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Autograph chooses EM Acoustics line arrays for Bloomsbury Theatre

Autograph has fitted out London's Bloomsbury Theatre with an integrated audio system, based around EM Acoustics line arrays, that can handle all the theatre’s many and complex demands.

Autograph Sales & Installations recently won the tender to replace the existing loudspeaker systems London’s Bloomsbury Theatre with an integrated design, based on EM Acoustics compact line arrays, that can handle all the theatre’s many and complex demands.

Opened in 1968 and part of University College London, the Bloomsbury Theatre is a true multi-purpose venue and surely one of London’s busiest, hosting as many as 20 different productions in a single month. The theatre presents a dazzling variety of productions, from rock ‘n’ roll to ballet, drama, corporate events, film and opera as well as numerous UCL student productions. However it is perhaps most well-known as a comedy venue, one which has seen performances by Jo Brand, Mel And Sue, Eddie Izzard, Lily Savage, and John Shuttleworth among many others. More recently comedy A-listers Jimmy Carr, Ricky Gervais and Harry Hill have recorded shows there for DVD release. With almost 550 seats and with completely unobstructed views of the stage throughout the house, it manages to pull off the difficult trick of combining intimacy with the atmosphere that is only generated by a certain audience size.

Autograph’s system designer and engineer Peppe Mallozzi explained how the EM Acoustics HALO-Compact solution fits the bill: “The challenge at the Bloomsbury was to design a system with both the power and finesse to handle everything from proper rock ‘n’ roll acts through to intimate single-performer productions. The key is consistency of coverage so that the whole experience can be delivered evenly to every seat in the house and this dictated not only our choice of products but also the eventual system design.”

“Along with other suppliers we were invited to conduct a demonstration of our proposal at the theatre. Although ours was neither the cheapest nor the most compact solution, the pure quality of the audio it produced won the job for us – in fact the technical manager was (in his own words) ‘blown away’ by what he heard!”

“Having specified and installed it in some similar locations with great results, we knew that the new EM Acoustics HALO-C compact line array was ideal for this project. It also ticked a major box for the client who specified a passive, non-self-powered system – they additionally specified that it should be controlled via an external interface that would be familiar to visiting engineers, which is why we chose the industry-standard XTA DP448 processor.

“Our design uses five EM Acoustics HALO-C enclosures flown as a central cluster with a further four per side covering the stalls and two EMS 118s subwoofers on the floor for the main PA. Six EMS 81X modules are used as stage side-fills and balcony fills, while four EMS 61s are deployed as front fills and we also supplied eight EM-M10s for use as stage monitors. Incidentally, ours was the only design that did not include dedicated delay speakers – we knew from the size of the room and our experience with HALO-C that they would not be necessary at the Bloomsbury, and indeed they were not as the main PA covers the room with ease.”

“Once again we found it so easy to mix and match products from the EM Acoustics range to produce an integrated and cost-effective solution that exactly matches the needs of the client. The common voicing throughout the EM Acoustics range allows us to pick the right product for the application and know that the core tonality is true throughout all the products – makes my job much easier!”

“The other critical link in the audio chain was our choice of lab.gruppen power amplifiers, which are a perfect match for the EM Acoustics products and whose fantastic audio quality plays a major part in the final results. Thanks to the power and flexibility of their FP-series we needed only four amplifiers to drive the entire front-of-house system – two FP10000Qs for the three hangs of Halo-C, one FP6000Q for the side-fills and balcony fills and one FP4000Q for the front fills. The eight EM-M10 monitors are powered by four Lab IPD2400s with sophisticated onboard DSP so no external processing is required for the on-stage system.”

Peppe concluded: “In a sense, the system we specified for the Bloomsbury is a perfect example of everything that is great about modern sound system technology. It’s a space that needed a very specific approach and in fairness our understanding of theatrical spaces played a big part in our success here. However, being able to choose from a ‘toolbox’ of great-sounding professional products allowed us to deliver a cost-effective and future-proofed design that is completely appropriate to the physical venue, to the performers who appear there, to visiting engineers and to the house technical team.’

The theatre’s technical manager, Syd Funnell, commented: “Giving all our clients the best-quality audio has frequently been a challenge for us. Having such a varied programme has pushed our audio system to its operational limits and we always had issues getting decent sound delivered to every member of the audience. The HALO-Compact system is a total game changer for us as we now have a system that delivers astonishing audio quality to every audience member wherever they are sitting.

“Working with Autograph and EM Acoustics was a delight, they really worked to understand our requirements and were remarkably flexible to us trying different ideas until we all felt that the system was the best one possible for the theatre. We are all delighted and are looking forward to working with Autograph and EM Acoustics again in the future.”