Minneapolis, MN (June 19, 2013)—Dedicated to the preservation of vaudeville theaters and movie palaces, non-profit organization Hennepin Theater Trust and managing partner Historic Theatre Group have restored three theaters in downtown Minneapolis, installing Electro-Voice line array loudspeaker systems in two of the venues.
The Electro-Voice systems were installed in the State and Pantages theaters. The Pantages, designed in an Art Moderne/Beaux Arts style, first opened in 1916, followed by the Italian Renaissance-themed State, just down Hennepin Avenue, in 1921. The Hennepin Theatre Trust was later able to gain control of and painstakingly restore the two theaters, with the State reopening in 1991 and the Pantages in 2002.
At just over 1,000 seats, the capacity of the Pantages is half that of the State, but there is nonetheless a lot of overlap in the types of material presented in the two venues. “Both rooms are used for all types of concerts, comedians, plays, musicals and dance performances, as well as receptions, graduations and corporate meetings,” said Steve Olson, operations coordinator with the Historic Theatre Group. “The system we installed in each room is intended to cover all those types of shows without needing to bring in additional reinforcement.”
The existing system at the Pantages was based on Electro-Voice XLC127 line arrays that had been regularly upgraded since their initial installation in 2002. “The HF drivers were upgraded as soon as the 127+ change was available, which made a nice improvement in the smoothness of the highs,” Olson said. “As subsequent component upgrades and design changes became available—like DVX woofers and FIR optimization filters—we implemented them as well. Every time we upgraded, it was like we were getting a completely new PA, increasing the sound quality for our patrons.”
Working with EV technical support, Mike Doucot of EV sales and Chris Vnak of local EV dealer Metro Sound and Lighting, the Historic Theatre Group purchased a brand-new system for the Pantages that is built around XLD291 line arrays, which offer 90-degree coverage. At the same time the like-new XLC127DVX Pantages system, with its 120-degree horizontal coverage, was moved to the wider State, where it was paired with new TG series amplifiers and X-Line subwoofers.
“EV’s solution not only helped us achieve the price point we needed but also improved the sound quality at both venues,” Olson says. “The 90-degree box is better suited for the Pantages environment, and because it’s more compact it takes up less space next to the proscenium opening, so even the lighting techs are happy with the sound.”
Electro-Voice provided the Historic Theatre Group with a complete design for the Pantages Theatre that utilized existing amplifiers and subs. “The design was very closely matched with what was already there,” Olson says. “We were coming into a very busy holiday season, so our time frame was really tight and ease of installation was paramount. But it ended up taking more time to get the speakers out of the packaging than to get the system operational. We flew the PA, wired it up with a few extra jumpers, installed a new program into our IRIS-Net system, and began to play music.”
The new Pantages system uses 32 of the XLD291s in L/R hangs of 16 each. “We really like the pattern control,” Olson says. “And the size has definitely helped out, since we are so space-conscious in this theatre.” For under-balcony and front fill, the tool of choice was the Xi-1082 8-inch two-way full-range loudspeaker. “The size for front fill and under-balcony fill is excellent,” Olson said. “Output and coverage make this box a great choice for these areas. We wanted a speaker that had some punch, and this speaker does.”
The system’s subwoofers are XLC118 high-output single 18-inch elements that are installed four-per-side on the main floor just below the arrays. “The XLC118s have a nice tight sound and carry throughout the venue very well,” Olson said. “We own eight additional subs for when the need arises, like during heavy bass shows, but the main XLC118s have done such a great job that so far we’ve only used the supplemental subs three times.”
The subs are powered by a set of four P3000RL 1800-W per channel remote control amplifiers, while the mains are powered by 16 P1200RL 850-W per channel remote control amplifiers. Another four P1200RLs are used to power the fills and the monitors. Filter and control functions are provided by a pair of Dx46 sound system processors. “We are primarily using them for FIR filters,” Olson said.
The biggest challenges Olson was anticipating at the Pantages were related to the balcony, both reflections from the front of it and coverage at the back of the main floor under it. “The front of the balcony can certainly cause reflection problems if the PA is not aimed correctly,” he says. “But the EV design avoided balcony reflections and made sure that the overall SPL level of the PA would be consistent throughout the venue, even at the furthest reaches of the balcony and under-balcony seating areas. The EV modeling program was spot-on, which made it possible for us to get the system aimed in a very short time.”
At the State Theater, the balcony was also a concern. “The area under the balcony, which is where the engineers mix from, narrows down very low at the back,” Olson said. “George Georgallis did a tremendous job of designing and implementing the main speaker hangs to address this issue. And he complemented the mains with Xi-1082s under the balcony, which proved to be just the right combination to properly cover this area.”
In all, five Xi-1082s are used at State for under-balcony fill. The same model is also used for front fills, with four installed and two more for special situations. For mains the 24 XLC127DVX elements are flown in L/R hangs of 12 each just outside the proscenium, and eight Xsub subwoofers are stacked directly underneath, four per side. “The Xsubs have high output, and their size was a great match for the limited space we had to place them in,” Olson says. Subs, mains and fills are all powered by Electro-Voice Tour Grade amplifiers, with four TG-7s and 14 TG-5s. All 18 amps are equipped with RCM-26 cards, which enable FIR filtering and system monitoring via IRIS-Net.
While the XLC system was more complex than the system it replaced, Olson says, “the historic nature of the building meant that we were essentially stuck with the State’s existing rigging points and previously-installed wiring. Luckily the rigging points worked out just fine due to the compact nature of the XLC box, and we were able to keep the sightlines unimpeded despite changing the speakers.”
For wiring, the group worked with Scott Cummings of Pro Audio Services in Lakeville, MN, who had actually worked on the previous installation. “It goes to show how thinking forward in your design can translate into less work for future installations,” Olson says. “Because what saved us was the over-sizing of the wiring in the previous installation. Luckily a little extra room was available within the existing conduits to pull some additional runs and the old break-out boxes could be modified for the new system. So we were able to come up with a wiring and patch plan for the new system which worked mostly off of already installed wire.”
With both systems now up and running, Olson is excited about the “clarity and intelligibility” of the final result. “The response to our PA upgrades has been overwhelmingly positive. Our regular clients have been impressed with the increased intelligibility the system has brought, and the improved sightlines that the compact XLD arrays have provided at the Pantages.”