Leeds Playhouse upgrades with the d&b Soundscape.
In late 2019, the Leeds Playhouse completed a major £15.8 million redevelopment that included a d&b Soundscape system, supplied by Autograph Sales & Installations.
The award-winning Leeds Playhouse is the largest regional repertory theatre in the UK outside London and Stratford and has earned an international reputation as one of Britain's most exciting producing theatres. Originally opened as the West Yorkshire Playhouse at its present Quarry Hill site in 1990, the facility recently underwent an extensive 16-month renovation that included the creation of several new spaces.
The performance spaces at the heart of the theatre have been significantly redesigned and improved, including the main 750-seat Quarry Theatre, and the smaller 420-seat Courtyard Theatre. Additionally, a completely new and flexible multi-purpose space, the Rock Void, has been created out of a previously unused basement.
Autograph Sales & Installations assisted in the design of the Soundscape system for the Quarry and a smaller d&b system for the Courtyard theatre, then supplied, tested, and commissioned both. Autograph's Adam Broom worked closely with the house technical team led by Head of Sound, Martin Pickersgill, his deputy Tom Cuthbertson, and technician Rob Landels, who handled the physical installation.
The team engineered a distributed system solution featuring a range of d&b audotechnik technologies, including the remarkable d&b Soundscape sound object positioning tool, which accurately depicts stage scenarios so that each sound object (up to a total of 64) corresponds both visually and acoustically. Already specified in some West End productions, notably the highly acclaimed Mary Poppins in the West End, Soundscape’s capabilities are proven in numerous different applications globally. The Leeds Playhouse is the first regional theatre in the UK to include it as part of a permanently-installed house system.
Previously, the audio setup in the Quarry Theatre was a small d&b audiotechnik system, which had done sterling service for many years, and the team's satisfaction with the brand led them to select d&b again.
"The d&b C-Series system did an amazing job covering plays and never skipped a beat," said Cuthbertson. "But for larger musicals, we would need to hire in larger rigs, whereas now it’s a different story."
Cuthbertson explained that the sound system design is now divided into five principal zones: the main array over and around the forestage comprises seven d&b Y10P units and four Vi-SUB subwoofers. Delay and surround speakers were chosen from the xS-Series while the E-Series is used for front fills.
All the processing for the Quarry system is handled by a single d&b DS100 Signal Engine, three DS10 Audio Network Bridges, and the amplification is done with three 30D, and eight 10D installation amplifiers.
"We are very excited that the Quarry’s in-house rig is the beast that it is. It’s great to have larger first bridge delays and an additional ring of delays on bridge two," explained Cuthbertson. "The central sub-array gives us vastly more even coverage, and the En-Scene processing eliminates differences in the audience's experience regardless of their seat position. The sound comes from the source with full 360-degree object positioning, and En-Space reverbs; The potential for creativity and audience immersion is huge."
The quality and capabilities of the theatre's new audio infrastructures match the ambitious and forward-thinking redevelopment of Leeds Playhouse into a magnificent modern theatre complex. It is now one of the best-equipped regional theatres in the UK, comparable with many West End venues, well able to deal with even the most demanding productions and sound designs. The addition of d&b’s Soundscape, and the range of extra possibilities that it affords sound designers, takes an already outstanding facility to the next level.