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PA thoughts for theatre


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Hi All

I realise this is a very broad question, and everyone will have wildly differing opinions. Also I don’t have / can’t offer up specific venue data as its a new venue and this is early discussions. 


Medium sized theatre space 800 to 1000 capacity. Stalls, a few boxes and a circle. 
Standard end on proscenium affair.

PA to be used for rock and roll touring shows, musicals, Panto, spoken word.

Banded about a few options by different people. 

A d&b system has been discussed. Point source, mainly V series with other E5 and such like for fills. 

Also a similar designed system from EM acoustic has been proposed.

I’ve not come across much EM stuff before and only heard d&b line array of various systems before.

I’d imagine d&b is more likely to be used without question by touring companies purely on the name. Not sure if with an EM people would choose not to use, etc.

Just thought I’d see if people on here had options if they’ve heard or compared EM.


D&B is pushing the budget a little, and may mean we have to sacrifice some monitors / maybe less subs for the money, and add at a later date / hire in sometimes for a little more punch.

System would be designed and installed by good companies and modelled properly for the room / incorporated into the build at planning stage.

Thoughts from people would be interesting to hear. I’m aware it’s a bit vague, so apologise for that.


Thanks in advance.


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d&b is rider friendly. EM acoustics make good boxes that are comparable to d&b in quality (I'd personally put d&b above, but they're certainly in the same league as them). We've got Bugsy in at the moment, which is on EM Acoustics new R10 boxes (with R8s for stage foldback). It sounds great, very similar to our d&b rig.

For your size venue you might find d&b Y series is more than enough, it depends how rock and roll your rock and roll touring bands are. For most seated audience 'revue' type shows a good Y series system would be fine, for standing audience touring bands you probably want V. We have 4 Y series boxes a side (2 Y7, 2 Y10, plus 2 subs a side) and can achieve a clean volume far in excess of anything I'd want to mix to in our 860 seat space - though I wouldn't say no to a pair of B22s...

If you're doing standing in the stalls for rock and roll another approach might to add an additional ground stack for those gigs, giving extra bass and the extra volume in that area.

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Theatre Royal Wakefield has an EM rig that I mixed on a month or so back. Very enjoyable affair. Couldn't fall out with it at all. 

There are other names out there that are worth listening too though. KV2 and RCF would be my first suggestions. My own rig is RCF TT and it gets plenty of compliments. Equally KV2 get an awful lot of theatre work on the quiet. They'd gladly come and demo some kit I'm sure. Their listening room at Plasa is well worth a visit if you're going.

A sales rep recently told me that they were currently cheaper on l'acoustics than they were D&B, so they may well be worth checking out too. I'd always assumed they'd be out of my budget so it was a nice surprise. 

I don't think you'd be disappointed with any of the brand's named above, assuming they're specified and set up well. Going with a supplier who represents multiple brands and has expertise to come and look at your venue and make recommendations would be my main suggestion. I can personally vouch for SSE Audio Group as being very good at this, but there are if course lots of others. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

What Cedd said. Any reputable dealer selling you a decent system should offer design and trial facilities but did you not have an acoustic consultant involved in your rebuild? With the varying levels of seating and balcony overhangs shown on the website I would have thought specialist advice would have been essential. Given the wide range of uses I would think it really doesn't matter if you buy the finest available if they aren't hung pretty precisely and I suspect you may end up with a fixed house PA with add-on stacks for rock though I am no expert. 

Don't forget staff training, I have seen experienced and skilled staff make some nasty mistakes on new kit. More votes for SSE, L'Acoustics and getting people in rather than visits

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Like Kerry, I'm assuming this is for your current venue. You don't say where you are in the pecking-order. If you are in overall charge of the audio refit I would suggest drawing up a performance spec (preferably with the help of a theatre-savvy acoustic consultant) & then calling in the dealers. Is anyone higher up the pecking-order in a position to say "no, you can't put your hangs there, they'll spoil the look of x"?

If you're not in charge at least try to make sure that audio doesn't fall into the grasp of the main electrical contractor.

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Thanks @kerry daviesand @sandall

Building is currently in design, no building yet. Technical and acoustic consultants are part of the project, so stuff is being designed and integrated, etc at this stage.

As far as pecking order I oversee the audio side of our current venue and this will continue in the new one. All our technicians are getting input to the planning to give as many ideas as possible.

There will be one balcony. 

The consulatants have put together a couple ideas of options of pa, one being EM and the other d&b. There are pro’s and cons to both, but really this thread was for any touring engineers, etc to see what PA’s people liked in theatres they tour to / if people had particular thoughts on brands for this style of install.

I’ve heard plenty of line array d&b, l acoustic, turbosound, nexo both touring and westend etc. 

I think the biggest consideration for us is if when people come in (even if it’s a nice sounding PA) if they want to use it if it’s not a d&b / l acoustic etc.

Edited by Chrishaynor
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We're coming dangerously close to the type of advice I charge for here, but:

Do you have to meet tech riders for touring acts?  Or are the shows mostly rentals who will take what they get?

My understanding is the EM stuff sounds good...but...has not yet reached the level whereby any B or C tier touring act will accept it on a rider.  (A tier aren't playing rooms that size...)

