Named in recognition of Australia’s coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, New South Wales, is one of Sydney’s busiest performing arts complexes. Opened in 1990, the venue has numerous performance spaces, and hosts a busy schedule of theatrical, musical and visual arts.

Richard Bonynge Concert HallMid-2019 saw Production & Technical Manager Geoff Turner and Head of Audio Tim Anikin begin the task of replacing the old point source sound system that had served the dramatic theatre (The Q Theatre) from its outset, aiming to overcome sound issues inherent in the space. The tender was won by Loud And Clear Sales who, in conjunction with Drew Bisset, designed and installed a system from Alcons Audio.

When the system was commissioned the difference was immediately noticeable even though team at The Joan only had a chance to use it for a few months before the pandemic closed the doors to all the worlds performance spaces. They were so impressed by the new system in the Q Theatre that they looked to the same team to quote on an upgrade to the larger and more challenging space, the Richard Bonynge Concert Hall.

Designed, installed and commissioned by Loud and Clear Sales and Drew Bisset, they again turned to Alcons Audio for the solution. The Joan now boasts a AAA (Aussie Alcons Audio) rating in the sound department.

The Q Theatre is a multi-purpose room with a thrust stage and audience capacity of 378 in a semi-circular amphitheatre configuration. This allows clear sight lines, but presents a challenge to amplify and distribute sound.  

’Our experience with the LR7 micro line array from Alcons Audio sent us there immediately,’ says David Betterridge, Director at Loud And Clear Sales. ‘What we didn’t realise until we did the modelling, was just how perfect a solution it was for the space.

The Q Theatre ‘Three arrays, each of six boxes in 90° configuration gave us almost seamless coverage of every seat in the house, with the tiniest of overlaps occurring in the aisles. We could barely believe the data from the EaseFocus plot, but knowing the reliability of Alcons’ specs, we were very confident that if we could get the rigging points in the exact locations we needed, we could deliver.’

A pair of LR18B subs located behind the centre cluster provides deep sub extension for the system, which all runs from a single Sentinel10, 4-channel DSP amplified loudspeaker controller. All system processing is done within the Sentinel so no external processor was needed.

Removing the collection of older 15-inch and horn boxes from the grid and replacing with the almost invisible LR7 also freed up a huge amount of lighting angles that made Production & Technical Manager Geoff Turner very happy: ‘The difference is – there is no longer any difference. Before it was very noticeable as you moved around the auditorium, the change in level and frequency response. Now virtually every seat in the audience is hearing the same information at the same level. We were blown away.’

While high-fidelity reproduction, even at high SPL, of the Alcons pro-ribbon loaded speakers was not a significant factor for the Q Theatre, the Richard Bonynge Concert Hall system needed the headroom to support contemporary acts and the definition to support the many orchestral and spoken word users of the space.

A 550-seat perfect rectangle, it boasts both amazing natural acoustics, and some real challenges inherent with such a space, especially at high SPL. It was important to focus the system on the audience area and avoid as many reflections off hard walls and floors as possible. A true stereo system was requested, and the need to keep the footprint as small as possible led the same team to Alcons Audio again for the solution.

Custom rigging designed and supplied by Bisset allowed placement of the left right and sub arrays exactly where they were needed. The very versatile new VR5 mini monitor were used for front fill and side fill for the balconies.

The LR arrays are each nine boxes of LR14 ultra-compact line-array modules (90° format) and the deep sub extension is three BF362 in cardioid mode, flown in the centre. four VR5 act as front fill and two VR5 cover the side balconies upstairs. The system is powered by three Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controller running ALControl software, which allows easy programming for the various user applications required. These range from a simple Left/Right feed for basic presentations, to full access to all channels for advanced users and touring engineers.

’The throw from the top of the arrays all the way to mix position, and the headroom of the system is exactly what we wanted,’ notes Anikin. ‘The intelligibility of the system makes it a dream to operate.’


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