpose complex. However, attracting touring acts to the Grand Hall was starting to becoming a problem, as it had no in-house PA system.

“We had started to do a number of higher profile gigs in the Grand Hall, but a major obstacle to promoters was the cost of hiring in audio and lighting systems,” says the venue’s assistant technical manager Martin Vivers.

“We don’t have huge capacity and are a provincial venue, so we can’t charge high ticket prices. Once a promoter had taken the sub-hire costs out, there wasn’t much left over.”

The decision was taken to install a state of the art front of house PA and wedge monitor system, along with a lighting rig, pit barriers and a wheelchair platform to bring the venues up to the latest standards. However, their multipurpose nature meant that the entire audio system had to be movable between the venues (or to put away) and that the size of front of house positions had to be kept to a minimum.

“It was important that we had a digital system, with a Cat5 multicore, stage boxes and no bulky racks,” says Martin. “I was aware of all the available options for the budget we had available and it was a combination of factors that made Yamaha system the best option.”

Local supplier Zisys Events supplied a Yamaha M7CL-48ES console and three SB168-ES stage boxes. The company also purchased a second M7CL-48ES and three further SB168ES, which could be rented should the Kilmarnock venues need, for example, a separate monitor system.

“We were an early adopter of both the M7CL and LS9, we’ve used them on loads of different shows, so we knew how well the M7CL48-ES system would work at the Palace complex,” says Zisys manager Danny Anderson. “It needed to be totally flexible but, with a permanent EtherSound network now installed in the complex, the desks and speakers can all be moved to where they’re needed for any event.

“Having just one connection to the Ethersound network, with no need for lots of analogue cables, is a huge bonus.”

Operational flexibility was just one of the many demands that the new system had to satisfy, however.

“Another big criteria was that Yamaha consoles are an industry standard,” says Danny. “Part of the idea is to attract more promoters to use the venues, so it would have been a bit self-defeating to put something esoteric in. The M7CL is extremely rider-friendly, Yamaha digital consoles are ubiquitous and you know that most touring engineers will have used them.”

Martin agrees, adding, “The M7CL is such a well-known desk, it makes it very easy for visiting engineers.”

He continues, “We are also involved in an annual live music event at the town’s Dean Castle. Because there is very limited audience capacity there, we are bringing the headline acts to the Palace complex now, so the new system will hopefully attract bigger names for those shows as well.”

As always, Yamaha’s infamous reliability is an added bonus, something which Danny has first hand experience of.

“We have always found the LS9 and M7CL to be rock solid, I’ve never had one crash or do anything at all weird on me,” he says. “An extreme example was when, at one gig, a pint of Guinness was spilled into our first M7. We got through the gig, after which I took it apart there and then, in the venue. Speed was of the essence but, after we’d thoroughly cleaned it out, dried it and put it back together, it worked perfectly. We’ve not had a single problem with it since.”

Having a local company like Zisys Events with Yamaha expertise for technical backup is obviously a definite plus for Martin and the team at the Palace complex, and both were more than happy to welcome Yamaha Commercial Audio’s installation manager Scott Fraser in late October, who provided some extra hands-on training.

“It was an excellent day, Scott was really helpful,” says Martin. “I’ve been using Yamaha consoles for many years and still learned things I didn’t know,” agrees Danny.

Scott also conducted some listening tests with Yamaha Installation Series loudspeakers and a blind ‘shootout’ for the assembled technicians, with T5n amplifiers versus examples from another high profile amp manufacturer. In both the Yamaha products acquitted themselves extremely well.

“We have some installed speakers in the Palace Theatre which need upgrading and may be looking to install a background music system in the Pillared Room,” says Martin. “I would definitely want to use the Installation Series loudspeakers if we can do that. As for the T5n amps, there was certainly a lot more warmth in the sound than the others, the sound was definitely of a nicer quality.”

For now, however, the M7CL-48ES / SB168-ES system is proving very popular. “The system was extremely cost-effective and I’m really happy with it,” says Martin. “The stage boxes are fantastic, the preamps in them sound excellent.

“Just as importantly, we have managed to bring the sub-hire costs for visiting acts down from £4000 - £5000 to around £1500. That is a massive difference and we are sure will make Kilmarnock a much more attractive stopping-off point for bands on tour.”

With Stiff Little Fingers already having done so and the infamous Jedward touching down at the Grand Hall on 14th November, Martin’s optimism is obviously well-founded.


Products M7CL-48ES , SB168-ES , LS9-32

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