Once an opera house, the Boulder Theater now provides a home for concerts and performances. As the artists and acts performing there have changed dramatically over the past century, so did the theater’s audio system iterations, each bringing varying improvements in sound quality. Now, after a dozen years since its most recent upgrade, Boulder Theater has enhanced its fidelity, punch, and coverage with the installation of an L-Acoustics K3 loudspeaker system designed and deployed by Clearwing Systems Integration.
When the Curran Opera House first opened its doors in 1906, it was a beacon of culture for downtown Boulder, CO, presenting operas, musicals, and the latest “modern” spectacle of silent movies. When the boom of films with spoken dialog arrived in the 1930s, the 850-capacity venue was given both an Art Deco makeover and a new name: Boulder Theater.
Locally based Z2 Entertainment is Colorado’s largest independent live music promotion and entertainment company, formed in 2010 with the merger of two of the city’s iconic venues, Fox Theatre and Boulder Theater. As the sole owner and operator of Boulder Theater, Z2 handles all the booking for the venue, which hosts nearly 200 productions a year. When the theater’s aging sound system began to reveal its shortcomings, Z2 vice president of production Edward Link III said he already had one loudspeaker brand in mind as a prime contender for the project.
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“Prior to joining Z2, I operated a sound company that deployed numerous different PA systems for events and shows, and of all of those, my favorites were the L-Acoustics dV-DOSC and K1,” said Link. “Their warmth and depth are what first struck me years ago. Listening to them, compared to other brands, was similar to the experience of hearing a compact disc versus a vinyl record. I also toured as a front-of-house engineer and preferred to mix on L-Acoustics rigs whenever possible; when my clients headlined at Red Rocks, I would always spec L-Acoustics. So, when the time came to update Boulder Theater’s sound, for me, it was an easy choice.”
Clearwing ultimately specified a compact yet powerful L-Acoustics K3 system for the venue. “We did a ‘shoot-out’ in the room and the difference was clear,” said Matt Phillips, system design and sales, Clearwing Systems Integration. “In the end, the customer really appreciated the SPL, size, weight, and flexibility of K3, as well as the ability to use Panflex to perfectly cover the unique oval shape of the room. It quickly emerged as the winner.”
Installed earlier this year by Clearwing’s Denver team, the new system features eight K3 flown per side as the main arrays, with four KS28 subs ground-stacked below each hang. Five coaxial X8 enclosures spread out across the stage serve as front-fills, and the entire system is driven by three new LA7.16i and two LA12X amplified controllers, all managed by a single P1 processor.
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P1 was essential to the new design, said Phillips, providing loudspeaker system control and tuning from FOH. “In addition to acting as the DSP for the system, P1 also functions as an input switcher between consoles,” he explained. “The house console is an Avid S6L 24D, which communicates to the P1 via MILAN AVB. With AVB signal routing, the venue’s engineers are able to send mixes practically anywhere—live streams, distributed audio, recording, and so on. The AES and analog inputs are available for guest consoles with the mic inputs acting as house music inputs while switching between bands. From the P1, signal travels backstage over AVB to the amplifiers and then out to the system. The fact that the audio is going from the console all the way to the amplifiers over AVB at 96k will keep this system relevant for years to come.”
A performance by Al Di Meola on February 3 officially christened the venue’s new sound system, and both the show and rig received ample praise. “The system performed remarkably in terms of sound quality and coverage,” Phillips recalled. “The clarity and musicality between the previous PA and the new one is obvious even to the uneducated ear. The show was mostly acoustic guitar and percussion, and the subs were barely even tapped yet, but there was still enough LF to fill the room noticeably. Everyone at the venue was extremely pleased.”
“K3 covers the space perfectly and provides a beautiful true stereo image for the whole room," Link concluded. "I can hear the pick drag against a guitar string from any seat in the house, and a vocalist’s breath and subtle nuances of their voice are all present. EDM and ‘bass science’ music sounds amazing with all frequencies working together in harmony, and the system’s generous headroom allows for more mixes and artistic choices by engineers. In my opinion, the range of the K3, the power of the KS28, and the articulation of the X8 combined are the perfect match for Boulder Theater. Given the space and weight restrictions that we had to work within, there isn’t a better option out there to service our space.”