The Stadium Theatre Merges History and Modernity Onstage with Help from HARMAN Professional Solutions
March 01, 2023
WOONSOCKET, R.I.—To update the historic Stadium Theatre for modern live shows while still paying respect to its Vaudeville-era design, All Tech Sound designed and installed a versatile range of HARMAN Professional audio solutions.
First opened in 1926, the Stadium Theatre is one of only a handful of Vaudeville-era theaters in the country that are still in operation, and today it hosts an eclectic range of shows and productions. Owned and operated since 1996 by the nonprofit Stadium Theatre Foundation, the venue is in its 25th year of extensive renovations to both restore its historic architecture and update the technology to better suit modern performances.
For the audio component, the venue required an agile system that not only provided the dynamic range and coverage suitable for a wide variety of performances, but also looked discreet and didn’t impede on the venue’s historical aesthetics. To meet these requirements, the Stadium Theatre Foundation worked with Jeff Hansen of All Tech Sound to select and implement JBL Professional VTX Series speakers and Crown I-Tech Series amplifiers.
“The Stadium, being an old theater, had an old point source system that was adequate for what we did at the time,” said Dennis Tancrell, Technical Director, Stadium Theatre Foundation. “As we started booking bigger and better shows and national touring acts, we realized that it was time to bring in a permanent line array system. We worked with All Tech Sound in the past to bring in a JBL VerTec system, but that involved volunteers every Friday ground stacking massive cabinets that weighed 130 pounds over and over again. When the opportunity came to try out the A8s in our venue, Jeff coordinated with sales guys and got us a rig for a weekend. We needed to have the rig fit in the very tight space on each side of the proscenium. and the A8s worked perfectly for that.”
A versatile addition to the VTX Series designed for a variety of applications, the JBL VTX A8 line array offers exceptional output and coverage in a remarkably compact eight-inch design. Equipped with patented Differential Drive woofers, a mid-frequency Radiation Boundary Integrator and an advanced high-frequency compression driver, the A8 ensures high-quality and consistent sound dispersion up to 110 degrees. Given that the Stadium needed an easily concealable speaker that worked within the space limitations and also reached every audience section including the balcony, the A8 was a natural choice.
“They had been looking for something that would fit the atmosphere of the room for a while, and some of the other bigger boxes just wouldn't have worked,” said Jeff Hansen. “When the A8s came along, we brought a system in and it sounded phenomenal. We got beautiful coverage right to the back of the room when we calibrated and tuned the final installation. The spread is phenomenal, and it sounds great.”
“We have always had issues getting coverage up to our balcony,” added Tancrell. “We're a true stadium-style theater, which means no overhanging balcony. Getting coverage up into that balcony with the system that we had before was very difficult and almost non-existent. But then the A8s came in and before Jeff even started tuning them, they filled the entire place. I knew immediately that it was the rig of choice .”
Along with the VTX A8, Hansen and the installation team equipped the theater with JBL VTX B18 and B28 subwoofers for reinforced, distortion-free low end. Whether grounded or stacked, the B18 and B28 respectively feature single and dual 18-inch woofers designed to complement the rest of the VTX Series with optimal bass response down to 25 Hz. The speakers’ power combined with their lightweight and compact design allowed the theater to hang subs in the theater for the first time and reduce the overall amount of subs needed without sacrificing low end. Finally, JBL AC16 ultra compact loudspeakers deliver dedicated front fill coverage, while the JBL VTX M20 provides performers with high-fidelity stage monitors.
“The good thing about the VTX subs is that we were able to fly them where we weren’t able to in the past thanks to their size and weight,” explained Hansen. “Whenever we did ground stacks before, they would impede sight lines and get in the way and not look very nice, especially in the Vaudeville theater. So the advantage of being able to fly half of the subs and keep them out of the way was a great advantage, and we've actually built platforms off to the side so the ground subs can be out of the sight lines and still give you enough oomph when needed for the bigger acts. For the front fills, we wanted something that would blend in and be as unobtrusive as possible but still provide high quality sound, and the AC16s are nice and slim and have a good tone to them, so they fit perfectly.”
For amplification, Hansen and the team choose the Crown HD Series, having used the I-Tech 4x3500 in particular for many years. The two-channel Crown I-Tech 12000HD and four-channel I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifiers offer the power and processing capabilities needed for modern productions. Loaded with BSS OMNIDRIVEHD processing engines, linear phase FIR filters and LevelMAX limiters, both amps ensure low-latency signal processing and unrivaled sonic clarity for any type of performance the Stadium Theatre hosts.
Overall, the new audio system progresses the Stadium’s ongoing transformation and ensures its place as a prestigious, modern venue as well as a piece of American entertainment history. Tancrell praised the A8 in particular for making premium output and clarity attainable in a compact and budget-friendly design.
“We do a lot of top-notch tribute shows, and one night this band convinced me to use their big traveling rig,” explained Tancrell. “I fell in love with that system, but what I didn't fall in love with was the price tag. As a nonprofit, there was no way we could have ever afforded that, and it just wouldn't have fit in the space. But that same touring band came back this year and don't you know what they're traveling with now? They're traveling with the A8s, and it sounds just as good.”