The Bainbridge (Washington) Performing Arts Playhouse recently received a completely new sound reinforcement system designed and installed by Flamingo Audio and featuring EAW NT Series loudspeakers.
Located in downtown Bainbridge and originally opened in 1993, the Playhouse, with 254 seats, annually hosts a busy schedule of live theatrical, musical, orchestral, and other productions. The original house sound system lasted until earlier this year, when an upgrade was sought.
Brad Walker, president of Flamingo Audio, which is based in nearby Poulsbo, WA, worked closely with Mark Sell, technical director at The Playhouse, in order to formulate the ideal system for the space. Goals included consistent coverage at every seat in the house, as well as dramatically improved vocal clarity and better overall full-range capability for reinforcing music.
“The previous system is what would commonly be termed as ‘beamy.’ It was difficult to get a balanced sound where everyone was pleased, and we had to apply a lot of equalization to attain any sort of consistency,” Sell explains.
Several leading loudspeaker candidates were ”auditioned” for the new system, and out of this process, EAW NT Series two-way powered (biamplified) loudspeakers were chosen as most suitable. Specifically, two model NT29 12-inch-loaded loudspeakers are flown left and right from the front lighting truss above the stage, carefully positioned to provide coverage to the entire audience area.
The NT Series incorporate an innovative new DSP technology called Gunness Focusing, named after its inventor, EAW Director of Research and Development David Gunness. Basically, Gunness Focusing corrects the sonic problems inherent in conventional compression driver phase plugs, horns, and LF driver technology to achieve performance comparable to premium direct radiating studio monitors, but at much higher output levels needed for sound reinforcement applications.
“These loudspeakers are really flat—even a die-hard fan of a competitor in the demo process had to admit that he was impressed,” Walker says. “I call this a ‘typical’ EAW loudspeaker design, meaning that the NT Series offers good directivity at high frequencies but maintains consistent beamwidth through the crossover point.”
The amplifiers onboard the NT29 loudspeakers offer a high-pass filter switch for crossover to a subwoofer or to minimize proximity effect in voice reinforcement. A fixed low-pass filter along with separate gain and polarity switches allows further optimization of the crossover.
Positioned at the far ends of the lighting truss, the main loudspeakers are flown with standard hardware, with a pullback point to set the appropriate downward tilt. Walker adds that the profile of the boxes is so compact (22.6 inches by 15.inches) that they’re virtually invisible to the audience.
To bolster low-end support, a single Mackie SWA1501 single-15-inch-loaded active powered subwoofer is positioned at about the midway point of stage left. In addition, dual EAW Commercial DR61 compact loudspeakers are flown from the truss, angled back toward the stage to provide downfill coverage to the performers.
All loudspeakers receive audio signal from the other key component in the new system, a Mackie TT24 digital mixing console, with its 24 inputs easily accommodating the venue’s 12 existing UHF wireless microphone systems with plenty of input channels to spare. The TT24 also provides enough processing capability to eliminate the need for additional outboard units.
“A board like the TT24 includes so many useful features for a situation like ours, such as snapshots, mute groups, onboard effects and additional aux sends—just to name a few,” Sell explains. “It’s also very user-friendly while retaining a lot of flexibility.”
Following installation, Walker performed some rudimentary tuning of the system, utilizing EAW Smaart for analysis. “Plug and play was definitely the motto of this process,” Walker concludes. “Mark’s vision was to raise the audio performance benchmark in this region, with components like the EAW NT Series and the Mackie TT24 allowing this to be done fairly easily. It’s amazing how much we can now offer in terms of both improved functionality and sound quality, and with far less hassle and complexity than ever before.”