The small city of Maastricht, at the southern tip of the Netherlands, is wedged tightly between the borders of Germany and Belgium. Here, it sits astride a crossroads of European culture, a place where traditional artistry mixes with modern mass media.

The focal point for the city’s thriving performing arts community is the Vrijthof Theatre. Behind the Vrijthof’s historic 1809 façade lies a new auditorium, completed in 1990. The 954-seat venue offers a varied calendar of performances, from drama and dance to pop and classical concerts. To provide this full range of events with the best possible sound reinforcement, the Vrijthof recently installed a system of self-powered Meyer Sound M’elodie™ ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers, the first M’elodie installation in the Netherlands.

The size and shape of the venue pointed to a line array solution, so the theatre’s technical staff scheduled extensive comparison tests of various manufacturers’ systems. At the conclusion of the process, the theatre’s chief sound engineer, Eric Meij, tipped the decision toward M’elodie.

We had hoped to schedule our tests earlier, but the preliminary information we received on M’elodie made us decide to wait until it was available,” says Meij, also a well-known FOH engineer who tours with top Dutch artists like Benny Neyman and Rob de Nijs. “Our expectations were more than fulfilled. This is clearly the newest generation of Meyer Sound technology. M’elodie demonstrates the company’s strict attention to every detail, and the sound quality is superb.”

The completed system comprises left and right arrays, each having 12 M’elodie cabinets flown under a single 600-HP compact high-power subwoofer. The flown subwoofers deliver bass impact to the balcony seats, while two more 600-HP cabinets are groundstacked to cover the lower level. According to Jasper Ravesteijn of Meyer Sound’s Netherlands distributor, Audio Electronics Mattijsen, the split upper-lower subwoofer design works very well. “The balcony subs are up very high, and don’t interact with the floor-level 600-HPs. The ability to integrate the 600-HPs into the M’elodie arrays was key to making this kind of design possible.”

The results were quickly praised by staff engineer Eric Meij. “This room is difficult for the subwoofer range, but, fortunately, we know the specific frequency that causes problems. We put a notch at the point, and suddenly realized what a powerful tool the 600-HP can be. The power-to-size ratio is truly unbelievable.”

A particularly striking feature of the Vrijthof Theatre’s new system is the horizontally flown center cluster of eight M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeakers. According to Ravesteijn, the unusual configuration was a result of extensive — and imaginative — application of Meyer Sound’s MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction program during the design process. “The reverberant walls and the large, steep balcony got us looking into some unconventional strategies,” he remarks. “What started out merely as an interesting idea proved to be very effective when we put the data into MAPP. The M1D’s 100 degrees of horizontal dispersion was exactly what we needed for the vertical. Doing that gave us the freedom to determine a specific horizontal pattern that fit the room precisely. Some minor modifications to the QuickFly® grid made it possible to securely fly the M1D array horizontally with a professional appearance.”

Completing the system are a pair of UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers to cover the front corners, and a Galileo™ loudspeaker management system for drive processing. The Galileo system’s Compass control software is installed on a WiFi-enabled laptop computer to allow precise system processing adjustments from any seat in the house.

As normally configured inside the theatre, the new Meyer Sound system adapts easily to the wide variety of productions hosted by the venue. In addition, the self-powered systems can be removed quickly and easily for redeployment immediately in front the theatre when special events are staged in spacious Vrijthof Square. “This area can hold several thousand people,” observes Ravesteijn, “but the high power capacity of M’elodie, combined with that of the 600-HP subs, makes this an ideal system for many of the outdoor events as well.”