If a significant proportion of your users are sending riders that say Meyer/L Acoustics/d&b only  (Insert other high-tier PA of your choice (Nexo/Adamson/Clair Bros), but those are the three I see most often) then it doesn't matter how good the EM rig actually is.

On the other hand, if you like how the EM sounds and don't think your users know or care, then congrats, you saved some cash and still got a great sounding system.


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  • 5 months later...

Sorry I didn't come back on. Can you tell it's been a while since I logged in.


@Bryson thanks for your input. That's a great summary. It's what we were generally thinking, very much my take on it as well. It's nice to hear it from others too though. Nothing more useful than input from people out there doing it.


We often get riders for touring acts. Generally  they will bring their own or are happy to use theirs. We've never yet had to hire something else in for someone.

We currently have a turbosound rig at both our venues currently. We get a proper mix of 'it's got turbo written on it - I'm not using it', 'Looks and sounds nice, I'll use it', 'Great, we don't have to load ours in' etc.

My common sense approach if I hadn't experienced these things from what I've heard and used is an nice high quality PA that is setup well and designed for the room would be perfectly fine. It's doesn't have to have a brand name on it.


Quite a lot of people will specify D&B, Martin, L'Acoustic, Meyer, but still use ours when they come in anyway.

I think our bigger shows that currently stack in a pile of Kara, etc will still want to bring theirs in if we have a point source system whatever brand it is and as long as fills are nice and well setup, they'll add those on top. In the new place we'll have ability to fly arrays as well which we can't do now.

It seems a difficult one to judge, but thanks for everyone's opinions. 

We'll have some more discussions.

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If the shows coming through are one-nighters, then they will use yours to save them effort, if yours is adequate. Equally though, some of the shows coming through are likely to be kit wreckers. The ones where every red light is on, and they ask for a feed into the system that cuts out any EQ, limiting and protection your system, may have. These always worry me. I am happy to give them a left and right into our mixer - where we have control over maximum levels and can set a limiter. We also lock the desk when we go to lunch, because it has happened twice where their people have disconnected the protection, and on a digital desk, it's easy to miss a little repatching. Those that want gut wrenching sub level can use their own system, thanks. Most are great, but a few take liberties. even worse, many also are not gifted enough to understand house systems are usually designed to give planned volume levels aroiund the auditorium - as in nobody gets deafened and nobody struggles. The touring folk frequently have to ground stack, so get used to the volume at the mix point. They will turn your system up to get that same volume, and fry the front row. Their system has to do that, but a good venue one doesn't. I've had to evacuate our lighting box because I'm the furthest away and it's deafening. The toupees on the front row flap in the breeze. The only rider requirement is 'loud', rarely quality. Letting these people loose on decent systems is scary. Good incomers who understand systems go away very happy with almost any well chosen house system, installed and tuned properly. It goes wrong when the show is a bit er, energy focussed. One nighters doing Michael Jackson and Queen tend to be worst, because they are feel the bass shows. I'd rather they bring in their pile of Q subs than use mine!

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When I was a venue technical manager, I worked in a good venue with a slightly sub-rider system (Nexo Alpha) and then a venue with a well above-rider system (Kara).

My observation was that every act you get will specify a top end system - even small bands who'll be happy to get the gig. And that's no bad thing, it's just a sort of don't ask, don't get thing really. If you're doing a one off outdoor event and they're hiring in a PA just for you, what do you want? You put that one.

Technical riders at the receiving venue end of the spectrum are not quite the same as technical riders at the stadium touring end of the spectrum. In the latter, it forms a critical part of the contract without which, the artist reserves the right to not play. In the former, it forms a backbone to help the promoter identify whether the venue is suitable for the artist / production.

Turbosound is, as you allude to, well out of the A-league these days. So you will get a mix of opinions. Typically I'd say the less experienced engineers tend to stand by the requirement of a good system more than the old hands. In theory, a PA shouldn't need upgrading. Electroacoustics haven't changed ever. There is no reason the system shouldn't be able to perform at the same level it did when you bought it. All that's changed is whether that level is still acceptable within the expectations of the artist and audience. My experience is that audiences do expect a better sound quality nowadays. Leaving with ringing ears is no longer in fashion and better systems do tend to be able to provide a louder-sounding gig at lower actual SPL, thus providing a more enjoyable experience without lasting effects.

Within the scope of the market you are serving, the number of artists who will actually turn down the show due to you not having a good PA is relatively small. However, where promoters are choosing what venue to put their shows into, the PA will of course contribute to their assessment of the venue's suitability, so having a system which is less than adequate is not a good business plan. I think what you need to aim for is a system which won't necessarily be everyone's favourite but is also not bad enough to say no to. A better PA will also contribute to a positive audience experience which is, ultimately, good for business. 

This is good for you. I don't think you need to find the budget for D&B V-Series. If you could find the budget for Q Series, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who'll actually turn that down. The same would be said for dV-dosc, or for W8LC. These are still premium brand systems and will remain respected for a good while yet. And I am confident that - especially with the benefits of line array for your distributed audience - you'd observe a noticeable improvement in sound.

The small minority of artists who do require the additional capabilities of the latest concert touring systems will of course be left to find their own or choose a more suitable venue. But I'd honestly estimate these to be sufficiently few and far between that if you did invest in a current-spec system to be able to provide for those shows, it may not pay for itself with the additional few bookings it is able to attract. 


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