Lake Technology's Contour™ digital speaker processor and Mesa Quad EQ™ 4*4 digital matrix processor recently debuted on Broadway. Sound designer Peter Hylenski used two Lake Contour units and two Lake Mesa Quad EQ units on Little Women at the Virginia Theatre and four Lake Contour units and four Lake Mesa Quad EQ units for system optimization on Sweet Charity at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

"They are basically doing the full system processing for the two shows," explains Peter Hylenski, whose many sound design credits include productions on Broadway, London's West End, and in Europe.

For the musical version of Little Women, the installation of the four Lake Contour units, supplied by production services company ProMix, replaced 15 industry-standard processors, offering a unique opportunity for a direct comparison. "We had the full rig up and running, then did a complete changeover and turned it on again a couple of hours later. You rarely get to do an A/B test like that," Hylenski says. "We really noticed a significant improvement in sound quality."

Hylenski especially noticed the improvement with the orchestra speaker system, comprised of Meyer Sound MSL-2 cabinets. "It's such an open speaker anyway, and the 15" gives you a full, warm sound, but as soon as we turned the Lakes on, the range of the MSL-2s opened up and everything just seemed fuller and rounder and warmer. That was something we were really impressed by, that we still had extreme clarity with no smearing," he says. Hylenski was also impressed with the capabilities of the Lake Controller™ software, especially when run on a wireless tablet.

"The Lake units just fit so well with the way that I work in theatre," Hylenski explains. "I might want to apply the same type of processing to multiple speakers, which might be fed from different things. For example, my proscenium lower left and right are going to be fed a different signal, but you're going to want the EQs to match. You don't want to have to sit there and do it on one unit then copy it to another. With the Lake units, you just group them together. That's been invaluable and really speeds things up."

On Little Women, 10 matrix outputs from the show's Cadac mixing console feed directly into the Lake Contour units, where they are either sent directly to specific speakers or distributed to multiple locations. "I have a split band and vocals system," Hylenski explained. "But when I do my mono feeds, I take a feed from the band system and a feed from the vocal system and combine them. It gives me independent control, with separate EQs and delays, so I can image the vocals and the band. So there's a full set of processing for the vocals and a full set for the band, and, where appropriate, we sum the two together and send them to the speakers."

Conversely, for the proscenium system, Hylenski says, "I'll have double speaker cabinets for vocals and band, so I can feed my matrix straight through the Lake and into the speakers."

Little Women opened at the Virginia Theatre at the end of January. The revival of Sweet Charity stars Christina Applegate and played in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boston before arriving on Broadway in early April.