Recently, Founders Theatre, located in Hamilton, New Zealand, underwent an upgrade to its 20-year-old sound system. According to technical officer Kelvin Ballard, the new system need to have a contemporary design that would “deliver consistent level and quality to every seat in the house, with both a high level of musicality and uncompromised clarity of vocal reproduction.”

The theatre settled on a configuration of three arrays built around 34 Meyer Sound self-powered curvilinear array loudspeakers provided by Hamilton’s Audio Video Solutions under the direction of Hanspeter Frick, in consultation with Harley Richardson of Meyer Sound Australia.

“Events here range from international tours to very simple conferences, with everything in between, including classical concerts, cultural performances, popular music, local community events, ballet, and contemporary dance,” says Ballard of the theatre, which holds events for the roughly 160,000 residents of Hamilton. “Aside from rock-and-roll-type shows, which generally tour with their own systems, the most demanding use of the sound system would generally be for musicals.”

Frick’s system design uses left and right arrays consisting of eight M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array loudspeakers and two M1D-Sub ultra-compact subwoofers each, and a center cluster of 10 more M1D cabinets. “The M1D line arrays have a very good name in theatre work,” Frick says, “and they are the perfect size for this situation. Flying M1Ds is a breeze, and taking arrays out or changing them can be done very easily, due to their size and weight. Plus you have the added benefit of practically no cable installation.” Rounding out the coverage is a set of four UPM-1P ultra-compact wide coverage loudspeakers providing frontfill.

The configuration and placement of the arrays were finalized by Richardson using Meyer Sound’s MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction program. “Harley actually traveled to Hamilton from Australia to specify the exact speaker locations,” Frick says. “He ran MAPP in the venue itself using his laptop, and connected to the MAPP server at Meyer Sound headquarters in the US through the Internet via his cell phone. This allowed him to calculate, in real time, the effects of adjusting speaker placement.”

Ballard was impressed with MAPP as well. “During the installation, we were able to use MAPP to play with a configuration and then change the actual speaker hang to see if it worked in reality,” he says. “It hasn’t been wrong.”

Ballard adds that the installation itself was amazingly easy. “We obviously had to install new audio lines and power to each hang point, but this is so much easier than cabling up racks full of amplifiers and then running speaker cable all over the building. From a cabling point of view, it was a lot more cost-effective than other sound systems we’ve installed in our other theatres.”

As for the result, Ballard points out that at the first technical run-through of the system’s debut show (the New Zealand premiere of the musical The Full Monty), the director commented that the sound was like the CD of the Broadway recording. “We have found that the system reproduces a transparency and clarity, especially with vocals, not demonstrated in more conventional speakers,” he says. “And the sound is virtually the same in every seat from the front to the back of the theatre. It’s now very easy to find space for all the instruments and then have the vocals sit on top with excellent clarity and intelligibility. Our audiences are telling us that they love the sound of the band, and they can hear every word.”