Chicago sports a slick new sound

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As the new UK tour of Chicago kicked off in March, presented by David Ian Productions, the enduringly successful musical keeps proving why it is regarded as the sharpest, slickest show on the block. Since the first performance in the West End over ten years ago, innovation behind the scenes has been a key element in maintaining the musical's vibrancy and fresh appeal, bringing audiences back time and again.

This year, sound designer Rick Clarke has introduced a major new element to the touring rig, specifying a forty cabinet d&b audiotechnik T-Series loudspeaker system, supplied by sound and communication systems specialist Orbital Sound. This is the first major production to use the brand new T-Series, which can be deployed as either a compact line array or stand-alone point source system. For Rick, this configuration flexibility is a major plus when designing for the diverse selection of venues and requirements during the tour, 'A highly practical consideration influenced my design approach for this tour, namely that we had to accommodate a one day get in at each venue rather than the two days we have been used to since the first tour went out in 2001. It certainly focused the mind! I have used the d&b Q-Series up until now, and wanted to retain the original dynamics of the show without any compromise. When Orbital Sound first invited me to listen to the T-Series, I was truly impressed in terms of the sound quality as well as the size and weight ratio.'

The tour takes in some very different venues and makes completely different system demands, highlighting the configuration options for the T-Series. For the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, where the tour opened on 9th March, the T-Series was configured as a line-array system, of five mini arrays, each comprising four T10s and one T-SUB. For the move to the Princess Theatre in Torquay, the design involved four arrays and some twenty cabinets in point source mode. In very wide venues, such as the Liverpool Empire, they will be used as long hang line arrays mixed with point source side and down fills. The decision to invest in the T-Series as part of its core inventory was a straightforward one for Orbital Sound, as MD Chris Headlam explains, 'The T-Series is a breakthrough design, and gives us incredible flexibility from a single system. It is highly advanced system, reflecting some clever thinking by some very clever people at d&b. We have made a significant investment in the T-Series because of this, recognising its potential for both theatre touring and conference applications. For the Chicago tour, we are trucking forty cabinets around the country, configuring the system on a mix-and-match basis depending on each venue's requirements. It makes it considerably more cost-effective from a production perspective, while ensuring that there are no compromises in terms of the system performance.'

Another new system Rick has deployed on the UK tour is the d&b R1 Remote control software. This links all the amplifiers via the d&b Remote Ethernet network to provide remote control and monitoring of all the major front-panel features, functions and controls. The ability to control various aspects of the system via a single button or fader is a big plus, according to Rick, 'It controls every aspect of the system, from the overall system level and zone level, to the EQ and delay unit. The way the programme is set up, you can also turn off large elements of the system at a time, and can use it for a pre-sound check, which is very useful. I have now incorporated this into the Chicago sound system as a core component.'

The decision to take a new tour out with a completely new system has a degree of risk attached to it, as Rick acknowledges, 'I knew that it might be challenging to put a brand new product straight out on a tour, but d&b and Orbital worked incredibly hard to make everything run smoothly, and it came together really well. As with any new tour, I am visiting the show on a regular basis, just to make sure that everything is ok, and so far, so good! Everything sounds good and while I have yet to hear the T-Series perform in a really big venue, I am confident that it will cope with whatever we ask it to do.'

Acknowledgement to Pro Sound News Europe for the editorial content.

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