Can audience demographics specify a theatrical venue's new equipment?

Sometimes. Case in point: Coconut Creek Township Center for the Performing Arts. Coconut Creek, located outside of Fort Lauderdale, is one of the fastest growing communities in South Florida, with a large portion of that population coming from the Northeast. According to the Center's house engineer, Robin Imamshah, the transplants had grown accustomed to a certain level of quality and variety in their entertainment experience.

The Center's board of directors not only wanted to book Broadway-type productions into its 625-seat theatre, but “star packages” as well, including Charo, Elayne Boosler, and The Drifters (hey, it's Florida, after all). “Sometimes we do three shows a day — a musical like >Chicago or Funny Girl, a high school recital, and a star package,” says Imamshah. “It's a schedule that would drive any venue crazy.”

Essentially, the Center's schedule required that the theatre be reconfigurable at a moment's notice. Imamshah teamed with pro audio supplier and sound designer, Mike Harris (Harris Audio), and Harris' long-time partner, sound, lighting, and video systems integrator, Paul van Puffelen (Southern Technical Support Inc.), to come up with a full sound system design suitable for musical theatre.

The system package centers around a Yamaha PM5D digital console, an SLS RLA/3 line-array loudspeaker system in LCR cluster arrangement (powered by Lab Gruppen amplifiers), and a BSS Sound Web Lite 3088 programmable digital audio processor. The entire project was budgeted into three phases: installation of the SLS line-array system; the addition of the PM5D; and design and implementation of room acoustics changes. With the new audio system in place, room acoustic changes are currently being addressed.

Though Imamshah and van Puffelen needed no convincing about the purchase of the PM5D, moving the Community Center's all-volunteer board up to the Yamaha product was a challenge. “Understand that we were going from a mixing board that 15 years ago cost maybe $1,500 and a $20,000 sound system to a first-rate system with state-of-the-art equipment,” says Imamshah. “Acts that outstripped the capabilities of our equipment were already being booked into the room.” Eventually, Imamshah and van Puffelen made their case with the flexibility and reconfigurablity of the PM5D combined with the BSS Sound Web system.

“One of the nice things about the console is that it doesn't use an A-to-D I/O box on stage,”explains van Puffelen. “It has mike inputs in the rear, making it more practical in the real world. You have to have a snake, but you don't have to fight with the monitor engineer over who gets to control the mike pre-amp gain.”

The optional RH front-end configuration of the PM5D has 48 XLR analog mono inputs with recallable mike preamps. However, says van Puffelen, the “standard” PM5D, “actually has a gain stage after the mike pre's that we found could be used to store pre-set levels. So while you're not actually controlling the mike pre's, you still have control over the gain stage for doing recalls at different levels. We also worked out USB and Serial RS-232 links over a wireless WLAN network to control the PM5D and Sound Web with a wireless notebook from anywhere in the room.”

When the Coconut Creek Theater added a new stage, proscenium, and backstage areas, the front of the audience area was excavated to increase the rake and improve sightlines, creating a room with a much lower ceiling at the rear than in the front. “They were using delay fill speakers for the back of the room,” says van Puffelen, “which worked well enough, but interfered with sightlines.”

To eliminate the use of delay speakers, van Puffelen tried a small-scale line array box using double the amount of cabinets: a total of 22 SLS RLA/3 mini line array loudspeakers in an LCR arrangement, eight RLA/3s per side, and six in a center cluster. Each RLA/3 has a 6.5” woofer and 5” planar ribbon driver in a very compact, trapezoidal-shaped enclosure — 7.25” high in front, 5.5” high in the rear, and 14” wide. Fitted into a single cabinet, the L/R arrays are nearly invisible to the audience. Two SLS 212EL dual 12” subs, fit into compact stage front enclosures of poured concrete, support the LCR configuration. Three Lab Gruppen fp-3400 2-channel amplifiers, and two fp-2400q 4-channel amplifiers drive the tri-amped system.

Van Puffelen “tuned” the array's hang using SLS' LASS software and mechanically adjusting the positioning between individual units to achieve the exact vertical coverage he wanted. “We were able to eliminate the rear fill speakers that previously were necessary to cover the seats under the low ceiling in the rear,” says van Puffelen.

Audience demographics did not exactly specify this theatre's sound system, but they did help establish a level of performance quality that guided the system design team.