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Yamaha Adds Six (Sided) Appeal to Reading Hexagon

Sep, 2011

The Hexagon in Reading is one of the Thames Valley’s principal theatres, its catchment area covering the wide commuter belt west of London. A recent upgrade to its audio system has seen the installation of a Yamaha M7CL-48ES digital console and three SB168-ES stage boxes.

The nature of venues like the Hexagon is that they stage a huge variety of productions - ranging from professional comedians, tribute acts, variety shows, choirs, psychics, musicals, pantomimes, dance troupes and TV spinoffs to amateur performances by clubs, bands, schools and talent contests. This means that the mixing system has to be extremely flexible, yet not so complex that it can’t be taught very quickly to someone who may not have used a digital console before.

The combination of the M7CL-48ES and SB168-ES stage boxes meets all of these needs and, as a result, is proving extremely popular at regional venues throughout the UK.

The Hexagon’s former analogue console was in place for 16 years and had become unreliable so Reading Arts & Venues, which runs the Hexagon, approached Surrey-based HD Pro Audio for a new solution.

“The old desk was 48 channel, we needed the same number of channels, plus some for foldback,” says Tim Liddle, chief electrician at Reading Arts & Venues. “The biggest show we do is the annual pantomime, which has a band in the pit, a lot of radio mics, foldback to the pit and stage, a backing vocals booth and sound effects - it’s a fairly complex production for the sound department and takes a fair bit of setting up. One of the appeals of the M7CL was that we could pre-program a lot of it offline, which saves a tremendous amount of time in the auditorium.”

One of the Hexagon’s more unusual aspects is its movable stage. It is lowered on screw jacks for get-ins and get-outs, being raised to its normal height for performances. However, this facility is also used for productions like popular stand-up comedians, where sets can be minimal. The stage is lowered, a smaller one is built further back and more seats can be added to the stalls.

“When we have shows like that, we need to put more speakers in and a lot of the settings have to be changed for the flown speaker clusters and front fills,” says Tim. “The Yamaha system allows us to make these changes instantly, which also saves a lot of time.”

He continues, “I looked at solutions from other digital console manufacturers, but a key point was that I trust Yamaha. I have had a PM2000 in the past, I’ve seen quite a few M7CLs come in with touring shows, and we have a Yamaha console in the Town Hall which is brilliant. There were no potential issues with the software being written over Windows, I trust the equipment to be totally reliable and, with the stage boxes, technically it provided exactly what we needed.

“Another major advantage, of course, is that a lot of people know the M7CL and, for any who don’t, it is very fast to teach. In a venue like this we need safe, reliable choices and the Yamaha system fulfils all of those needs.”

The system has already been used on a number of shows and Tim has been thoroughly impressed.

“We’re really happy with it. The small footprint gives us more room at the mix position, it sounds a lot better than our previous desk and I really like the Sends On Faders feature,” he says. “It’s very intuitive - you can access things without losing your main control surface, working offline saves a lot of time and there’s no more re-patching and resetting after the gig. You just press a button and it’s there.”


Products SB168-ES , M7CL-48ES

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