Nearly three years ago, the 1,700-seat Theatre at the Hilton in Las Vegas got the crowning achievement of its five-year renovation that included replacing the original stage, reconfiguring the seating, and implementing a whole new AV infrastructure.
Head technician Michael Beyer presided over the installation of two Yamaha PM1D audio consoles in the theatre that was originally built for Elvis (he performed more than 800 shows there), and Beyer's expertise was tapped again when the Hilton's little sister, the 375-seat Shimmer Cabaret, underwent a sound system upgrade. The extent of that upgrade was influenced by other, simultaneously occurring projects in the room. “We intended to upgrade the FOH console,” says Hilton technical director, Tony Tauber. “But at the same time, we were contemplating a room redesign and preparing to host a new show.”
The new show is Menopause: The Musical, and the new console is a Yamaha DM2000. When Tauber and entertainment director, J. Eric D'Richards, saw the renderings for the set design of Menopause, they turned their attention to the room's speaker system, based around cabinets set in a 7' deep soffit and covered in beige grill cloth.
“We realized that we could pick up a footprint if we eliminated the soffit, replaced it with a proscenium, and went with some form of line-array speaker system,” says Tauber. Beyer remembers, “I looked around the room, and I thought, ‘Wow, if any room is crying out for a line-array, it's this one.’” His assessment was based partly on the dimensions of the theatre: a pie-shaped room with the stage at the apex and balcony seating, not very deep, but relatively tall, and suited for stereo.
At this point, Tauber and D'Richards realized that they had an opportunity to accommodate a number of major changes — sound system, room redecoration, and set install in a very compressed timeframe. “Instead of waiting,” says Tauber of the room furbishing in particular, “we decided, let's jump on this right now.”
Menopause went into production with the legacy loudspeaker system and the soffit-fitted cabinets, supported by side-stage stacks. But it didn't take long for that to change. Within days, this setup was updated with a new vertical tangent array loudspeaker system from Nexo: seven GEO S805s per side, with one S830 at the bottom of each cluster, and two CD12 HyperCardioid Subbass speakers per side. Two NX 242 Digital TD Controllers — one for the stereo arrays and one for the subs — provide crossover, sensed-amplifier control, and system alignment acoustically matched to each Nexo GEO. The system is driven by four Yamaha PC9501Ns, with the cluster split in half and the subs powered on their own. Mixing is handled by the Yamaha DM2000, positioned behind the balcony seating.
Beyer considered other line-array products, all excellent he notes, but not necessarily ideally suited for the room he had to work with. “I was looking for a 110° to 120° pattern in the horizontal plane for downstairs and, going higher in the array, I wanted a narrower pattern, 80° to 90° for the balcony, which, obviously, is much farther away. The Nexo boxes do both, whereas the other products were not as flexible. And the horizontal boxes could be adjusted asymmetrically using the flare fittings on one side to narrow the horn throat.”
The Nexo rig's pragmatic design also appealed to Beyer. “It gives you the ability to really adjust the amplitude nearfield to farfield, with differing vertical patterns,” he says. “Instead of having to use six boxes and six sets of drivers to cover 30° vertical — blowing people out of their seats in the nearfield, then trying to find a way to get that amplitude down without ruining the composite waveform, somebody thought to take one box with one set of drivers and make them 30°, bringing down the amplitude but covering the area. It's all about physics. If the design's logical, that speaks to me.”
One thing they had to consider in the Cabaret was the size of the boxes. When the soffit above the stage was torn out, the set designer was concerned about the line-arrays blocking the set sightline, Beyer says. “I told him that this PA was only 17" wide, you won't even see it…I know he believed me, but I don't think it really sunk in until a few weeks later when we hung the arrays backed with black velour with 50% fullness. He was thrilled that he could barely see it, and with the lights down, he couldn't tell it was there at all.”
Being a small sub driver guy, Beyer says the other thing that attracted him to the CD12 sub was its size and the 12" drivers. When he demos the system for people, he says they always remark on how awesome the bass is, but also how punchy and tight it is.
While the Shimmer Cabaret has become a more production-show intensive venue, the decision was made recently to give the room over to a live band after the 7pm Menopause show. Beyer, whose background is in concert touring, says he's happy about that because whether it's a production show or a live band with dancers and backup singers playing, the Nexo arrays are fit to the room. He concludes, “The only supplemental speakers we needed were a few Yamaha IS 2205s for fill at the back of the room, in the under-balcony area. Otherwise, the coverage was complete.”