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Alcons Invisible in Esbjerg Performing Arts Centre

The Performing Arts Centre (“Musikhuset”) in Esbjerg, a harbour city on the rugged west coast of Denmark, hosts many diverse cultural activities ranging from Rock & Roll concerts, theatre, ballet and opera. Attracting 150,000 visitors a year, the centre has always been hampered by the fact that it lacked a medium sized venue for theatre.

Esbjerg Musikhuset won the right to build a new modern theatre, capable of seating 500 guests, designed by architects Jan Utzon and his father Jørn Utzon, famous for his design of Sydney’s Opera House.

“Choosing an appropriate PA system was more difficult than first envisioned," says Paul van Zijl, in-house sound technician. Together with facility manager Christian Søvad they took from Utzon’s design philosophy, and placed people in the centre of that decision. “Many modern theatres today have big line array systems, flown high above the proscenium and this was just not an option for us,” they continue. “These flown systems detract from the total theatre experience, not just aesthetically but it also places the sound source high above the audience.

“What we wanted was a sound system that could be built into the sides of the proscenium, hidden from view and covering the whole hall including a balcony."

Remembering a visit by a Dutch production crew that used Alcons instead of the in-house line array in the main hall, they immediately contacted Alcons Danish distributor Ascon Trading. “We were impressed by the compactness of the V series these Dutchmen insisted on using, and the apparent ease in setting it up. Most of all they managed to cover the whole main hall, without having to fly the PA.”

The technical specifications of the theatre was sent to Ascon Trading for analysis, and the Alcons Q-series which is a group of modular line-source array columns was judged to be best suitable for the task.

“We were a bit sceptical when Ascon Trading confidently recommended a system from our technical specifications, this was after all not the easiest installation – we wanted a permanent installed, non-flown and invisible PA system,” says Paul, adding that scepticism quickly turned to disbelief when the 4 QR36 pro-ribbon line-source columns, two BF302 double 15-inch subwoofers and four Alcons ALC amplified loudspeaker controllers arrived in Esbjerg.

“The QR36´s proved to be perfect in the ability to be recessed into the side of the proscenium: two for the floor and two above these for the balcony along with the BF302 subs neatly hidden from view underneath the proscenium."

After the installation, the system had to be aimed and tuned to deliver the crisp and clean sound to the audience, without unnecessarily exciting the room, which was done by Ascon Trading in conjunction with Alcons’ system tech Niels Janssen.

“The tricky part was to give full sound coverage to the balcony, whilst not reflecting of the front wall of the balcony itself,” says Mikael Sørensen, consultant for Ascon Trading. “We knew from the computer simulations that it should work, but actually hearing it was so convincing, to be able to cover the hole balcony with just two boxes was a big eye opener."

“Previous experience told me that we were in for a long day, but to my utter surprise we were done in time for lunch” says Paul. “We can with confidence say that with the QR36 we have a highly transparent and pleasant reproduction over the complete frequency spectrum, without nasty reflections, putting our audience in the middle in true Utzon style. Oh, did we mention, they are invisible too,” Paul laughs.





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