Originally opened in 1875, the Corn Exchange has been a concert venue and an event space – it hosted its first Motor Show in 1898 – as well as being a space for the trading of grain. Operated by Cambridge City Council, its career as a serious gig and concert venue commenced in the 1970s, and it has been a well-known landmark on the UK touring circuit for many year. As well as being the primary arts and performance venue in the vibrant university town, it also hosts conferences and exhibitions.
The capacity ranges from 1,350 fully seated to 1,870 standing and seated. and it hosts over 270 events a year.
The system design and installation was co-ordinated by Adlib’s John Hughes and the design was created by Roger Kirby. The two have worked on several other recent high-profile installations including The National Cycling Centre, Manchester Academies and Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre. They worked closely with the venue’s technical manager, Chris Norton, and L-Acoustics’ UK system application engineers, Chris Vass and Dan Orton.
The decision to go with an L-Acoustics’ KARA system was taken after an extensive site survey and also after speaking with Adlib’s various leading live engineers and gauging their experience of working first-hand in the space – as well as a careful consideration of the brief issued by the Council.
Kirby completed the initial system design which was further developed and finalised by Vass and Orton.
The main considerations were that the chosen speaker solution was fully flexible and adaptable for the venue’s operators; suitability for the broad range of scheduled events; long-term cost effectiveness; and value.
Sonically, uniform clear coverage of the room and suitable sound pressure levels throughout the entire space were essential.
The result was a main left and right PA system comprising seven flown KARA WST speakers which can be hung with or without two SB18 sub-bass units depending on the low frequency requirements for the event. There are also two SB28 ground-stacked sub-bass speakers per side.
The main balcony coverage is dealt with by a centre hang of five KARAi WSTs. For lip and in-fills there are two 8XTis along the front of the stage and two 12XTis at the edges of the stage either side. For delays another two 8XTis provide under-balcony coverage with three more installed at high level dealing with the extremities of the balcony and back seating rows.
The system is powered by L-Acoustics proprietary LA8 and LA4 amplifiers.
For the onstage wedges, ten Adlib AA-MP4s were supplied, well known for their robust sound and unobtrusive low profile. “The power and finesse of this discreetly packaged product has quickly established it as an industry standard. The MP4 has become a preferred wedge for numerous artistes, making it an easy choice for the venue,” says Kirby.
The monitor system is driven with Crown XTi6002 amps.
For the house console, Adlib supplied a Midas PRO2, complete with a DL-251 stagebox to add 48 inputs and 16 outputs to the standard PRO2 I/O. Like the loudspeaker system, the console was chosen for its flexibility, performance, reliability and value.
It is also a console with which most professional guest sound engineers are likely to be familiar. Hughes commented: “Adlib has witnessed a huge surge in popularity in the Midas Pro 2 over the last 12 months. We believe that this product provides by far the best value for money in the price bracket and this opinion was echoed by all the venue technicians.”
While it was relatively straightforward in terms of an installation system, the challenges came from the building which is Grade II listed and therefore subject to some very specific restrictions. Due to its architecture, cable routes had to be non-invasive and their management required plenty of lateral thinking.
Another challenge was installing a system to cater for all the various different stage and seating configurations, with three different front-of-stage positions. Adlib’s installation team configured the L-Acoustics KARA hangs using four different sets of flying points; all the delay loudspeakers are time-aligned for each active PA flying point. The main KARA hangs can also be deployed with or without the flown L-Acoustics SB18 subs.
On-site installation was completed in just nine days, followed by a week of system commissioning and training. During this time, Adlib trained the house crew (including in-house engineers Paddy Matthews and Tom Carter, pictured L-R) who will be running the system day-to-day on the fundamentals, including the Adlib patch and tie-line system which was also integral to the project; the L-Acoustics speaker system and rigging operations and also their LA Network Manager software; the Midas PRO2 control surface and the Crown HiQnet System Architect.
Adlib also supplied a ‘system’ engineer for the initial run of events utilising the new equipment.
The first major show was ‘Joy Division Reworked’ by the Heritage Orchestra and since then it has been used on numerous other shows and events, all with very positive results and feedback.
Technical Manager Chris Norton commented, “The installation of the KARA system has opened up a wealth of opportunities for us as a venue and there is already an increase in the number of shows opting to use the in house system”.
He added that, as spoken word clarity has gratefully improved, there is no longer a need to hire in a system for every comedy performance.
He continued: “Adlib have not just provided us with an excellent solution, but did so in a slender window of opportunity, enabling us to be up and ready to go for the start of another very busy season.
“Adlib were everything you could wish for on the project. It is easy in my experience for people in suits to talk a good game in order to get the contract in the first place, but it is what comes next that is important! The installation team could not have been more helpful, highly professional and considerate in working within a building which to a large extent carried on as a working environment.”
Picture: Rob Julian, The Capture Lab