Place des Arts is unquestionably one of Montréal’s finest performing arts venues. Opened in 1963 the venue has recently embraced a fundamental change, moving the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal to the Maison Symphonique. In relocating its orchestra, Place des Arts has repositioned its former home, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, as a concert hall of such labyrinthine flexibility it could be mistaken for one of the more pliable members of Cirque du Soleil.
With capacity for almost 3,000 the venue hosts two resident companies, as well as large scale musicals, rock, jazz, international artists, circus and comedy. When Guy Levesque, Technical Coordinator joined in 2015 he suggested replacing the audio system and in doing so, shift to an entirely different brand. “I didn’t select d&b immediately,” says Levesque. “Initially I asked most of the major sound companies to submit a proposal for the venue.”
Richard Soly, whose audio responsibility at Salle Wilfrid spans thirty two years, reviewed all the proposals. “The only sound system that could work required an 80° horizontal pattern to avoid touching the walls.” Levesque made Soly’s key parameter the focus of his brief. “The primary aim was to replace an old left/right PA system. We asked for all proposals to have the largest coverage and the biggest spectral uniformity in all seats as you would expect. But, regarding the acoustic of the venue, side walls and ceiling do not help at all when using a sound reinforcement system. So, the correct horizontal directivity angle of the speaker itself was critical, and with three balconies vertical coverage was no less important. Last point, the new PA is at a fixed position. If the PA is not used by a visiting production, we need to hide it easily.”
The restricted ‘hiding’ space available in the ceiling meant the system needed to be in the midrange. After looking at many leading companies, the V-Series was chosen for its 80° (h) directivity and ideal size. “It also brought one other significant feature,” says Levesque. Francois Corbin of d&b Canada project managed the design process with Levesque and explains the attraction of this ‘special feature’. “The room has four seating levels including the three balconies. The upper balcony is effectively blind sighted from the PA positon, although obviously, it has a view of the stage but sits above the proscenium. We had to prove on paper using ArrayCalc that we could affect the best coverage; least excitement to the room acoustic; and by implementing ArrayProcessing algorithms, achieve outstanding sonic consistency across the vertical horizon of the room. Even to that third balcony.”
Levesque scrutinized the data closely. “ArrayProcessing is one of the big evolutions regarding line array theory and benefits. We didn’t get to hear an example before we installed it, but knowing the great reputation of d&b engineering, we were confident just from reading the white paper.
“During the re-opening we made a presentation of four different setups available from the main PA. For amplified concert we have two distinct setups with quite different configuration of the subs, a choice that reflects the variety of needs for contemporary pop, rock and jazz. For conference the system can be used with no subs at all. Our main V-Series system, when configured for use without subs, will perform down to 67 Hz.
“Finally, we have what we call our basic setup, this does include some subs but is a catch all configuration that will satisfy many users that require a full range performance but without a heavy low frequency emphasis. All four formats are easily recalled using the R1 Remote control software, and with all of them we are very satisfied to find the perfect preset for our venue.”