Singapore Sings at the Esplanade with d&b

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The modernist yet undeniably impressive Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay arts centre presents performers with an almost dizzying choice of venues: the Concert Hall, the Recital Studio, the Theatre Studio, and last but definitely not least, the Theatre. Opulent in its red velour drapery and triple horseshoe balconies, the Theatre may boast one of the largest stages in Singapore yet the design of the room still provides an intimate setting for an audience of nearly two thousand.

For such a prestigious venue, remaining at the forefront of technical developments is an important consideration as Robin Shuttleworth, the Technical Manager sound at the Esplanade explains. "A phased-in sound system upgrade throughout the Esplanades venues has been ongoing for the last four years. The last venue to be addressed has been the Theatre; we had the opportunity to explore improvements in the permanent sound reinforcement system to create a first class sounding room for performances ranging through musicals in all their different forms: operetta, juke box musicals and straight musical drama through to playback, light pop and jazz. We invited five prominent audio companies to design and demonstrate their respective systems. After careful evaluation, a d&b audiotechnik loudspeaker system proved to be the winner."

The audio system that won the bid was designed by Ralf Zuleeg, Head of Education and Application Support at the d&b headquarters in Backnang, Germany and installed by Sebastian Song and his team from d&b audiotechnik S.E. Asia Pte Ltd based in Singapore. Zuleeg's design is based around a left, centre, right configuration of Ci7-TOP loudspeakers supported by Ci-SUBs from the C-Series with various elements from the White range elsewhere and driven by D6 and D12 d&b audiotechnik amplifiers. Zuleeg himself elaborates, "This is the first time I've ever designed an integrated system from the Black and White ranges and, quite frankly, the results are even better than I envisaged. I used a selection of boxes from the xS-Series: the 12S and 12S-D along with the 10S and 5S. I imagined there would be a small difference in tonality between the two but choosing the White has meant far fewer little loudspeakers with no compromise on coverage, better low mid and lows and a more controlled overall delivery."

This rather original solution of using both Black and White ranges has certainly got Shuttleworth's vote. "What we have gained here is an accurate, high quality distributed audio system. It's common knowledge that I am one of the C7s greatest fans, but the clever fill achieved by the support of the White range loudspeakers, as I walked the room, I was amazed with the sound coverage, not only the excellent audio quality but the perfect focusing throughout the auditorium."

Zuleeg expands on the venue's slightly tricky nature. "The Theatre is very tall with three balconies, each one very steep vertically, especially the middle and top ones so there is some shading of the main system. In simple terms, the Ci7s put the energy into the room; the 12S and 12S-D cover the front rows while the 10S and 5S fill in the gaps elsewhere. Generally though, it's a well behaving room with a reverb of 1.0 to 1.2 seconds that sounds like it can take a lot of energy, so for modern, so called juke box musicals with their louder emphasis on the rock sound, the system and the room will cope really well."

Shuttleworth said, "We know the guys from d&b, and together with my team at the Esplanade, they worked hard to get this absolutely right. Of course, there are always discussions along the way like the one about an area of coverage that didn't seem quite right. We made a quick call to Sebastian and, no sooner said than done, there were two additional 10S loudspeakers and a D12 provided just for that awkward spot. As passionate professionals we are all proud of the result."

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