Opened in 1929, the Orpheum Theatre is a 1,364-seat performance space in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, that originally hosted for Vaudeville shows and early cinema screenings – the explosion in popularity of which prompted Paramount to purchase the facility in the 1940s and use it as one of its motion picture houses through the 1960s. Its subsequent history takes it through ownership by The Nederlander Organization, and then a local family until, in the 1980s, the venue became a live venue hosting The Ramones, Metallica, Nirvana and REM.

OrpheumIt was then, in the 1980s, the venue had fallen into disrepair. ‘It needed a lot of work after years of use for different performances,’ says David Cruse, Theatrical Venues Manager at the City of Phoenix – the governing authority that oversees operation ofthe Orpheum Theatre.

‘The proscenium arch had cut-outs in it where a larger movie screen had been installed,’ he continues. ‘The murals had been painted over with black paint so as not to detract from the film. Luckily, the citizens of Phoenix really took notice and asked the city to step in – which it did.’

The theatre underwent a US$14m renovation and reopened in 1997, with Carol Channing’s last performance of Hello Dolly and has been in operation since. But not all was well...

‘When I joined the team about three years ago, I started speaking with the promoters in town and asked why they weren’t booking the Orpheum,’ Cruse says. ‘I wanted to know what wasn’t working and why they weren’t doing shows here. One answer that came up a lot was the poor audio.’

Cruse said the sound system was ‘very dated’. When touring shows wanted to use the Orpheum they had to haul in their own gear – from loudspeakers to consoles – because of the old technology. ‘What we needed was a complete redesign of the audio from the ground up,’ Cruse says. ‘We needed it to be reliable and flexible so promoters knew they could rely on us. We also wanted it to be impressive to the point that those in the audience would walk away saying ‘that was amazing.’ For these reasons, we went with Dante.’

Orpheum‘Being able to use standard Ethernet networks and switches greatly reduces the cost and complexity of analogue cabling,’ says Dylan Dube, venue audio production coordinator for the Orpheum. ‘That was huge for us. Having the extra money that we normally would have spent on cabling go to other parts of the installation just makes the system that much better.’

‘In April of 2019, we were able to put the full Dante network in place,’ Cruse said. ‘When we heard it for the first time it really did sound like the final piece was in place.’

The theatre currently boasts a completely redundant Dante network with a Yamaha Rivage PM7 at the front of it all. Of the 120 input channels, 96 channels are patched via Dante to three Yamaha 3224D-2 Rio I/O stage boxes through the building

The theatre also has an ability to use Dante as a digital split snake by having two Audinate HY144-SRC cards in the PM7. With the cards in place the theatre can use any of its other audio consoles – a Yamaha CL5 mixer, a Yamaha PM5D-RH mixer with three MY16-Aud2 cards, and an Allen & Heath SQ-5 with a Dante card – to control any position in the facility. All the devices are linked on the Dante network, meaning the system can be quickly reconfigured for individual productions’ requirements.

The FOH system is fed from the Dante HY144D-SRC card in the Yamaha Rivage PM7 running at a 96kHz sample rate, and then converted to AES3 using Dante AVIO Adapters. Available for analogue input or output, for AES3 and USB conversion, these adapters allow connection of audio gear with any Dante-connected system.

Orpheum TheatreWhile the Dante-backed network provides the system backbone, Dante Domain Manager adds a level of observability, management and security that provides technicians with complete control. ‘The ability to jump subnets is fantastic,’ Dube says. ‘Our PA systems go from Dante on a DHCP network to our d&b audiotechnik network that is static. What Dante Domain Manager allows us to do is patch Dante to the static network only on channels we define. We’re jumping from DHCP to a static network in a way that is immensely useful.’

Dube also says that setting guest domains has been great since the installation of the system. One example is when a guest engineer with a Dante-enabled desk. ‘We were able to let them plug directly into the switch. We asked what endpoints they wanted access to and we added those to the guest domain. They were up and running within the whole network within ten minutes. At the same time, we kept control of their access. Dante Domain Manager removes any worry about inadvertent security or network compromises.’

Cruse believes the full system has fulfilled a promise to city – to provide the best possible experience in the space. From a practical standpoint, the venue has become a jewel in the community.

‘We want to be true to the history of the Orpheum,’ he says. ‘We want to be known for variety. This means we absolutely needed top-quality audio, but also flexibility to bring all these events in. Dante means we can weave programming in and out easily and still know everyone is going to sound great in here.’


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