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Case Study: The Guild Theatre, CA

Although home to Stanford University and tech giants, the region south of San Francisco had been curiously lacking a first-rate music club for many years. That void has been recently filled, with the opening of Menlo Park’s Guild Theatre, now attracting top-level artists with support from cutting-edge AV technologies that include a formidable Meyer Sound system.

The Guild Theatre is on the small side for hosting high-caliber acts — around 200 seated and 500 standing — but intimacy is part of what makes the experience extraordinary. “Rooms of this size just don’t have stages this big, lighting with this level of sophistication, and sound systems this good,” maintains Drew Dunlevie, president of the Peninsula Arts Guild and the driving force behind creating the venue. “We put together an A-team for this project, with theatrical design by Shalleck Collaborative, acoustic design from Salter, and integration by Legend Theatrical, all working hand-in-glove with the amazing PA from Meyer Sound.”

The sound reinforcement system would be the keystone element of the production technologies, and on this point, Dunlevie relied on both his own experience and advice from others operating similar venues in the Bay Area.

The design went through several iterations, but as installed the system now comprises main L/R arrays of nine LINA very compact linear line array loudspeakers, with each array flown underneath a 750-LFC very compact low-frequency control element. Visceral low end is buttressed by a center cardioid array of three 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements plus two more 750-LFC elements under the stage. Loudspeakers for front, VIP, and bar fills are, respectively, four ULTRA-X20, two ULTRA-X42, and eight Ashby-8C. The surround system, which supports both 7.1 film showings and Meyer Sound’s Spacemap Go spatial sound design and mixing tool, comprises six HMS-10 loudspeakers on the main level and four HMS5 for the balcony. For artist foldback, the Guild offers eight MJF-210 low-profile high-power stage monitors and a 750-LFC element as a drum sub.

Guild Theatre Manager Tom Bailey came on board after the sound system decision, but he was pleased with the direction based on prior experience with Meyer Sound during his years with the Bill Graham organization. “Meyer Sound was an obvious choice, in part because we had so little space to work with inside the fixed walls of the building. So, it only made sense to have a selfpowered system,” he observes.

The system’s size and sophistication draw frequent comments, continues Bailey. “People come into this little room and assume it’s just another nightclub. Then they see the PA and say, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?!’”

“Everybody raves about the sound in here, artists and audiences alike,” says Drew Dunlevie. “For example, I remember walking around during the Social Distortion show, which is a great mix of rockabilly and punk, but the lyrics are also important. The sound had a visceral impact, but you could still hear every word clearly.”

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