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Peoria Civic Center

A New System Playing In Peoria

Detailing a significant sonic upgrade for a major Midwest performing arts venue

Sep. 14, 2015


“Will it play in Peoria?” asks the old adage. It certainly will at the theater within the Peoria Civic Center, thanks to a significant audio system upgrade at the central Illinois city’s leading venue for concerts, theatrical productions, and other live events. The upgrade also allows the theater to work more cohesively with sister venues that are also part of the civic center complex, including Carver Arena and a convention center.

The sound design and installation were provided by Peoria-based Advanced Audio and Lighting for the 2,244-seat venue, including its 16 skyboxes, balconies, and under-balconies as well as ancillary areas like dressing rooms and lobby areas. A primary goal of the project was bringing the theater, which opened in 1982, up to contemporary audio production standards, and in fact, that’s what has been achieved – and then some.

Prior to the upgrade, rental systems frequently had to be brought in, especially for concerts. Further, there was the desire that the system offers a variety of different configurations to better meet the specific needs of each type of performance visiting the venue.

“For example, when an off-Broadway engineer comes in and has specific requirements and says, ‘shut certain zones off,’ we can do it. Or he may want a specific EQ response from some components, and we can do that,” explains Trent Keeling, vice president of Advanced Audio and Lighting, who co-owns the company with partner Graeme Brown.

Keeling also credits the contributions of the company’s team as being crucial to what is ultimately a highly successful outcome, including systems engineers Nick Steinseifer and Don Delong as well as installation foreman Ryan Swearingian. “Other support staff is too numerous for mention here – suffice to say I couldn’t be more proud of this incredible team,” he says.

Members of the Advanced Audio and Lighting team with theater technical director Eric Yarbrough.

Meeting Unique Needs

The Biamp Tesira digital processing platform implemented on the project plays a key role in delivering maximum flexibility, with audio signal and control transport via an AVB (Audio Video Bridging) network design. Along with a newly designed company switch and proper electrical distribution, the system exhibits an extremely low noise floor.

The AVB network protocol provides imperceptible latency, excellent clocking, and freedom from interconnected ground loops. A 21-inch touch panel and multiple LAN connections offer convenient operator access to system parameters along with a full-featured virtual mixer for events with fewer input requirements.

Keeling notes that the sonic quality of the Tesira platform is also quite good, commensurate with other premium digital processing options for sound reinforcement. “A lot of designers have needs that are unique to their show,” he notes. “It’s not a generic thing. For example, they may want to matrix sound effects to specific locations or incorporate aux fed subwoofers. Again, we can do that.

“The design of the system also allows shows to come in with their own gear as their needs require, and they can either route or tie-in to our system,” he continues. “Flexibility is critical. Matrix routing. Preset configurations for instant recall by house staff. You name it. That’s all been established within Tesira.” The platform also handles signal delivery and management to the subsidiary spaces noted earlier (lobbies, dressing rooms, etc.).

Plenty Of Options

The flexibility mantra also applies to the main loudspeaker systems, joined by quality full-range sound reinforcement. Two loudspeaker sets can be utilized to deliver coverage to the expansive main floor seating area as well as two balconies on the rear wall and the rows of skyboxes along each side.

Left and right line arrays flank the stage proscenium, where they provide dynamic support primarily for concerts, while a distributed system anchored by a loudspeaker cluster flown at center and joined by numerous compact loudspeakers on time delay can support other types of performances or presentations.

The line arrays are each comprised of nine RCF TTL55-A three-way active modules, and beneath each are three RCF TTL36-AS dual 18-inch active subwoofers in a cardioid configuration. According to Keeling, the RCF TTL line arrays and subs were selected for this project because their active designs reduce amplification costs, they incorporate quality transducers that are known in touring circles, and they offer real value in performance versus cost.

“Competitively, when you look at all of the loudspeakers available today, RCF is right there with any of the big-name players,” he says. “This was a year-long vetting and design process for our team, working very closely with Eric Yarbrough, the technical director of the civic center.

“Eric is a seasoned professional and was able to provide us with the huge variance of production scenarios that were critical to the project’s success. With the budget restraints that we had, you don’t get any better than this.”

He adds, “The system can easily attain 115 dB continuous at the back wall. So it can handle harder acts while also being received very well by more acoustic-based artists. We’ve had consistent compliments from a wide range of touring engineers since the arrays were implemented.”

Meanwhile, the center cluster is comprised of three Danley Sound Labs passive loudspeakers – a single SH-50i for floor seating joined by two SM-60s that provide down fill coverage. They’re housed in a custom Polar Focus flying kit that allows them to be easily removed when sightlines for theatrical productions are impacted.

Further, the cluster itself can also be used solely to provide coverage at smaller events, with or without the four RCF TT52-A two-way (dual 5-inch) loudspeakers along the stage for front fill. Direct coverage to the skyboxes is attained with RCF C3108 compact passive loudspeakers, while six more of these loudspeakers bolster coverage to the under-balcony regions. Two RCF P5228 wide-coverage compact loudspeakers reinforce the upper balcony seats.

Another Level

All passive loudspeakers are driven by Powersoft Ottocanali 8-channel amplifiers that are specifically designed for mid- and large-scale multi-zone applications. Specifically, higher power Ottocanali 12K4 amps drive the larger loudspeakers while lower power Ottocanali 4K4 amps handle the smaller ones.

Two Avid VENUE Profile digital consoles are on hand for use at front of house and monitors, accompanied by their respective stage boxes and digital snake system. The monitor console feeds up to eight RCF TT25-SMA active 12-inch monitors that can be placed about the stage, as well as three larger (dual-12-inch) TT45-SMA active wedges and an RCF SUB8004-AS 18-inch active sub for drummers.

All of this, combined with a versatile loudspeaker control approach, has helped take the venue to another level when it comes to being seen as a top-tier facility that appeals to a wider range of functions.

“Our design takes into account event production costs and enhances the revenue stream to the venue,” Keeling concludes. “Management can be very competitive when vying for events by noting the true turnkey nature of the facilities. Potential clients can walk into the venue and notice right away how flexible it all is, as well as how they won’t need to spend extra money bringing in additional gear or labor. Plus it sounds great. The venue has noticed a huge uptick in outside promoters who want to use this premium venue.”

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