It’s been a difficult and challenging two years for concert and event spaces during the Covid pandemic, but what’s emerging at the other end of a long, gloomy tunnel is a new, more sonically shaped generation of venues. The Factory, which anchors a new entertainment and dining destination known as The District in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, is a perfect example of that dynamic.
The recently-opened 52,000-square-foot venue can hold between 2,350 and 3,400 concertgoers or event attendees in flexible dance floor and fixed-seating configurations that face a huge 60-foot-wide stage. But what sets The Factory further apart is the sheer scale of its L-Acoustics PA system, which provides complete coverage for every audience member no matter where they are seated or standing in the large performance hall. Simply put, the system had to be the best, because as the event and concert businesses return, they will be more competitive than ever.
“The Factory is built on the most valuable real estate in the region and there is no wasted or extra space anywhere in the building. So we had to create a sound system that no one could ever say no to,” observes Chip Self, president and CEO of Logic Systems Sound & Lighting, Inc. The St. Louis area-based systems design and integration firm that supplied the new L-Acoustics system.
It’s also a system from which no one can say they’ve missed a note or a word with one dozen K2 loudspeaker enclosures atop two Kara II down-fills comprising the left and right main array hangs. These are buttressed by two A Series enclosures per side as in-fill and out-fill, respectively; six eight-inch coaxials used for front-fills; and four A10i Wide speakers for delay.
A powerful subwoofer array comprises 12 KS28 subs set in a purpose-built concrete pit under the stage and deployed using a proprietary filter set that allows the sub array to cover more evenly side to side. A combination of 14 LA8, three LA12X, and four LA4X amplified controllers power the system, which is managed by an L-Acoustics P1 processor and connected via an L-Acoustics LS10 network switch.
Equally impressive is the monitoring system for the stage: one dozen X15 HiQ wedges are surrounded by two A Series systems and two SB28 subs per side, plus two more SB18m subs just for the drummer.
“It’s a big system, and it has to be because it was meant to accomplish several important things,” says Self. “It has to cover every seat in the house no matter how the room is configured for a particular event or concert, and it has to be flexible. We designed it to hang from motorized trolleys, which lets us move the main speaker arrays, as well as the on-stage lighting trusses, to alternate locations or completely out of the way of the touring act’s system—if needed—all at the touch of a button. It’s a totally flexible system that never compromises on quality.”
It’s also an interestingly designed one. The extreme width of the stage meant that the two main PA hangs are 68 feet apart, as much as 20 feet wider than most designs would call for. Some other systems might require an additional two hangs closer to the center of the stage, or at least an additional center cluster, even though those solutions could have negative aesthetic, sightline, and budget implications, as well as potentially cause time-alignment issues. However, Self saw a much better answer in the L-Acoustics A Series speaker used as an in-fill.
“To me, a center-cluster solution creates as many if not more problems than it solves, while the A Series enclosure solves it elegantly,” he says, citing the speaker’s narrow and tight horizontal dispersion pattern. “Any wider, and it would overlap with the rest of the PA or leak back onto the stage. As a down-facing in-fill, the loudspeaker actually feels more like an extension of, an integral part of, the main PA rather than a fix for it, and without losing any of the stereo imaging for any seat.”
Self adds that the extensive PA system and monitoring setup also has an economic component to it. “We’re coming out of a difficult period in live-event and concert production, and venues are going to be competing for shows,” he explains. “What The Factory, with this sound system, can offer is eliminating the need for touring shows to carry their own sound. That can save enormous amounts of money at a time when there are fewer trucks and drivers available and transportation costs have skyrocketed. A high-quality sound system like this one becomes part of the negotiation process.”
Another economic aspect is the L-Acoustics system at The Factory is on a full-service lease with ongoing maintenance and operational support from Logic Systems as part of the package. Self says this approach to capital financing is a good move for the venue, his business, and the brand. “Under these terms, every five years, the venue will get a new L-Acoustics system, so the venue will always be at the leading edge of the technology,” he explains. “That means the system will also be in the best possible shape for its entire term. The venue doesn’t have to try to wring every last cent of ROI out of it and then hope for a good price when they sell it. That’s a win for them, us, and for L-Acoustics.”
Brian Carp, COO of The Factory, is an industry veteran, having worked in venue-management roles at the Fox and Boulder theaters in Boulder, Colorado, and House of Blues locations in Dallas and Anaheim, California. To him, the choice of a sound system was “extremely important, even critical,” to the success of a venue. “You want to make sure you are as rider-friendly as possible when it comes to lighting and sound. You want to make a great first impression for visiting bands, and you also want to give that same experience to the fans. The L-Acoustics K2 does all of that and more.”
Carp, who says the vision for The Factory is to provide a live entertainment space for the entire St. Louis region, also lauded L-Acoustics’ and Logic Systems’ support for the system and the venue. “You want to feel like your vendors are also your partners, and that’s the case for both of them,” he says.