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EM Acoustics equips new St James Theatre, London

The St James Theatre in London, is the first newly built theatre complex in central London for 30 years. Specifically designed as a smaller, off-Broadway type venue in which to develop shows prior to moving to the West End, the new complex, designed by Foster Wilson Architects, features a main 312-seat theatre and a smaller 100-seat studio theatre as well as a brasserie and lobby bar.

The sound design for both theatres was entrusted to Mathew Smethust-Evans of London-based consultancy firm, Theatreplan, which specified EM Acoustics products throughout.

Smethust-Evans worked closely with the theatre’s technical manager, Nick Butler (previously at the New Wimbledon theatre) to ensure that the general philosophies behind the equipment matched his approach. Butler was more than happy with Theatreplan’s recommendation of EM Acoustics, having already used the equipment elsewhere to good effect.

“We opted for EM Acoustics systems for a number of reasons,” explained Smethust-Evans, “not the least of which is the impeccable reputation of both the company and its products in the theatre world. More and more venues are buying EM, and more and more hire companies are stocking it. The second big reason is ease of use. The philosophy of well-designed passive loudspeakers suits adaptable venues like the St James Theatre which requires quick turnarounds between shows and formats. The “plug-and-play” approach is extremely efficient.”

Smethurst-Evans also cited the fact that the EM Acoustics product range is now extremely comprehensive, which makes it very easy to tailor solutions to venues. “The range is ever-expanding,” he said . “Mike [Wheeler] and Ed [Kinsella] seem to be able to identify a need for a new loudspeaker and then produce something that not only fits the bill but also sits perfectly within the existing product range.”

“Finally, of course, there is the sound quality. All EM Acoustics products deliver great sound quality and they are still improving, which is wonderful. They also represent excellent value for money, enabling us to deliver a great-sounding and cost-effective solution.”

“The approach we decided upon for the St James Theatre, given the budgetary restraints of the project, was to provide a high quality base system that could be added to as required,” continued Smethurst-Evans.

Theatreplan specified a proscenium LCR system of EM Acoustics MSE-159 2-way medium format passive loudspeakers for the main theatre with three EMS-61s as delays. “The MSE-159s can be moved to different rigging points around the proscenium as the stage format changes from end stage to thrust,” described Smethurst-Evans.

“Unfortunately the budget pressures meant that the subs had to be omitted from the design but they can easily be added to the installed infrastructure at a later date, and hired in for certain productions in the meantime.”

The Studio Theatre has a pair of MSE-159s as a main PA with a single EMS-81X compact full range loudspeaker for balcony fill.

Smethurst-Evans recalled that the size and shape of this venue made the job of loudspeaker selection a challenge. “To make things even more complicated, the stage doesn’t have a fixed position,” he said. “We decided, therefore, to keep things as simple as possible; stands and rigging were provided for the MSE-159s to give a choice of mounting positions – either hung from the overhead grid or stand-mounted next to the stage depending on requirements. That way we keep everyone happy.”





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