Cambridge Corn ExchangeOpened in 1875 with a concert staged by the Coldstream Guards and a local choral society, the Cambridge Corn Exchange has been a regular stop on the UK touring circuit for many years. In its original guise, it was used for corn trading and served as an event space.

Operated by Cambridge City Council, its life as a serious concert venue commenced in the 1970s and it now presents a mix of comedy, theatre and live bands, alongside conferences and exhibitions – more than 270 events each year. The venue holds 1,350 fully seated or 1,870 with a combination of standing and seated. In early 2013, an open tender was issued for a new FOH sound system, stage monitors and mixing console.

Cambridge Corn ExchangeAdlib’s Design & Installations division pitched in with a solution tailored to the venue’s needs, and was rewarded with the contract. The project was coordinated by Adlib’s John Hughes with the design created by Roger Kirby. The two have worked on other recent installations, including The National Cycling Centre, Manchester Academies and Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre. For this project, they worked with the venue’s Technical Manager, Chris Norton, and L-Acoustics UK System Application Engineers, Chris Vass and Dan Orton.

‘Adlib were everything you could wish for on the project,’ Norton says. ‘It is easy for people in suits to talk a good game in order to get a contract in the first place, but it is what comes next that is important, The installation team could not have been more helpful, highly professional and considerate in working within a building which continued as a working environment.’

The decision to go with an L-Acoustics Kara system was taken after an extensive site survey and also after speaking with Adlib’s various leading live engineers and gauging their experience of working first-hand in the space – as well as a careful consideration of the brief issued by the Council. Kirby completed the initial system design, which was further developed and finalised by Vass and Orton.

The main considerations were the broad range of scheduled events; that the chosen speaker solution was fully flexible and adaptable for the venue’s operators; product suitability was another factor, along with long-term cost effectiveness and value given the budget constraints of the project.

Sonically, uniform coverage of the room and suitable sound pressure levels throughout the entire space were essential. The solution was a main left and right PA system comprising seven flown Kara WST speakers, which can be hung with or without two SB18 subs depending on the low frequency requirements for the event. There are also two SB28 groundstacked subs speakers per side.

The main balcony coverage is dealt with by a centre hang of five Karai WSTs. For lip and in fill there are two 8XTis along the front of the stage and two 12XTis at the edges of the stage on either side. For delays another two 8XTis provide under-balcony coverage with three more installed at high level dealing with the extremities of the balcony and back seating rows. The system is powered by L-Acoustics LA8 and LA4 amplifiers.

Paddy Matthews and Tom Carter,For the onstage wedges, ten of Adlib AA-MP4s were supplied. ‘The power and finesse of this discreetly packaged product has quickly established it as an industry standard. The MP4 has become a preferred wedge for numerous artistes, making it an easy choice for the venue,’ Kirby says.

For the house mixing console, Adlib supplied a Midas Pro2, with a DL-251 stagebox to add 48 inputs and 16 outputs to the standard Pro2 I/O. Like the loudspeaker system, the console was chosen for its flexibility, performance, reliability and value.

It is also a console with which most professional guest sound engineers are likely to be familiar: ‘Adlib has witnessed a huge surge in popularity in the Midas Pro2 over the past 12 months,’ Hughes says. ‘We believe that this product provides by far the best value for money in the price bracket and this opinion was echoed by all the venue technicians.’

While it was relatively straightforward in terms of an installation system, the challenges came from the building which is Grade II listed and therefore subject to very specific restrictions. Due to its architecture, cable routes had to be non-invasive and their management required plenty of lateral thinking.

Another challenge was installing a system to cater for all the various different stage/seating configurations with three different front-of-stage positions. Adlib’s installation team configured the Kara hangs using four different sets of fly points to deal with this scenario. All the delay loudspeakers are time aligned for each active PA flying point. The main Kara hangs can also be deployed with-or-without the flown SB18 subs.

The actual on-site installation work was completed in nine days, followed by a week of system commissioning and training. During this time, Adlib trained the crew who will run the system day-to-day on the fundamentals including the Adlib patch and tie-line system, which was also integral to the project; the L-Acoustics speaker system and rigging operations and also their LA Network Manager software; the Midas Pro2 control surface and the Crown Hi-Q Net System Architect.

Adlib also supplied a systems engineer for the initial run of events using the new equipment. The first major show was Joy Division Reworked by the Heritage Orchestra, and it has since been used on a variety other shows and events, all with positive results and feedback.

‘The installation of the Kara system has opened up a wealth of opportunities for us as a venue and there is already an increase in the number of shows opting to use the in house system,’ Technical Manager Chris Norton comments. He adds that before, sound quality was such an issue with comedy shows where spoken word clarity is crucial that they were hiring in a system for every performance… ‘Thankfully, those days and that expense is now gone.

‘Adlib has not just provided us with an excellent solution, but did so in a slender window of opportunity, enabling us to be up and ready to go for the start of another very busy season.’

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