Built in 1918 and opened for vaudeville in 1921, the 1,500-seat RKO Orpheum in New Orleans went through several conversions of use before being shuttered by floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Following a $13 million renovation, it reopened in September 2015 with a performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
The 18-month project that led up to the performance included significant improvements to the Beaux Arts style theater, including an auditorium floor that can be raised when seating is removed for standing room concerts, parties, weddings, and more. In addition, the hall was equipped with a modern lighting array, a large movie screen, and a Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker system designed to reinforce live sound without adversely impacting the theater’s celebrated natural acoustics.
The Orpheum is a prime example of vertical hall construction with steel beams that support the balcony and gallery levels without typical columns that block sightlines. The theater is very narrow and steep so vaudeville audiences in the topmost seats could hear what was being said onstage.
Theater management picked the audio system in close collaboration with installer Don Drucker of Pyramid Audio Productions. “Of all the submissions, Martin Audio required the fewest adjustments, and that’s how we came to the decision.”
The sound system starts with 12 MLA Compact hangs per side, with 4 DSX subwoofers ground-stacked near the stage, which are used for certain rock bands. 30 DD6 dual differential dispersion speakers are deployed under the two sets of balconies and used as front fills at the front edge of the stage, and can be removed for dance events. Martin Audio C6.8T and C8.1T Ceiling Series speakers are mounted in the lobby areas and bathrooms to achieve a consistent sound throughout. Martin Audio is also used for stage monitoring and power.
Additionally, a Midas Pro 6 console was chosen for FOH and a Pro 2 for monitors, and the system includes Shure wireless microphones, Telefunken, Shure and Audio-Technica hand-held mics, Radial direct boxes, a Merlin processor, Lenntech for remote control of power, and a BSS Blu system for additional midrange control in different areas of the house.
So far, the theater and its modern sound system that’s led by the Martin Audio MLA array, has been a hit.
“Obviously, you get different audiences for the Philharmonic, the rock bands, dance troupes, and special presentations from a foreign country,” Drucke says, “and Martin Audio has shone in all of those areas.”