Thailand's Esplanade Ratchda. The epitome of Arte-tainment

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'Arte-tainment', not an easy word; one of those compound nouns invented by overpaid marketers, yet even it can fail to convey the full message, but not in the instance of the Esplanade in Ratchdapisek Road, Bangkok. Developed by Siam Future Development Public Company Limited, Esplanade is a shopping mall of grand design. Architecturally stunning inside and out, Esplanade seeks to marry a quality shopping experience with the world of entertainment.

At its heart is the Muangthai Ratchdalai Theatre, a one thousand five hundred seat proscenium playhouse primarily for Thai musical theatre. Around it can be found a twenty-four-lane bowling alley, ice rink, cinemas, and a fitness centre; you see immediately the problem when leading technical consultants CCW were called upon to advise on the theatre.

"It was a big challenge in terms of noise insulation inside the complex," said Eric Wong, project leader for CCW. "The building required add-ons to the initial structure, roofing and walls; however the acoustic insulation was mostly generic without need of any specialised acoustical materials. The sound system and the interior acoustics have to go hand in hand in achieving an optimal design." Would attention focus on ameliorating the external environment influence audio design? "Not at all, there are many ways to skin a cat; we just took the minimal and sure approach of a point source system for near field sound coverage." Wong and his team contracted M.I. Engineering, d&b audiotechnik's distributor in Thailand. "We were asked to install and commission the audio, lighting and video systems for the theatre," said MI's John Chan. "Mr Wong specified a left/centre/right arrangement of Qi7 and Q-SUB, with E3 and E0 for fill in various locations, and a pair of B2s for extended low end." M.I. also installed the lighting system, though under different budgetary constraints "It comprises mainly cabling infrastructure work, with the supply and installation of ETC dimmers only; all lighting fixtures and lighting consoles are rented as and when required."

Wong had taken his client through a process of system comparisons before settling on the d&b audiotechnik system, and battled strongly to confirm their choice. "At the beginning, before the installed sound system was first turned on, there were lots of sceptics; in today's fashion for line arrays, the more the merrier we say. What we specified does not seem a lot of loudspeakers in the front, however, when it is all turned on it has surprised many of the doubters. The fact is that each set of loudspeakers contributes to a specific area with minimal overlaps; minimal comb filtering, and minimal hot spots. We selected d&b loudspeakers that are very predictable and accurate, and yet have very high sonic quality. This gave us confidence in the simulation and computation. Typically the levels are driven at about 85 dB with about 15 dB peaks; in such instances we still have another +6 dB of headroom in the system before clipping. We found the sound decay from the acoustical response was very linear for all the frequencies, even the subwoofer sounded very tight, deep and clear, without any sense of boominess."

CCW found the whole project extremely rewarding, "We had total control of the positioning of loudspeakers, with the architect giving us their full blessing." Wong also spent some time working with Ratchada's house soundman. "Five days in fact. We all know a bad mix can make even the best system sound bad, so we feel this is time well spent. We have a good client who knows what he wants and yet is very practical. This made for a great project; a good sounding hall for musical drama; a simple but excellent sound system; a great working team, and a good soundman. We are proud of all these elements, as it is very rare this happens. Our company and mainly myself have worked in many halls; this was the best for me as we designed this system, ground up with no frills, and it came out with excellent results."

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