INVESTMENT IN PREMIUM AUDIO PAYS OFF
City Recital Hall or CRH as we know it in Sydney, is a hidden, 1,240 seat gem of a venue, tucked in a lane between Wynyard and Martin Place, and until recently almost exclusively the home of orchestral and chamber music. But it has just been overhauled with a million dollars’ worth of d&b audiotechnik Soundscape immersive audio, and the ability to remove the seats for a general admission dancehall mode.
City Recital Hall’s new programming direction is tagged as a sonic shift to contemporary music with a whole new dimension in listening. The venue has dramatically expanded its audience and is being hailed as a ‘new venue’ by generations who hadn’t considered the traditional acoustic offerings of the past. New leadership from CEO Justin Boschetti drove the project.
Head of Technical Production Richard Fenton oversaw the installation of the groundbreaking audio equipment into the auditorium, tuned at an occupied reverberation rate of 1.75 seconds. The auditorium, designed by Peddle Thorp & Walker Architects in 1999, includes remote controlled acoustic blinds that allow for conversion to a more suitable dryness for amplified shows.
The renewal of the amplification equipment at City Recital Hall has a coalition of Create NSW and City of Sydney funding behind it. In the early stages of researching the new equipment, Fenton arranged for the hall’s Director of Programming Stuart Rogers to attend a Soundscape demo in Germany where, to coin a hackneyed phrase, the lights went on. “We need this,” he said, and the process took off.
Rogers saw the obvious: once artists and audiences become accustomed to immersive 360 degree sound, they’ll insist on it, akin to what Dolby did to cinema. Installed over the past three months this year, the 91-speaker system comprises three hangs of six XSLi in the main arrays, with 21 fills and delays, and four flown and six under-stage subs, and 42 venue speakers across all three levels.
Using d&b ArrayCalc and R1 software, the system is configured according to requirements, and fed by a recently added Allen and Heath d-Live 5000 console. The official launch concert on Friday 14 July featured Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN), an American experimental electronic music producer and composer who already runs his touring show on Soundscape.
OPN’s touring crew arrived, plugged in and instantly the massive immersive system reproduced their swirling futuristic sounds. As an introduction to the concept for a full house plus a VIP list of promotors and government stakeholders, it was the perfect choice of act. OPN demonstrate how music can exploit the ability of a Soundscape system, but the system has an alternate functionality which allows an engineer to ‘place’ performers in space.
Soundscape, and other immersive spatial audio systems, were unveiled in 2017 and are making inroads globally. Around ten d&b systems are in use across Australia now, along with other brands and the transformation is taking hold. In demonstration, hearing a traditional left/right system switched to immersive is radical, even just placing musicians in space – without sending effects into surround – opens the audio right up.
Each member of the audience has a space perception that cannot be there without this technology.
CRH is now expanding its utilisation for both contemporary and classical performances with Rogers drawing in promoters and producers who regard the transformed venue as a miraculous ‘new’ addition to a city perilously short of venues.
Julius Grafton is the former publisher of CX and now works freelance as a sound engineer. He is on roster at CRH.
Connectivity: The Allen & Heath dLive S5000 digital mixing console with a DM64 I/O DSP is connected to the d&b DS100 Signal Engine via Dante. The PA is then fed either via native Dante on the D&B 5D amplifiers, or via AES with DS10 convertors to the 40D amplifiers.
Spatial Audio Processing: The DS100 Signal Engine processes the audio signals received from the dLive S5000, applying d&b’s advanced spatial audio processing algorithms. It allows for object-based positioning, movement, and immersive effects to be applied to the audio sources, creating a 3D audio experience within the Soundscape system.
Inputs and Outputs: The DS100 is a 64/64 device, accepting 64 inputs and provides 64 loudspeaker outputs.