The newly reopened La Scala Paris theatre has been fitted with a sound system that provides what is claimed to be an almost limitless number of configurations for all types of performers and theatrical presentations.
The 172 Amadeus speakers were specified for the installation along with HOLOPHONIX immersive audio processing for the 560-seat venue. Amadeus was deeply involved throughout the renovation process helping to design the sound reinforcement system that would allow the theatre’s productions an array of audio control and choices, all with the very highest sound quality. The electro-acoustic sound reinforcement system was designed specifically for La Scala Paris by Amadeus – in collaboration with composer Philippe Manoury and scenographers Patrice Buniazet and Richard Peduzzi.
La Scala Paris is an art house theatre, presenting all types of creative trends with the highest degree of invention. The theatre has undergone a comprehensive remodelling, which started in the spring of 2016 and lasted two years. During the renovation and design, the theatre had a constructive dialogue with many of today’s top artists in every discipline to help create a platform for their creative productions. Many of the artists came to visit the theatre’s location in Paris and helped model the performance space by expressing their wishes. Inspired by the extraordinary story of the theatre’s location and its ambitious artistic direction, many of the artists who visited created a La Scala programme, and became ‘La Scala Paris residents’; their creations will be shown throughout forthcoming seasons.
“La Scala Paris has been thought of as a fundamentally different type of theatre, because of its programming, its artistic expression, its technical scenography, and the associated technologies that bring productions to life,” says Gaetan Byk, marketing manager at Amadeus. “The sound was an essential piece of the renovation, on the purely acoustic, mechanical, and electro-acoustical diffusion levels.”
The audio setup is built around a HOLOPHONIX spatial sound processor, designed by Amadeus in collaboration with STMS Lab (Sciences et Technologies de la Musique et du Son), located in Paris, and supported by CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), Sorbonne University, French Ministry of Culture, and IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique).
The sound and acoustics-related choices made for La Scala by the owners Mélanie and Frédéric Biessy were decided upon after they met with artists like Philippe Manoury, Philippe Hersant, and Philippe Schoeller. “We wanted to build a system that would be able to adapt to any live show and any concert – even the most acoustically and sonically challenging,” states Biessy. “Our meetings and exchanges with IRCAM were also a key factor in transforming La Scala into a facility with unique acoustical specifications. The hall’s acoustics and sound reinforcement system are at the core of our project, and it makes La Scala even more than a concert hall.
“To bet on the success of a multidisciplinary performance space implies that, in every domain, the tools are the most demanding and the most adapted to the quality and the demands by the artists invited to perform there. All the artists who have performed at La Scala in the past four months have confirmed that their needs were met,” concludes Biessy.
Spread around in a hemisphere shape, enveloping the viewers and adapting to the geometrically shaped building – all while controlling the technical and aesthetic constraints in the Grande Salle, the new sound reinforcement system at La Scala Paris uses 172 speakers designed and built by Amadeus at their Paris headquarters. The audio setup has been largely inspired in its philosophy by the system installed within IRCAM’s variable acoustics hall (called ‘Espace de Projection’) for research on high-end sound field recreation systems, including Wave Field Synthesis 2D and Ambisonics 3D sound. This IRCAM space features nearly 339 speakers designed and manufactured by Amadeus from 2008 to 2012.
Some speakers – especially those fixed on the two upper catwalks – were designed specifically by Amadeus for the La Scala Theatre. The speakers installed on the first catwalk are set 6.5m from ground, with the front panel slanted, while the coaxial transducer is aimed naturally at a 30° angle to get an optimal overlap in the listening area sweet-spot. On the second catwalk, the front panel of the speakers are tilted at 45°. Three speaker ‘antenna’ systems are fixed under every balcony as delayed systems. Each antenna system is made of 12 Amadeus PMX 4 coaxial speakers, evenly distributed over the whole width, with an inter-source distance of 1.25m. A frontal high power line array system is also part of the global system. It is made of 18 Amadeus DIVA M² speakers, a new model in the Amadeus product range. Several speaker configurations are used at La Scala: the main L/R is made of 2×9 DIVA M², the L/C/R is a 3×6 DIVA M² setup, and a multi-diffusion setup consists of a 6×3 DIVA M².
Depending on the project being presented at the theatre, speakers can be added: they are managed by an Angular 2D or k-Nearest Neighbor spatialiser, or directly routed to a physical source through the HOLOPHONIX processor system.
Thierry Coduys, chief technology officer who was involved in the creation of the HOLOPHONIX processor, comments: “It was a fascinating and thrilling challenge to imagine a unique sound system, tailored to La Scala Paris – a true technological gem. The Scala Paris is the first theatre in France to combine a variable acoustics system, built with modular two-sided panels (absorber/diffusor), and an extremely sophisticated immersive sound system utilising 172 loudspeakers.”
The whole sound system is amplified and processed by Powersoft DSP amplifiers. They handle all fundamental system parameters: EQ, time alignment between different sections, limiters, fine-tuning, and speaker thermal protection.
Byk concludes: “Technologies linked to immersive and spatialised sound are now coming out of laboratories to enter entertainment venues. They embody a new audio revolution, as an integral component of avant-garde visions in many French institutions such as La Scala Paris, le Théâtre National de Chaillot, le Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, Les Champs Libres, and others. All these performance spaces were among the first to believe and invest in these immersive audio technologies.”