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Sound In Motion

Sound In Motion

Rat Sound Designs A Permanently Portable System For Fox Theater Pomona

POMONA, CA—It wasn’t so long ago that theaters were the center of a city’s social universe, and every day of the week movies, live music, theater, and vaudeville kept the crowds coming through the door. The familiar tale of the megaplexes and malls draining the life from these once vibrant cultural centers is now being reversed in downtown areas around the country, where commercial and civic efforts are creating arts districts, protected areas of performance, exhibition, and commerce often centered around a restored multi-use theater.

The Fox Theater Pomona has been restored to its original Art Deco glory, and its Grand Hall was outfitted with an L-Acoustics KUDO system designed and installed by Rat Sound..

One such success story can be found in Pomona, CA, where the Fox Theater has stood through good times and bad since 1931. The once majestic venue reached its worst point of decline immediately before the city purchased it in 2002, launching a massive historic renovation of the Art Deco palace that was completed this spring.

Today the Fox is once again a vital and diverse arts venue in the revitalized Pomona Arts Colony. With a supporting cast of various event spaces and terraces, the Fox is primarily a live music venue, attracting top-tier touring acts.

In order to achieve the sonic impact characteristic of these musical forces of nature, the Fox sought a topgrade sound system. Subsequently, the renowned national touring and installation professionals at Rat Sound were recommended by the Fox’s events promoter Goldenvoice, based on their collaboration on the Coachella music festival and numerous concerts.

Upon an initial walkthrough of the space, Rat Sound chief Dave Rat was enthusiastic about the top-tier goals of theater management. “For a theater like this, you’re going to choose one of the top world-class systems to attract the highest quality artists,” he said.

Fortunately, Rat Sound has a few options when it comes to tour-ready systems in its systems. “We have a couple of unique advantages being a pro touring company,” Rat explained. “One is that we’re very familiar with what currently artists are demanding on the top level, and we also have a full inventory of that equipment in house, ready to go.” Furthermore, once an installation is complete, Rat Sound can easily augment a system with extra gear from its inventory when required.

Rat Sound’s approach to a project with flexible event spaces such as those at the Fox places an emphasis on portability. “Rather than hard racks that are built into walls, we try to do as much as we can to mirror a pro touring inventory,” Rat elaborated. “So the equipment wouldn’t be that much different than if they had hired us for a week’s worth of shows. That gives a level of familiarity to the touring artist that they’re very comfortable with.”

The foundation of the portableyet- permanent audio system at the Fox can be found in the Grand Hall auditorium, where Rat Sound specified an L-Acoustics KUDO line array, flown 11 per side with eight LAcoustics SB-28 subs and powered by L-Acoustics LA-8 amplifiers. This setup, and all others in the venue, can be easily removed and stored away when not in use.

The premium sound is attracting top-level touring acts such as The Flaming Lips

Even with the rigging limits dictated by historic preservation, Rat Sound was able to work with LAcoustics’ SoundVision software and the manufacturer’s team of engineers to design a system that is fully optimized to the room. “KUDO was clearly the way to go for this venue,” Rat said. “One of the aspects of KUDO that makes it very desirable is the ability to alter its dispersion by adjusting louvres inside of the box. In a restored theater like this, one of the limitations is they can’t put a lot of sound-absorbing baffles up, because it destroys the look of the venue and it’s outside of the historic guidelines. In order to deal with that, it’s crucial to have a sound system with a dispersion that keeps as much sound off the walls as possible, and can be tailored exactly to the room.”

KUDO gave Rat Sound the ability to widen the dispersion of the bottom boxes, and narrow the top boxes to cover the room and keep energy off the walls—“while using the same box all the way through, rather than going to several different types of enclosures that have nuanced differences,” Rat emphasized.

The LA-8 amplifiers also played a role in this fine-tuned tailoring to the room. “With the LA-8 amplifiers, the ease of design and implementation is amazing,” Rat noted. “Because you now have an amplifier that’s tailored to the box, and you run just two return lines, left and right.” The LA-8 handles all processing and monitoring for the system, and if an amp goes down, a replacement can be dropped into the system with no fuss.

With plenty of spare power from the LA-8s, Rat Sound was able to provide portable sound setups centered on L-Acoustics 8XT speakers and Soundcraft consoles that may be used in any of the six other sound reinforcement areas around the venue. The company also distributed audio and video to flat-screen displays and 70-volt audio systems for each of these spaces. An APB-Dyna- Sonics MixSwitch makes it possible for the theater to be readied for cinema, speaking events, or DJ gigs with minimal effort, switching effortlessly between two Digidesign Profile consoles or the portable Soundcraft boards.

The Fox also marks the first occasion for a permanent installation of Dave Rat’s personal innovation, the EAW MicroWedge monitor, 12 of which are available for use around the venue.

Transforming vision into reality for this permanent installation was not all that different from Rat’s dayto- day touring role. “Because I’m also a touring engineer, I have a high degree of exposure to L-Acoustics SoundVision, and what those drawings look like compared to realworld results,” he explained. “I do this on a daily basis, and as a pro touring company, we get exposed to hundreds and hundreds of these predictions versus results per year. So doing an install is fairly second nature to us.”

Rat Sound worked closely with Jeved Management on their Fox property’s rehabilitation, and the resulting sound system in the Grand Hall has been a real crowd pleaser. “We have been extremely pleased with the quality of sound we get in the house from all areas, pit, upper tiers, balcony, and skyboxes,” said Maria Tarozzi of Jeved Management. “Our theater has a capacity of 2,000, and no matter where you are, the sound is amazing. The artists who have performed at our theater have been very impressed with the entire sound setup and equipment.”

Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.