Le Grand T

Le Grand T in Nantes, France, in 1983 with Espace 44, a 879-seat theatre designed by architect Claude Jeffroy and scenographer Igor Hilbert. The venue built its reputation under Artistic Director from Jean-Luc Tardieu (1985–1998), who directed many shows starring Jean Marais, Edwige Feuillère and Anouk Aimé, and is now served by Catherine Blondeau.

Designed around an insulated staging area, seating at Le Grand T is close enough to the stage to create intimacy between actors and the audience. Further enhancing this, Le Grand T recently upgraded the front-fill sound system with French integrator, Groupe Sonowest, installing APG’s Uniline Compact to meet the complex technical requirements and specifications.

‘Our previous sound system was aging and we could hear the difference of tone between the speakers,’ explains Le Grand T Technical Deputy Director, Patrick Morilleau. ‘More importantly, the sound coverage we had wasn’t homogenous, which in turn created a sensation of hotspots when subjected to strong acoustic pressure. This manifested as a lack of coverage on the tip of the stage, thus creating a major void in the centre of the pit, as well as a pressure drop towards the last rows and therefore the control room.’

Espace 44The challenge was to obtain an even sound level for the entire audience and a to have a system capable of handling various user modes. Because Le Grand T mostly hosts theatrical performances, the aim was to find a solution able to preserve the stage frame while reducing the visibility of the speakers to a minimum. An effective front-fill system was, therefore, essential.

Le Grand T approached a number of loudspeaker manufacturers to assess the options and techniques available. A first selection was carried out based on a technical brief coupled with a cost study, highlighting four integrators with four different technical solutions. This was followed by a four-day listening phase allowing the pre-selected brands to each demonstrate their system. This organised with a strict framework and timing in order to obtain a written analysis which would result in a fully documented comparative result. Acoustic pressure measurements were organised each day in various spots in the theatre to get the most objective data.

‘APG stood out from the crowd by providing the most even coverage, with an accurate and efficient acoustic pressure all the way to the last rows,’ Morilleau reports. ‘The close-field speakers coupled with the sub bass system was perfectly attuned, and allowed to map out a qualitative sound.

‘We have been pleasantly surprised by the design of this three-way loudspeaker from APG, which is able to reproduce a high bandwidth and a really dynamic sound by distributing the energy back equally to each transducer. What’s more, the Uniline Compact boasts an open and unrestrained processing which, when handled by a skilled user, provides a faithful and true sound reproduction to the audience."

The Uniline Compact uses three different acoustic modes: a ‘large bandwidth’ mode (UC206N/UC206W speakers only) for voice and musical reproduction at moderate levels, an ‘extended’ mode (UC206N/W coupled with a UC115B bass speaker or another APG subwoofer) for music applications, and a full mode (a combination of UC206N, UC206W, UC115B and APG subwoofer) for high power applications across the entire audio spectrum.

The modularity of the Uniline Compact system allows a large number of configurations (flown or ground stacked) and an almost unlimited number of combinations between these three speakers, so the system can adapt to the different to the specificities of each venue.

A total of 14 UC206N medium/long range loudspeakers and four UC115B bass speakers now serve Le Grand T, complemented by five UC206Ws for the middle configuration. Finally, four Uniline SB118 bass speakers situated on the floor handle the lows.

The APG loudspeakers’ versatility is also praised by David Rochefort, Project Integrator at Sonowest: ‘The Uniline Compact USPs are obviously its great modularity, a size/performance/quality ratio never reached before, as well as neutral and even frequency response,’ he says.

‘Today, the French market for this type of system is governed by one or two massive players who don’t leave any room for other systems, even if they are very well manufactured and tick all the boxes for operators. It is sometimes difficult to ignore these “heavyweights” in sound, as well as their marketing strategies.

‘It can be tempting to stay in this comfort zone, and limit yourself to the current flagship system, but our role as integrators is to think about the challenges that our clients face, and be a driving force for alternative and original solutions such as the Uniline Compact.” With this in mind, Sonowest recently invested in a demo kit, which allows them to demonstrate that “for a generally smaller budget, the Uniline Compact is able to do as well, if not better than any other system.’

After a more than 50 performances – including a jazz concert, two plays and a dance performance with live musicians – two things stand out. The integrated front fill is consistent, a feat that is extremely difficult to get right in theatre venues, and even pressure throughout the entire audience, regardless of where they seat in the theatre.

‘APG and Sonowest met all our requirements, every step of the way,’ Morilleau closes. ‘The relationship was friendly, constructive and discerning. As for APG, they have the refreshing behaviour of a start-up, and the experience of a long standing French company."

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