29 September 2017

Massey Hall installs d&b and global audio appeal.

Toronto’s Massey Hall is bedeviled by, what in polite circles is known as an idiosyncratic acoustic character. It is this characteristic that has recently been addressed within phase one of a major (C$135M) revitalization project to enhance the future of this magnificent music hall.

“With such a major refurbishment to consider we did a lot of research,” says Massey’s Director of Production, Doug McKendrick, on the audio upgrade. “Two things came out of that. Massey doesn’t have the ability to hang another system, so if a touring production doesn’t want to use the house PA we have to pull ours out and that’s not an easy option. So, we really wanted to make sure the new system was as universally acceptable as possible. We also noted that the higher profile artists that did play here with their own system frequently brought in d&b J-Series.

“The other thing was, over time we rented in different systems. Basically we had proscenium fills developed by Martin Van Dijk (of Toronto based consultants Engineering Harmonics), and used different left/right mains. We offered visiting shows up to three different brands via our preferred audio vendor, Solotech. So, what we had wasn’t always J-Series, but when we offered the three options the most consistent choice was J-Series. Selecting d&b was a decision I was comfortable with. The consistency of their equipment I liked; I’d always found theirs was a set of equipment you rarely had to do anything to.”

McKendrick called Trevor Nash at d&b Canada, and Mark Radu of Solotech. As Nash explains, the final system solution is complex to say the least: “Mains are left/right hangs of J8 with three J12s at the bottom; the center array is an inversion of the mains: a hang of J12 with three J8s at the bottom. The specific choice of the inversion between left/right and center was actually from Martin Van Dijk and is the starting point of his fill design, particularly the J8 at the bottom of the center.

“Martin did the magic with the fill design, that’s entirely his concept, and the fills really are the key. The proscenium wall has a single point source Yi7P at three levels each side: orchestra, gallery and balcony. Lower sides of the balcony have a pair of E8s either side and Yi7Ps do the same job as the E8s but for the sides of the gallery. There are also 10S-Ds, one at each corner of the balcony and gallery. For under-balcony fill we use E6s, and across the stage lip for frontfills we have Yi7Ps. Finally, for the top center section of the gallery (where there is a little lift to the seating adding maybe twelve to fourteen extra rows to the upper center section), there are six Vi12s for a delay fill. We have applied ArrayProcessing to the center array to maximize and unify its performance across the listening area.

“In simple terms, what all this means is you can do a concert, say a solo artist with an acoustic guitar, using just the center array and the fill system, and cover the room perfectly. For a full on rock show you bring the left/right mains into use, back off the center array to a fill role, and still use the fills elsewhere to energize the room.”

Future planning is always the key with such investments, and it seems Massey has planned somewhat thoroughly, as McKendrick concludes: “We already do a wide range of performances in here: spoken word, rock and roll, jazz, comedy, classical, and corporate. Everything in fact. And we are even more ambitious for the future in what we might offer. That’s what this new system allows us to do.”


Photography courtesy of Neal Burstyn