Here's How a d&b Sound System Amps Up GALA Hispanic Theater

Dancers on stage at the GALA Hispanic Theater get down to crystal-clear audio from d&b audiotechnik solutions.
(Image credit: d&b audiotechnik)

GALA (Grupo de Artistas Latino Americanos) Hispanic Theatre is the National Center for Latino Performing Arts in the nation's capital in Washington, DC. Since 1976, GALA has been promoting and sharing the Latino arts and cultures with a diverse audience, creating work that speaks to communities today, and preserving the rich Hispanic heritage for generations that follow. The theater is now equipped with a d&b audiotechnik A-Series (opens in new tab) sound system to provide high-quality audio well into the future.  

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and recently the hit production, On Your Feet: La historia de Emilio y Gloria Estefan en español, prompted the theater to upgrade to the A-Series system in consideration that the music and sound is a principal character of this musical. The show was attended by the Estefan’s on opening night.

Set on top of the former Tivoli Theatre's balcony the house design utilizes the original balcony's stepped concrete for its seating. Added “shoulders” give the house a more intimate scale, and the dome of the theatre is preserved at the stipulation of the historical society. There are 241 orchestra seats, 20 cabaret balcony seats, and four wheelchair accessible spaces.

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Dancers on stage at the GALA Hispanic Theater get down to crystal-clear audio from d&b audiotechnik solutions.

(Image credit: d&b audiotechnik)

FC-Production of Washington, DC, recently upgraded the theater’s sound system to d&b audiotechnik A-Series augmented array along with the new compact 44S loudspeakers and V-SUBs. “The stage is now where the open space for the orchestra used to be, and it created a lot of acoustic challenges,” said Joseph Foley, operations manager for FC-Productions. “When the space (originally a 1920’s movie house) was redeveloped previously, the developer ran I-beams from the front of the balcony to the proscenium of the old theatre, then they built a stage roughly 30-feet above the old orchestra seating. This new location placed the center of the stage directly under the preserved dome. The dome, which was theoretically designed to augment acoustics to the original audience locations, was now creating direct reflections and flanging effects onto the stage. These acoustic anomalies make it difficult for performers near the center of the stage and reflect certain sounds from the stage to the audience in an unbalanced way.” 

This audio upgrade was focused on balancing the acoustics of the house, while also upgrading the venue’s speaker coverage, increase the SPL potential, all while reducing the house system’s effect on stage.

Foley said their first challenge was to reduce as much of that reflection as possible. “This was first accomplished by strategically placing engineered acoustic panels between the trussing of the stage and the dome. Since the artistic administration at the venue likes to light the dome, there was a bit of a balancing act on how to place the tiles, but their final placements dramatically improved the stage-to-dome-to-stage reflections.”

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Foley said the second challenge was to design a PA that offered even coverage for patrons, limited on-stage spill, and reduced the amount of low-end energy exiting the rear of the cabinets into the dome. “The d&b ALi cabinets offered a great solution for our second challenge. Their flexible orientation and low profile allowed for the best coverage possible in the space. Additionally, the larger drivers allow for a great low-end extension. This gives the sound system a more even transition from the AL to the V-SUBs. The 44s fill speakers were selected for their compact size and mounting options. They were easy to integrate into the small front fill positions, where most other cabinets with their capabilities would have been too large.”

The A-Series combines the best elements of existing d&b system technology to create an entirely new loudspeaker concept. Bending the rules of what a sound system can do, while maintaining the familiar d&b focus on directivity and system unity.

Three clusters of A-Series cabinets are deployed. For the left and right systems, FC-Production decided on matched two Ali90 loudspeakers flown in horizontal clusters. At the center, three AL60 boxes were flown vertically. Four 44s speakers are built into the lip of the stage as front fills using the back-box flush mount accessory, taking advantage of the adjustable aiming angle to focus their pattern into the front rows of the orchestra. These are amplified in an inner/outer configuration, with two boxes for the center orchestra and one box on each outer section. For the delay system, two 44s speakers are hung vertically from delay positions on each side of the venue for balcony coverage.  Each cabinet of the delay system is amplified separately to allow for delay and EQ control. 

“We chose two V-SUBs deployed solo on either side of the proscenium to assist with sub frequency coverage,” noted Foley. “The V-SUBs were chosen specifically to reduce the low frequency reproduction on stage which was accomplished by placement and their inherent cardioid pattern. The amplification package is three 30D amplifiers that drives the system delay and room EQ correction.”

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Foley added that “the theater staff was absolutely thrilled with the audio quality gained by these changes. Between the acoustic treatment we deployed to break up the multipath reflections from the dome and the substantial quality difference of the new d&b sound system, the result was a massive improvement for the GALA Hispanic Theatre. The inaugural show, a Spanish version of On Your Feet, the story of Gloria and Emilio Estephan, was a major catalyst for this system overhaul. We were involved early in the artistic process to hear about the past experiences that the director and several of the performers had with the space. Since we have worked for past productions of the show, we were aware what was needed. We wanted to make sure the house system design could handle the loud Latin percussion elements and prominent vocal score, while disappearing into the background for the intimate and emotional portions of the show.”

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