Orchestra Hall, home to the award-winning Minnesota Orchestra

Home to the Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra Hall is a modernist landmark that signals classical music as more widely accessible than its popular perception. Inside, it uses a symmetrical ‘falling rock’ of 114 cubes on its ceiling and stage back wall and its balconies as an integrated diffusor. The result is an exceptional aural experience for its 2,089 seats.

That experience recently saw the completion of the installation of a suite of DiGiCo systems, creating a renewed audio infrastructure for the venue and its ensemble. This includes a Quantum338 at FOH, an SD12 96 for mixing orchestral and other performances for Minnesota Public Radio’s broadcasts, and an SD11i as an auxiliary mixer able to be deployed as required.

Minnesota Orchestra’s Quantum338 FOH console at Orchestra HallThe consoles are supported by three SD-Racks at stage left, stage right and broadcast, plus two SD-MiNi Racks, one of which is located in the concert hall’s attic where it’s used to mix the hanging audience microphones. Together, the SD-Racks make 32-bit mic preamps available virtually anywhere in the venue. A DiGiCo 4REA4 processor is used to distribute audio throughout the facility to as many as four customisable event spaces including the lobby.

Additionaly, a new DMI-Klang immersive in-ear mixing system is being used in a unique way to provide immersive surround sound for orchestral broadcasts to listeners using headphones or earbuds. Other components include an Orange Box, used as an interface for Madi for the Quantum338, and two DiGiGrid MGB interfaces that connect the Quantum338 to a SoundGrid network and Reaper DAW software for recordings at 96kHz resolution.

‘It is a pile of DiGiCo gear, but every piece of equipment does a specific job and together they form a unique audio infrastructure here,’ says Minnesota Orchestra Head Audio Engineer Jay Perlman, who designed the new infrastructure in collaboration with local A/V systems integrator Audio Logic Systems who supplied the DiGiCo equipment. ‘The goal was to be able to access high-resolution audio in any part of the building we needed to. And, as you can tell in how we applied the DMI-Klang processor to the streaming broadcasts, we like to take chances and experiment – but it’s created something special.

‘We used the Klang on a pilot livestream episode and found that it gives us great flexibility for future VIP content. What all of this DiGiCo technology has done is given us the power to solve problems and make new things happen. Altogether, it’s a unique and integrated solution, intuitive and seamless.’

For Technical Director Joel Mooney, having these components creates a DiGiCo ecosystem that increases the venue’s operational flexibility by an order of magnitude: ‘Before, we had all analogue systems for audio, with no way to connect different parts of the building for sound, and it was also a group of different brands that weren’t designed to work together,’ he recalls. ‘Now, everything is fully integrated and it’s all on an Optocore fibre network. The concert hall can connect to the lobby and to the broadcast centre. It’s such a better operational environment.’

Audio Engineering Assist and Install Tech Jim Pfitzinger, Technical Director Joel Mooney, and Head Audio Engineer Jay PerlmanMooney says he and the Orchestra’s management had contacted a number of leading companies at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, asking for assistance in creating their streaming platform in order to keep the orchestra and its music connected to the community.

‘Everyone stepped up, especially DiGiCo, who were a tremendous help in enhancing the audio as we also upgraded our video and lighting,’ he reports. ‘They are the number-one brand in live sound today. They have the tools and the flexibility to take anything we can throw at them. The Quantum console in particular has been a huge improvement – we have an event this weekend and we’re running monitors from front of house for it on an iPad. It doesn’t break a sweat. Orchestra Hall is a much better place for audio than it’s ever been.’

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