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Autograph and Lab.gruppen are a hit at the Dorfman Theatre

Flexibility was a key requirement for this refurbished theatre space, and the audio system needed to be equally versatile

The National Theatre’s ambitious transformation of the Cottesloe Theatre into the refurbished Dorfman Theatre, named after Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman who donated a personal gift of £10 million to the NT Future redevelopment project, was completed in September 2014. The 19-month refit saw the 350-capacity space kitted out with greater capacity, more comfortable seats, a lift, improved acoustics, lighting and sight-lines, enlarged foyer spaces and flexible staging which allows almost any combination of seating and performance space.

An essential component of the refit was an upgrade to the audio infrastructure, specifically for the extensive surround and delay loudspeaker systems. The theatre originally specified Lab.gruppen’s C-Series installation amplifiers but as all the system outputs were presented on the AES protocol from the control gear, it was realised that Lab.gruppen’s IPD Series was actually a better solution. Although requiring more rack space than the eight-channel C-Series, the IPDs feature AES inputs as standard as well as extensive network monitoring and control facilities – however the space required was minimised as IPD amps are designed to be able to be racked one on top of another without compromising cooling.

The National was already a Lab.gruppen user but Autograph Sales & Installations provided an IPD unit for the theatre team to put through their own stress and listening tests before making their decision. The sheer scale of the purchase (25 IPD1200 and 13 IPD2400) also required some special testing at the Lab.gruppen factory to ensure that the network switch could comfortably handle 38 amplifiers.

Alex Caplen, sound and video supervisor at the Dorfman Theatre, says: “I have a long-standing relationship with Chris Austin at Autograph and approached him in the early stages of planning for the Dorfman to find out more about the IPD series. Chris kindly came in and talked us through the features and left us with a demo unit to put through our own tests until we were satisfied that it would be the right tool for the job.”

Focus on flexibility

The networked advantages of the IPDs are particularly applicable to the Dorfman Theatre, since much of the redesign was done to maximise the flexibility of the space – it can accommodate everything from traditional proscenium productions through to the most avant-garde experimental theatre and the sound reinforcement needs to be able to keep up with that configurability. Being able to access all the onboard DSP and monitoring functions within the amplifiers remotely via a laptop or iPad while wandering round the room gives a level of real-time control that is perfect for such a multipurpose space.

Caplen continues: “The IPDs form a core part of the system in the Dorfman – their flexibility in speaker presets and digital inputs allows us to drive a wide variety of speakers from a fully digital infrastructure, enabling us to give sound designers independent access to a potential 92 channels of amplification across the whole system. The Dorfman system has been redesigned such that sound designers are not limited by the technology in the room but rather encouraged to let their imaginations run free. Autograph and Lab.gruppen’s support in this process has proven invaluable.”

Picture: (c) Philip Vile

More on the IPD Series at Lab.gruppen’s site