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Yamaha M7CL is a highlight of the Hawth

Mar, 2011

Despite being best known for its proximity to Gatwick Airport and, most recently, its football team only narrowly losing to the mighty Manchester United in the FA Cup, Crawley is a thriving hotbed of the arts. Centred on the town’s Hawth Theatre, the recent installation of a Yamaha digital mixing system has brought new levels of sophistication to the venue’s productions.

Opened in 1988, the West Sussex venue offers a lively and diverse programme, featuring over 350 annual performances, which attract over 170,000 customers and many more to events across the town.

The theatre’s facilities include an 855 seat main space, a smaller 146 seat studio space, exhibition space, eight meeting rooms, coffee shop and bistro, two bars and an outdoor marquee and amphitheatre which are used for performances throughout the summer.

A recent technical upgrade has seen a Yamaha M7CL-48ES digital mixing console, together with three SB168-ES stage boxes, purchased for the main theatre.

Supplied by AC Lighting, the system was chosen because of the experiences of the in-house technical crew, led by technical manager Chris Wilcox.

“We noticed a lot of people touring with Yamaha consoles, which not only indicated that they are worth having, but also gave us an opportunity to ask engineers what they thought of the desks,” says John Kenrick, who, together with Quentin Whitaker, provides most of the audio support in the main theatre.

“Not all touring engineers get the gear they want and many had horror stories about digital desks they’d used in the past!”

Thanks to the typical camaraderie amongst ‘noise boys’, John and Quentin were also able to go ‘hands on’ with M7CLs used by touring engineers. They found the vast majority of the desk’s functions highly intuitive, indicating how easily others in the Hawth’s multi-tasking crew (who may only work on sound intermittently) would be able to use it, even if they may have previously only used analogue desks.

“The ES version also provided the flexibility of so many returns where you want them,” John continues. “On one occasion, we had a visiting company who were running video with sound from upstage and who also wanted returns for their own monitoring and recording purposes. I just ran out some CAT5 cable, gave them an ES box where they wanted to work and everything was sorted.”

“The onboard racks have also proved particularly useful, with the compressors and gates easy to set at effective but unobtrusive levels,” adds Hawth assistant technical manager Jim Simon. “The software is well thought out and we now have a default, stored, arrangement that suits the venue’s operation. There is rarely any need to do more than switch it on and go.”

The default input patch, with all three ES boxes on stage, includes 12 radio receivers, with the desk’s Omni ports used for two dedicated sound computers, CD, MiniDisc and any other required sources. Default sends from the desk include monitor sends to the stage, relay feeds to the prompt corner, backstage and the control room, with the option of audio for recording purposes, to a signer and an audio describe room.

“We have an active and sophisticated range of amateur companies, who make considerable demands upon our resources and expertise.” says John. “For example we have had production which featured an offstage band which ended up at 21 channels, plus 27 radio mics for the actors on stage. Additionally, we were running two sound effects computers into the stereo channels.”

The M7CL’s scenes facility has also proved extremely useful at the Hawth, with some amateur groups using Yamaha’s Studio Manager software to save production time. John recalls how, on one occasion… “129 scenes, muting and opening 12 radio mics were all prepared in advance by a visiting amateur company. On the fit-up day these scenes were installed and it all worked perfectly!”

With John also using a wireless link to control the console from around the auditorium and onstage, plus an additionally-purchased Aviom card being embraced by professional and amateur musicians alike, the Yamaha system has obviously had a major positive impact at the Hawth Theatre.

“We‘ve also had great technical backup from Yamaha,” adds John. “Not only can I speak to someone who has intimate knowledge of the console, but I was particularly impressed at Yamaha’s approach to support. The engineer gave me his own mobile number and made it clear that I can call him at any time.”


Products M7CL-48ES , SB168-ES

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