Teatre Akadèmia

Amate Audio installation provides new production possibilities for Barcelona’s theatre Teatre Akadèmia: a case study in creative sound design

The recent ‘infrastructural renovation’ of a renowned fringe theatre in the city’s fashionable Eixample district, included a ‘multimedia upgrade’, revolutionising the venue’s technical production capabilities, encompassing new video and lighting systems, and a comprehensive audio installation, with both PA and surround sound EFX capabilities; comprised entirely of Amate Audio loudspeakers, power amplifiers and digital audio processors.

Award winning sound designer Roc Mateu, together with Amate Audio’s Industrial Designer, Guiu Llusá, addressed the theatre’s specific sound design challenges with respect to its layout incorporating a semi-circular ‘thrust stage‘ and raked seating on three sides. “The design objectives were those required to provide a room with the particular layout of the Teatre Akadèmia with sound equipment of appropriate scale, but with comparable performance capabilities to that used in large scale auditoria,” says Guiu, “So any type of scenic proposal could be realized.”

“The system had to be totally configurable due to the many and varied forms of scenography that may be required, and so that neither directors nor sound designers should encounter any creative limitations,” he continues. “A system that could accommodate any creative proposal, with cabinets that could be hung and oriented so as to provide even coverage at every point in the auditorium.”

The resultant specification was for two effectively discrete loudspeaker systems, operating together within a matrix sound design and addressing different applications: a front-of-house dialogue PA, comprising larger full-range cabinets, providing uniform reinforcement throughout the auditorium of onstage performance; and a wider ‘boundary’ installation around the perimeter of – and firing into – the room, comprising smaller cabinets providing a dynamic surround sound EFX capability. 

A primary concern was to ensure sonic continuity throughout the complete installation. This was achieved by exclusively using models of relative scale from Amate Audio’s Nítid loudspeaker series. The N12 and S6P 2-way designs, from this series of compact, high performance venue installation models, were selected respectively for the FoH dialogue and EFX surround components. BEing engineered to provide a common, signature high-intelligibility output, the overall effect was of ‘scaled’ sonic coherence, and very low visibility. 

With six N12P cabinets hung in three groups of two – in front of and on each side of the stage – and flown high enough to cover the entire auditorium, from the audience’s perspective, the FoH system achieves near invisibility. The smaller S6Ps are 12 in number. These are configured as three separate groups, one of four for the front row seating, and two groups of two for each of the side tiers. Three N18WP subs, sited under the front, left and right seating tiers, are assignable to both FoH N12P cabinet pairings, and the front and side surround groups; though the default configuration is that they in use with the EFX system. Four additional ‘mobile’ S6Ps are available to further expand the EFX configuration, as and how that might be required. 

“The surround system allows you to modify the sense of position and proximity of sound effects. In a theatre of small dimensions,” says Guiu, “If you want to simulate a large space, to achieve this effect the audience must be surrounded by loudspeakers, each with a separate send with corresponding delays and power levels. Each send is controlled separately to choose where in the room each sound effect is located and plays within the simulated ambience.”

A further requirement was the centralization of all amplification and processing at a single point. A remotely located machine room was created housing a total of 11 Amate Audio HD 3200 and HD 1200 power amplifiers, providing a total system power rating in excess of 25 kW constant program power – ensuring that the system never runs out of headroom. Three Amate Audio LMS 206 and one LMS 608 DSP control processors provide discrete system management of loudspeakers in both FoH and EFX installations.

Signal feeds to and from processors – and on to the amps – from a Midas DL32 stage-box, connected via AES50 to an M32 mixing console at the control position in the auditorium. It is is connected, via Dante, to QLab’s show control automation application which runs the audio matrix and automation, along with video and lighting control. The entire room is thus operable by a single technician, able to design and run a complete production from the control position.

Roc Mateu is a theatre sound designer with an international career encompassing all manner of venues and productions. His approach to revolutionising sound production in the 100 seat Teatre Akadèmia was to replicate at scale production techniques more commonly found in larger auditoria.

“The renovation was envisaged as transforming the venue’s technical production capabilities via multi-media technologies, as a means of expanding artistic possibilities,” he explains. “The objective role of sound design, in this scheme, is to evolve beyond mere amplification and become a dynamic, illusionary creative tool. The means of doing this were required to be seamless and as discrete as possible, with the technology being totally unobtrusive. With loudspeaker systems of this level of performance and compact form-factor, it was possible to achieve, within a small studio theatre, a level sound design more expected of a major commercial production.”


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