One of the UK’s premier concert venues, Fairfield Halls has recently completed the first part of a technical upgrade with a new sound reinforcement system in its Concert Hall.

Fairfield HallsFairfield Halls’ 1,800-seat Concert Hall is ranked as one of the best orchestral performance spaces in Europe, with an acoustic particularly favoured by chamber orchestras. It has hosted a varied programme of musical styles and events since the early 1960s – from rock bands to stand-up comedy.

The investment in a new sound system forms part of a long-term refurbishment and improvement programme, scheduled across five years and commanding a budget of around £27m. A key objective of this current phase is to attract the larger tours and top-line promoters to the venue.

‘Our Concert Hall has a long and well-proven heritage. Its acoustic quality is up there with the best – acknowledged as one of the finest in the UK,’ confirms Simon Thomsett, CEO of Fairfield Halls (Croydon) Ltd. ‘Its design benefits from lessons learnt at other mid-20th century venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, so we have this concert hall with a great acoustic, but in terms of rock and pop, and even stand-up comedy, in order to get the top-line shows and tours we needed higher quality sound reinforcement, with more consistent coverage throughout the auditorium.

‘We had reached the point where we were spending upwards of £1,000 per performance to hire in extra gear and manpower. That was not acceptable.

Yamaha_M7CLThe project has been placed in the hands of Orbital Sound , who have installed a d&b audiotechnik Q1 line array system with flown 27A cardioid subs, ground-stacked B2 subs, and a Yamaha M7CL console with DME64 mix engine. The Q1 array is complemented by a T-series centre-fill cluster, using three Ti10L d&b loudspeakers.

‘With the new system, we have a first-class amplified hall,’ Thomsett continues. ‘Modern audiences expect high-quality sound and now we can provide it, with this new installation greatly enhancing the venue’s flexibility for all types of performance, and giving us premier-league status. A further positive is that with the new system going into the hall, our other venues are receiving benefit from the knock-on effect. For example, the Arnhem Gallery is hosting STAND!, our standing-room gig space that has recently launched a monthly live-music programme, featuring new acts as well as established bands.’

The principal reason behind Fairfield Hall’s selection of the d&b audiotechnik system was its flexibility and inter-range compatibility. The main stereo system uses ten Q1 enclosures in each of the left and right hangs. These are supported by four 27A Cardioid Suns (B4 subs with rigging points) per side, with the latter hung behind the left and right arrays, to avoid any additional line-of-sight intrusion. Given the hard wooden floor of the completely open stage area, with no proscenium, it was important to keep sound off the stage to minimise unwanted reflections, and therefore contribute to the overall intelligibility. This resulted in the choice of the d&b 27A cardioid subs, to achieve a reduction of around 15dB of rear-radiated low frequency energy. A further pair of d&b B2 Subs was also supplied, and these can be wheeled out to provide additional LF capacity when required.

d&b Q-Series installation at Fairfield HallsOvercoming the intelligibility issues of the outgoing system, five d&b E6 speakers provide fill in the choir area and a further six provide front fill. The Concert Hall’s Royal Box is also fitted with two E6 speakers, while the remaining boxes – four per side above the auditorium – are each provided with one 5S speaker from d&b’s White Range. D12 amplifiers from d&b power the main system and subs, with d&b D6 amps driving the remainder.

Orbital’s design has also allowed much of the outgoing equipment to be redeployed in other spaces within the complex – the Ashcroft Theatre and Arnhem Gallery.

‘Our ethos with this project was to re-use as much of our existing equipment and technical infrastructure as was feasible,’ says Chris Whybrow, Technical Manager at Fairfield Halls. ‘We have managed to retain the analogue infrastructure, for example, re-terminating cables and updating patchbays where necessary, but keeping the analogue cabling itself pretty much intact. It didn’t need replacing, and there’s no point in spending valuable budget where it’s not required. The guys at Orbital took this approach on board from the very start, and have worked hard to help give us the best possible results within our budget, and only recommending new equipment where absolutely necessary.’

With the existing analogue cabling being re-used, the infrastructure aspects of the installation focused on the digital requirements of the Yamaha console and its associated EtherSound network, as well as the d&b Remote network for controlling and monitoring the loudspeaker systems.

Orbital’s David Bartholomeusz was responsible for the network system design, and was on site throughout the project to oversee the installation.


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