The new Petronas Twin Towers soar skyward, giving testimony to their intended image as the gateway to modern Kuala Lumpur, a reputation further enhanced by their status as the world's tallest buildings.
The development in Malaysia's capital city ranks as one of the world's largest private construction entities, with over 18 million sq. ft. of mixed-use space. In addition to the gleaming towers, the site--still under development--includes retail space, banks, a cineplex, and more.
The new Dewan Filharmonik Petronas Concert Hall, nestled between the towers, has been designed to host world-class symphonic performances and perhaps more down the road. The hall's beautiful interior, featuring imported woods and marble from around the globe, doesn't really provide much of a clue about the impressive array of technology expertly specified and assembled to provide superior sound reinforcement.
The sound design, evolving into reality over the course of four years, was put together by Kirkegaard & Associates, based in Boulder, CO. Recognized as a leading firm in architectural acoustics, the firm also tailored an intricate, effective acoustical design for the hall.
Meanwhile, Engineering Harmonics of Toronto handled design of the hall's AV/broadcast system, coordinating their efforts closely with Kirkegaard. Later in the design process, legendary Abbey Road Studios agreed to design a recording system and control room at the hall. Installation of all systems was handled jointly by O'Connor's Engineering and Truetech.
"One of the most challenging facets of this project was coordinating the work of many different firms of similar disciplines," explains Deb Blasinsky of Kirkegaard, who has managed the system design effort over the past two years. "This was complicated a bit more when Abbey Road was brought into the process at a relatively late date, so we all had to focus as a team to be sure their efforts were integrated with maximum effectiveness."
Intended primarily as a symphonic performance hall, at least at this point, acoustics in the 800-seat hall are paramount. Yet possible future uses--pop concerts and theatrical productions--also were taken into account. A moveable plunger ceiling, as well as mechanically adjustable acoustical panels located in the side walls, allows for this possibility. Both features provide significant changes in the room's acoustic signature.
Constructed in the classic concert hall mode, the main level of seating in the rectangular room is surrounded by VIP boxes along the two side walls as well as the back wall. Many of the boxes, arranged along three levels, are backed by reception rooms.
Kirkegaard also created a flexible acoustical shell for the stage. The shell works in conjunction with a flexible orchestra riser that can be adjusted to meet a variety of specific needs.
"Most of the designs that we do, both electronically and acoustically, tend to be geared more toward multipurpose use," notes Blasinsky. "While this venue is currently slated to host mostly symphonic and orchestral work, our design still takes into consideration the fact that you don't really know what's going to happen down the line. So we've provided them with the best acoustics and audio to carry out their main intent but also have kept it a loose enough for expansion or changes."
The audio design certainly reflects this philosophy. Blasinsky notes that right now, a larger-scale reinforcement system has not been implemented in the main hall; however, a suitable framework has been established. It's comprised of a backbone that includes computer controlled amplification, in the form of QSC PowerLights with QSControl software, and digital signal processing and routing courtesy of a Peavey MediaMatrix mainframe. This combination also drives a number of distributed systems serving the hall's periphery.
"With MediaMatrix, we're not only achieving everything we need in terms of processing and routing in the main system, but we have feeds to the hearing assistance system, the production monitoring system, the lobby performance monitoring system, and others," she explains. "Each of these systems can be routed independently and all have their own specifically tailored processing parameters. Plus we have plenty of capability for more expansion if and when a full-range music system is added to the hall."
The card-loaded, expandable MediaMatrix mainframe and breakout boxes provide 136 total input/output channels, with all of it residing in the amplifier room located two levels above the system control room that's carved out at the rear of the room. This remote location was also one of the contributing factors in the specification of the QSControl package with the amplifiers.
The interface to both the QSControl host computer and the MediaMatrix mainframe is located in the control room, adjacent to the 32-channel Soundcraft Venue II house console. Each of the 26 PowerLight amplifiers' HD15 data ports are interfaced with a QSC CM16 MultiSignal Processor, which in turn is linked via standard ethernet to the host computer.
QSC developed a custom control application specifically for the system, and it can be interfaced via RS-232 serial commands sent by an AMX master control system, outfitted with a touch panel that's also located in the control room.
"QSControl presents some obvious advantages in this situation," Blasinsky says. "We'll also be utilizing its host computer for other things, like housing the Clear-Com house intercom system software along with the software for the main system's fiber-optic distribution system."
Right now, sound reinforcement in the hall is confined largely to 48 Sammi 100mm (approximately 4") cone drivers forming a line array and built into the lip of the stage. Housed in a custom enclosure carved out of the stage, the tightly packed line array is intended solely to produce a coherent wavefront that localizes sound to the stage for the first few rows of seating. When the pit orchestra blocks this area, another identical line array can be inserted in place of the pit rail to achieve the same result.
Compact loudspeakers, CF Monitor Fours, flank each side of the hall, providing added reinforcement to the VIP boxes, and they are also strategically placed along the side and back walls for surround capability. "Some of these are completely concealed, while others are discreetly placed," Blasinsky says. "They perform well, with surprisingly clear and full sound for their size. They're great for speech and handle music quite well."
The control room, enclosed by a glass front, must receive a program monitor feed. Two Crown boundary mics are mounted on the sides of the hall, with this signal processed via the MediaMatrix to mirror what the audience is hearing.
The later advent of the recording studio caused some fairly significant alterations late in the design game. This was especially daunting considering the 200+ total mic and line level inputs in the hall, all of which need to be available at nine different locations simultaneously and in a variety of combinations.
"Once this came into play, it opened up a scenario where we needed to deliver multiple signals to multiple places. Abbey Road recognized the situation and realized immediately that [no additional lines should be required]," Blasinsky notes. "Instead, we devised a way for the house engineer, a remote broadcast truck, an Abbey Road recording engineer, or the stage engineer to access any line. We turned to fiber optic, because it gets pretty cumbersome, not to mention dangerous, to try to produce an analog splitter that could handle nine splits."
The control room includes a variety of outboard gear, including equalization for individual system tailoring, as well as compression and multi-effects devices. It's all housed in a rolling rack to accommodate the future possibility of locating a mix position in the house.
Once fully integrated, the AMX system will supply an added level of operator convenience. Eventually, it will allow full interconnect and access to QSControl, MediaMatrix, the house intercom system, and perhaps even more."I would suspect that the systems will continue to evolve for quite some time, and in a variety of ways," Blasinsky concludes.