The Orpheum Theater in New Orleans has undergone a major redevelopment project of the last 18 months, which included the installation of a Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker system in the hall designed to reinforce live sound without affecting the theatre’s natural acoustics.
The theatre opened in 1921 for vaudeville before being converted into a movie house soon after, and has since gone through several iterations before closing due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The venue was purchased in February 2014 and underwent a $13 million, 18-month renovation to both restore and redevelop the theatre into a multi-use facility. In September 2015, the theatre reopened with a performance of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ symphony by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
The renovations included an expanded marble-paved lobby, larger seats, eight new bathrooms, six permanent bars and an auditorium floor that can be raised when seating is removed for standing room concerts, parties, weddings, corporate group functions and catered affairs. In addition, the hall was equipped with a modern lighting array, large movie screen and the Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker system.
Kristin Shannon, general manager explained: “When the owners bought the theatre, the Orpheum had been vacant since prior to Katrina, and the intent was to make it into a multi-purpose facility that wouldn’t have to rely solely on concert performances, but also generate revenue streams in between those shows to sustain the theatre going forward.
“To that end, we added a kitchen in the basement, which gives us the capability to cater a seated dinner of up to 275 guests on the theatre floor. We’ve also created additional space in the basement for entertaining, a smaller dining room space and skyboxes and suites in the top of the gallery to accommodate special groups and events.
“The auditorium floor works great, it takes about 11 minutes to raise and lower but a bit longer to take out the seats, which are large and comfortable. The owners also refabricated the existing shell frames to create a new acoustic shell, which worked out wonderfully looks beautiful and sounds amazing. That’s why the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is returning to what once was their hall, it’s the final piece of the process.”
According to Shannon, deciding what audio system to install was done in close collaboration with installer Don Drucker of Pyramid Audio Productions. “Don helped us make those decisions with the understanding that in an acoustically sound structure, installing an amplified audio system needed to be done with care and an understanding of all the types of events being held at the Orpheum.”
Detailing Pyramid’s role during the renovation, Don commented: “We were very involved since the beginning of this project. This theatre is a total gem that had been lost for many years, and to see it develop and come back to life has been amazing. It was known for having such great acoustics and that was the first subject that popped up when discussing the design and renovation.
“We looked at several manufacturers who submitted designs for the site, rated those designs, made necessary adjustments and then presented the better proposals to the client. Of all the submissions, Martin Audio required the fewest adjustments and that’s how we came to the decision. We also knew the system had to be of the highest sound quality, very controllable, aesthetically friendly and compatible to the space while the response and articulation had to cover every seat in the house. We didn’t want to upset the hall’s acoustics and felt Martin Audio MLA would have the best fit into the acoustic atmosphere of the theatre.”
The sound system starts with 12 MLA Compact hangs per side with four DSX subwoofers ground-stacked near the stage which are used for certain rock bands. A total of 30 DD6 dual differential dispersion speakers are deployed under the two sets of balconies and used as front fills at the front edge of the stage that are removed for dance events. Martin Audio C6.8T and C8.1T Ceiling Series speakers are mounted in the lobby areas and bathrooms to achieve a consistent sound throughout.
Other system components include a Midas Pro 6 console for FOH and a Pro 2 for Monitors, Shure wireless microphones, Telefunken, Shure and Audio-Technica hand-held mics, Radial direct boxes, a Merlin processor, Lenntech for remote control of power and a BSS Blu system for additional midrange control in different areas of the house.
Shannon added: “The Martin Audio system has been showcased in many different scenarios and has been amazingly strong. So from the opening party to Allen Toussaint’s funeral and concerts by Dwight Yoakam, Wilco and Billy Gibbons who performed with a Cuban percussion section, the system has sounded great. We believe we have the premier facility in the state of Louisiana and an important piece of that is how this building sounds for all of the performances. We’ve been continuously impressed and pleased with the Martin Audio system.