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Winspear Centre Installs Canada’s First L-Acoustics L Series Concert Sound System

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From its grand opening in 1997, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music’s 1,716-seat Enmax Hall has served as the primary performance space for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. But the resplendent concert hall is just as well known for hosting a steady stream of other performers as well—including touring artists from blues, country, folk, jazz, rock and other genres—in addition to a diverse roster of community events. To best accommodate the room’s wide range of sonic styles, dbi Systems Integration collaborated with L-Acoustics Certified Provider FM Systems to equip the Winspear Centre with Canada’s first permanently installed L Series loudspeaker system.

dbi Systems and FM Systems are shared providers of services to the Winspear Centre, with dbi providing all permanent in-house AV systems and FM providing all production services and rentals. Since 2014, dbi Systems says it has worked with Winspear Head of Audio Jonas Duffy on a wide variety of short- and long-term plans to allow for ongoing A/V systems upgrades with a purposeful long-range vision.

“As a part of these ongoing system upgrades in 2021, it was decided that it was time to look at replacing the existing house loudspeaker system in the main hall,” said dbi Systems Integration Principal Jerry Van Dyke. “After several years of auditioning products from some of today’s premier loudspeaker manufacturers, L-Acoustics was deemed the loudspeaker of choice for this project. Over the next two years there was collaboration between Winspear Centre, dbi Systems, FM Systems and L-Acoustics on the design and configuration of the system, which was integrated by dbi Systems.”

The Centre’s prior PA had been installed in 2007 and struggled to meet the demands of current touring acts that were looking for higher SPL capabilities.

“As is always the case in our industry, there had been major changes in technology since that system had been installed and the Winspear wanted the performance capabilities of today’s best loudspeaker systems,” said dbi Associate and Senior Systems Designer Joshua Duguid. “The three major requirements were: premium sonic quality, high SPL capability and smooth, even coverage throughout the entire room—all of which L-Acoustics was perfectly suited to deliver.”

Originally, the new system design consisted of an assortment of L-Acoustics Kara II loudspeakers, flown KS28 subwoofers, KS21 floor subwoofers, A15i choir-fills and 5XT lip-fills. However, two weeks before the bid submission deadline, dbi Systems learned that L-Acoustics was going to be debuting a new loudspeaker line that would be a “game-changer in the permanent install and touring worlds,” he describes.

Following discussions on performance capabilities, aesthetics, suitability for the room and rider acceptance, L Series was chosen for Winspear’s main chamber hall.

“After modeling the room with the L2/L2D enclosures, it was clear that the L Series concert sound system would provide even better coverage and superior sonic capabilities in a smaller footprint,” said Van Dyke.

While acknowledging that there was a degree of risk in going with a product that dbi Systems had no prior experience with, it was decided that the “pedigree of L-Acoustics products and the company’s history of delivering on what it promised” made the risk worthwhile. With a great deal of collaboration between Duffy, dbi Systems, and L-Acoustics, the entire system was re-designed in two weeks.

The resulting design now features left and right main arrays of two L2 enclosures over one L2D per side, with a third central array planned to be flown later this summer. For low frequency reinforcement, four KS21 subs arranged in cardioid configuration sit on both the far left and right sides of the stage, directly below the main arrays. Eleven ultra-compact X4i in a custom RAL color are mounted across the stage face for low-SPL front-fill, while six larger X8 supply high-SPL front-fill. Onstage, two clusters of two A10 Focus—mounted to the top back sides of the L Series hangs—serve as stage monitors for the choir loft.

Out in the house, 14 compact 5XT are mounted to the ceiling of the underbalcony area for additional fill, with two X8 functioning as dress circle loge fills. The FOH mix position benefits from a near-field monitoring setup of two 5XT paired with a single SB10i sub, while a projection booth/mother’s room benefits from three X8 and one SB10i. The venue’s lobby area also features an L-Acoustics system comprised of six Soka accompanied by six more SB10i.

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Milan-AVB is used as the audio signal path for the entire system.

“With amplifiers being in five different room locations at distances between them being up to 500 feet, Milan-AVB was integral to this design,” said Duguid. “The Winspear venue relies heavily on AV-over-IP, and already had Dante, Q-SYS and Video-over-IP in place. A large part of this install was upgrading and redesigning the network infrastructure. Redundancy was key, and many steps were taken in the design/install to ensure the system always functions.”

Two fully independent switching infrastructures were connected by redundant fiber trunks, and mission-critical devices are on two separate UPS circuits. All of the L-Acoustics amplified controllers also utilize the 24-volt backup to ensure minimal downtime in the event of a power outage.

The first show after the system commissioning was, appropriately, an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert—a tribute to the music of Canadian-American singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

“We heard so many comments from the guests that night on how amazing our new system sounded and looked,” said Duffy. “Our technicians were amazed at how smooth the coverage was. Our old system had spots in the room where you would hear the gaps or interactions between the array boxes, but the new L Series system is completely seamless, and it sounds great all the way back in the fourth-floor gallery.”

Duffy shares that the L2/L2D system has received many positive comments from both staff and administrators on how much cleaner and less imposing the look of the loudspeakers are. “Also, from the audience’s perspective, you cannot see individual array boxes or any speaker cables, and because the L Series arrays are flown much higher than the previous ones, they leave more room for our venue’s beauty to shine through.”

Beyond the main chamber system, the booth and projection/mother’s room systems offer a sonic experience that is virtually identical to that of being in the main chamber. For events where technicians need to mix from inside the sealed booth, they can be sure they are making sonic choices that match what the audience hears.

“L-Acoustics L Series was an excellent choice for this project,” said Van Dyke. “The sonic performance and SPL capabilities of this system ensure that it will meet or exceed virtually any guest act rider for years to come. For Edmonton Symphony concerts, which are the most common events in the venue, the fact that this system does not require subs to be full-range cleans up the stage exceptionally, and the ability to have the arrays in cardioid or supercardioid mode gives the musicians onstage a much-improved experience as well.”

“Our team here at dbi realizes that an opportunity like this does not come along very often, and to see it happen at a venue that we have been partnered with for over ten years is extremely satisfying,” said Van Dyke. “This project has been years in the making, and to see it all come together was magical. Watching the reactions of the staff at the Winspear when the system was turned on for the first time, the looks of shock and awe, followed by silence and spontaneous applause, is a moment that we will never forget.”

A video on this project can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/962870797/929df99f27.

For more information on the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, visit www.winspearcentre.com. dbi Systems Integration and FM Systems can be found online at www.dbisystems.ca and www.fmsystems.net.

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