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d&b system reinforces sound at Belgian cultural hub

The De Factorij cultural centre and performing arts facility has been equipped with a d&b Y-Series sound reinforcement system and ‘fast and efficient’ control for its technical systems.

De Factorij, a new cultural centre and performing arts facility in Zaventem near Brussels, has been equipped with a d&b audiotechnik Y-Series sound reinforcement system and ‘fast and efficient’ control for its technical systems.

Named to celebrate the region’s rich industrial heritage, De Factorij opened in 2017 and hosts a diverse programme of performances, exhibitions and events. Its main performance space is the 680-seat Ivo Maupertuis Theatre, a shell-shaped auditorium designed as an acoustically isolated box-in-box construction.

Belgian systems integrator and audio specialist Amptec, already installing the cabling infrastructure for the new venue, was also asked to design and implement the sound reinforcement system for the main theatre.

Despite the excellent natural acoustics of the main auditorium, the room’s design presented some challenges when it came to sound reinforcement. “As a venue it’s quite unusual: the auditorium is not very deep, but large and high, with very steep audience seating,” said Frank Geerts of Amptec. “And in the middle of that audience plane is the big window of the projector booth.”

Faced with these challenges, Amptec’s engineers chose a d&b audiotechnik Y-Series system, designing the initial configurations using the d&b ArrayProcessing software. “Before ArrayProcessing was available,” stated Geerts, “our experience with line arrays was that you can’t get an even frequency distribution in that kind of space; a point source system may have been the best solution. But with ArrayProcessing, you have the guarantee that you will have the control needed to work around these issues with the space.”

De Factorij’s Dries D’Hondt, an experienced live sound engineer, commented: “There are some difficulties in the venue, because you have a projection space with a vertical wall, so we used the ArrayProcessing to get rid of the reflections there, and it really works.”

With the design work still off-plan, ArrayProcessing was to prove invaluable. Geerts added: “The side balconies were another issue. These only seat eight each side, but they would be too close to the line array. We discovered that, with the right height of the line array, and with ArrayProcessing working to eliminate the glass window, we also reduced the level at those side-balcony positions. So we get a lower level at the balcony, we have control of the reflections at the window, and control of frequency distribution across the audience plane. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.”

The main Theatre system includes eight d&b Yi8, two Yi12 and three YiSUBs in each main left and right hang, with additional low frequency support from a pair of VG-SUBs each side. Yi10P and Yi7P cabinets provide downfill and outfill, with E5 cabinets delivering frontfill from the stage lip. The main system is powered by nine d&b 30D amplifiers. Also provided are 12 d&b M4 stage monitors.

While the d&b R1 remote interface is the primary control over the PA system, the venue’s ‘fast and efficient’ requirement meant an additional interface was necessary. Amptec’s solution involved a custom-designed touchscreen offering selection of simple presets drawn from an industrial PLC [Programmable Logic Controller] from automation specialist Beckhoff. This allows easy recall of audio setups for speech, or cinema projection, for example, including amplifier settings and Dante patch presets.

Amptec has been using Beckhoff PLCs for some years, adopting it as a controller that would sit outside of the signal chain. Geerts commented: “d&b consulted with us, because of our experience with these button control PLCs, on how to implement OCA for Beckhoff. So this was really a joint effort for d&b, Beckhoff and Amptec.”

For the cinema system, Amptec installed an additional surround system of 10 d&b 8S loudspeakers powered by two d&b 10D amplifiers. A cinema sound processor provides Dolby or DTS surround sound to reach the Dante network. Consoles and amplifiers are connected to redundant CISCO switches and four d&b DS10 Audio network bridges.

Integrating automatic control of the cinema processor into the control network was another challenge. “We decided to have the cinema processor on the Dante network, but if you are the cinema technician, you don’t want to open your computer to have Dante Controller in front of you so that you can patch the cinema processor to the d&b amplifiers,” said Geerts.

“So we developed a Dante patch controller. The Beckhoff PLC also sends signals to the Dante network, through another interface, and like that, they have an automated cinema patch. So when they press the ‘cinema’ button, all the routing in the Dante network is done automatically. Go back to the PA presets, and all the routing is done again, automatically, to a left-right system.”

Dries D’Hondt is impressed with the new system. He commented: “It doesn’t happen a lot that people come up to the mixing console and say ‘Man, I never heard an orchestra sound like that.’, but it’s happened here. Mostly, people don’t give credit to sound, but here, they have. It says a lot.”

He adds, “It’s a great-sounding system, in a really great hall. I think we are now the best-equipped venue in Belgium, so of course that must be true for Europe too.”