Fairfield Hall gets a face lift

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The Fairfield Halls, Croydon is in the midst of a five year renovation program that has in recent months seen Orbital Sound provide a new d&b audiotechnik sound system for the main Concert Hall. The refurbishment began in 2010 and has a focus on the venue's environment, addressing aesthetic as well as technical considerations; an overhaul of the Foyer in the first year saw a dynamic colour changing ceiling design and new décor applied.

The Concert Hall itself has established a venerable reputation since it first opened, "The acoustic quality is up there with the best," said Fairfield Halls (Croyden) Ltd's CEO Simon Thomsett, "Acknowledged as one of the finest in the UK." Even a cursory glance through the internet reveals an almost universal approbation from European orchestras, but sadly for amplified concerts the existing PA system was no longer up to modern expectations, as Thomsett revealed. "In terms of rock and pop, and even stand-up comedy, in order to get the top line shows and tours we needed higher quality sound reinforcement, with more consistent coverage throughout the auditorium."

Project manager for Orbital, David Bartholomeusz called in Steve Jones from the d&b Application Support department to assist with the system design. "The Hall has a mid-band RT of 2.0 flat, that accounts for part of its reputation for unamplified music," said Jones, "But not great for amplified, especially in the low frequencies where the RT is more like 2.6. That's why we selected the White range 27A-SUBs flown four deep behind the main left right Q1hangs. We could have flown three Q-SUBs to achieve the same cardioid low end, but because they're flown you need more cabinets as there's no gain from ground coupling."

But it's in the detail where the design reveals itself, "The Hall's Technical Manager Chris Wybrow was very forthcoming on the variety of day to day source programs, and what obstacles he had faced thus far," said Jones. "Intelligibility was a high priority, and coverage into awkward parts of the audience area. Because the main system Q-Series produces a seventy five degree horizontal dispersion we could map good sound energy levels to the back of the auditorium without any unwanted energy to the side walls. The small 'delta space' front rows centre was covered by the addition of a discrete array of T-Series Ti10L loudspeakers. Fills to the sides and front are provided by E6 loudspeakers, a pair of these is also used in the royal box, while the side boxes have the tiny 5S from the xS-Series of the White range; none of the side boxes can be covered by the main system without adding unwanted reflections so the 5S proved an effective solution.

To complete the design E8s are used for delay below the balcony." "The inherent flexibility and inter-range compatibility of d&b loudspeaker systems had put this brand at the top of our client's equipment list," said Bartholomuesz, "Minimising unwanted reflections contributed to the overall intelligibility. The cardioid subs achieve a reduction of around -10dB of rear radiated low end. We did also supply a pair of B2-SUBs which can be wheeled out to provide extended low end when and as required." "We can now provide world class sound quality to our audiences, with consistent coverage throughout the Hall," concluded Wybrow, "Removing the prime area of criticism that we previously experienced. The guys at Orbital have worked hard to give us the best possible results."

With acknowledgement to Garret Axford for the editorial content.

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