In Budapest, the Palace of Arts opened to international acclaim, featuring four Studer Vista digital consoles in both studio recording and front-of-house mixing applications.

The Palace of Arts is an $170 million arts complex designed to change the landscape of Hungary’s cultural life, with hopes of boosting tourism at home and establishing the country’s artistic credentials on the international circuit. Its technical specifications are world class and include four Studer Vista digital consoles filling a variety of different roles.

It covers over 32,000 sq. ft. and is adjacent to the National Theater. The centerpiece of the Palace is the National Concert Hall, the largest of its kind in Hungary, seating 1,700 people with standing room for an additional 200. The Hall’s programming will represent the variety of Hungarian culture, particularly its rich folk tradition.

The Concert Hall itself sits in a huge internal structure, floating on steel and rubber springs. There are 66 resonant chambers around its walls and a 40-ton canopy above the podium to ensure that the audience hears the performance perfectly. The American consultancy ARTEC and its director, Russell Johnson, designed the acoustics. Johnson’s previous designs include concert halls in Sao Paulo, Philadelphia, Lucerne and Singapore, yet he ranks the Palace high on this distinguished list. "I would not be surprised if, in three years from now, the musicians of Europe may rate this hall in Budapest as the best concert hall in Europe," he says.

The Concert Hall is a flexible environment with adjustable side panels and a giant wooden baffle in the ceiling, which can be raised or lowered. The venue is equipped with sophisticated sound reinforcement equipment for non-acoustic performances, typically jazz, including a Studer digital Vista 8 console that swings into operation at front of house.

The Palace hosts the largest concentration of Studer Vista consoles in an arts center anywhere in the world. Although Studer’s consoles are most known in the broadcast industry, more consoles are being specified for applications in the live performance arena.

The Palace’s chief engineer, Barnabas Kiss, believes the consoles’ operational flexibility and versatility, together with a user-friendly interface, are the reasons for this growth into the performance industry. "Our primary criteria for choosing the equipment was that it must be easy to use for the people who’ll be here with us for maybe just one show," Kiss says. "Also, for these reasons, we wanted one manufacturer to supply all our console requirements, so that all four mix positions in this building could be the same; not similar, but the same."

Studer delivered one package that met the mixing demands of two large live venues like the National Concert Hall and the 450-seat Festival Theater, as well as the two recording studios attached to them. "Studer could give us a technical solution for recording as well as for PA, but, really, the choice was made because of the Vistonics™ interface," says Kiss. "Five minutes after sitting down in front of this desk for the first time, you can use it like a professional. At our opening ceremony, half of the Vista 8 was being used by the engineer producing a live mix for TV and radio; the other half of the same console was being used by another engineer to make a live recording of the event."

BaSys Multimedia of Hungary supplied the four Studer digital desks to the Palace. The Concert Hall has a mobile 32-fader Vista 8 located in its control room, which can be moved down to a position in the stalls. A 52-fader Studer Vista 8 has been sited in the adjacent studio for recording sessions. In the 450-seat Festival Theater, a 52-fader Vista 8 digital console is installed at front-of-house, with a 40-fader Vista 7 installed in the adjoining recording studio.

The success of the Palace of Arts will be measured by the quality of international artists that it is able to attract. This year, as part of the Spring Festival, the venue has already hosted Zubin Mehta, Sergei Nakariakov, Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Kobayashi Ken-Ichiro. A quick look at the list for the rest of the year–Andras Schiff, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Alanis Morrisette, The Temptations and The Supremes–reveals the true diversity of this most impressive facility.