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Moveable sound

At the Congress Center in Wurzburg, Germany, events are limited not by the configuration of the facility, but only by the whims of the public.Flexibility

Moveable sound

Jul 20, 1996 12:00 PM,
Michael Voessing

At the Congress Center in Wurzburg, Germany, events are limited not by the configuration of the facility, but only by the whims of the public.

Flexibility is the key for any performance facility built today. The difference between economic viability and ruin can depend on the ability to host almost any type of event, be it a concert, whether classical, popular music or rock, a film or theatrical exhibition or even a convention or gala party.

When the beautiful, old southern German city of Wurzburg added a theater to its cultural focal point, the Congress Center, its designers adapted a concept of flexibility that had only been used in sports arenas: scaleable room size.

The Franconia Auditorium was designed with audience enjoyment first in mind. To make spectators comfortable at each of the different types of events held there, the concert hall is separated from its large lobby by a movable, and ultimately removable, wall. This allows the concert hall to be expanded for larger events without leaving audiences feeling lonely in a half-full auditorium at smaller events. The hall can even be reconfigured in a matter of minutes to host virtually any type of event or even more than one event simultaneously.

Of course, this feature put tremendous demands on the sound-system design. The prefecture of the Wurzburg Congress and Tourism Office tapped BBM Mueller, Munich, to consult on the sound-system portion of the project. BBM Mueller’s Harold Frisch created the specifications and also designed the system.

The primary specifications called for the highest standards of both music and speech reproduction. Specifically, a panic level of 100 dB (A) SPL was required for emergency crowd control along with an equal sound-pressure level distribution of ±2 dB (A) and a speech intelligibility rating of 0.5 (RASTI).

To achieve these rigorous demands, Frisch specified loudspeakers from Eastern Acoustic Works, Whitinsville, MA, and called on the audio-video department of Siemens AG Nuremberg to install the system. Siemens AG Nuremberg joined with the arm of Siemens AV/TS Vienna, Austria, to deliver the sound-system components and to provide additional engineering assistance. Both Frisch and the Siemens AV/TS engineers had used EAW loudspeakers before in other performing arts centers and stadia and were familiar with the wide variety of EAW systems and the capabilities of each.

The concert hall contains a main floor with the orchestra level seating area and an overhanging balcony. The lobby area, which could also become part of the concert hall, required a separate system that could be integrated with the overall system.

Sound for the main orchestra seating area is supplied by a central array of loudspeakers hung high above the front of the stage. Nearfield coverage is provided by three KF300isP compact three-way virtual array systems; farfield coverage is supplied by three KF600iP three-way, high-performance virtual array systems. In addition, four JF50P ultra-compact, high-definition systems in the stage lip provide coverage for the front rows of the audience. On-stage monitoring is provided by several portable SM122HRi two-way, full-range stage monitor systems, which can be connected at a number of locations depending on the artists’ needs.

At the rear of the hall, four KF300isP units provide additional coverage to the balcony. These systems are time-aligned to achieve a coherent stage impression. Critical underbalcony coverage is supplied by six JF50P loudspeakers, signal-delayed for accurate alignment.

Sound for the lobby area is provided by four UB12 ultra-compact, high-output nearfield systems. These can receive either a delayed concert hall signal or, if required, a separate signal entirely. This flexibility allows for simultaneous events, such as a classical recital in the main concert hall and a reception in the lobby area.

All loudspeaker systems are driven by Siemens-Crest professional amplifiers, Rane programmable 28-band equalizers (MPE 28) and Rane AD 22 digital delays; EAW MX200i and MX300i close-coupled electronic processors control the systems. This equipment, housed in two 19 inch (483 mm) racks, is installed near the stage roof to keep the distance from the amplifiers to the loudspeakers as short as possible. Fortunately for the sound engineers and contractor’s technicians, everything can be controlled remotely from the mixer’s position. For security, all digital systems are password-protected.

Instead of locating the mixer in the lighting booth, as is commonly done in venues featuring classical music, the mixer is permanently located in the balcony section of the concert hall. In keeping with the facility’s premise of audience satisfaction, this brings the mixer into direct contact with the audience, giving the mix engineer a better sense of the atmosphere of the performance, not to mention a better sense of how the mix sounds in the hall.

All patchbays and audio sources are installed at the mix position. The main console is a Crest Century TC with 16 mono inputs, four subgroups and three main outputs. Tascam provided the analog and digital audio sources. Sennheiser supplied the microphones, including the new modular VHF wireless microphone receiver system EM1046.

Because the loudspeaker systems are independently controlled by the EAW MX series CCEP, only those needed for any given event are used. In addition, the EQ and relative mix of the various systems can be custom configured, insuring unique sound reinforcement for each type of performance or event.

Using the latest technology in both the architecture and the sound system, the Wurzburg Congress Center’s Franconia Auditorium is opening a new era in facility management. Now the events that can be booked are no longer limited by the configuration of the facility but instead are limited only by the ever-changing whims of the public.

Equipment list1 Crest Century TC mixing console1 IED 4800EQ automatic mixing system for eight channels1 IED 5000 audio signal distribution system1 Tascam CD 401 CD player10 Rane MPE 29 programmable 28-band equalizers4 Rane AD22 digital delays2 EAW MX 200I-3 two-way controllers1 EAW MX 800I-6 four-way controller6 Siemens Crest S-480 stereo amplifiers3 Siemens Crest S-715 stereo amplifiers2 Siemens Crest S-1100 stereo amplifiers3 EAW KF 600iP virtual array systems2 EAW SB 625PD2 high-output subwoofer systems7 EAW KF 300isP virtual array systems2 EAW SM 122HF floor monitor systems10 EAW JF 50iP compact loudspeaker systems4 EAW UB12 ultra compact loudspeaker systems1 Sennheiser SKM 5000 VHF wireless handheld microphone2 Sennheiser MKE 40-4 + SK 50 VHF lavalier microphones and transmitters

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