Intellasound and Electro-Voice bring regal sound to Madison's Majestic Theatre
As a thriving college town, Madison, Wisconsin is fertile ground for an active music scene that caters to high standards and eclectic tastes. As such, it's a fitting location for the Majestic Theatre, a 106-year-old venue whose stage has hosted everything from vaudeville theatre to silent movies to the magic of Harry Houdini. Following a stint as an adult theater, the Majestic closed in 2005 for a two-year renovation that maintained the theater's classic interior while upgrading the facility to 21st-century standards of live music production. Reborn in 2007 with a capacity of about 600, the Majestic now showcases local and national artists in a variety of genres while also serving as a venue for stand-up comedy, theme dance parties, movies, and the occasional burlesque show. After several years of leasing a PA, the theater recently upgraded to an Electro-Voice sound system installed by Madison's own Intellasound Productions.
"The Majestic presents all styles of music in this room," says Intellasound's Tim Woodworth. "So they need a system that will work with anything from one vocal and an acoustic guitar to a full rock or punk act. They also have weddings and other social events at the facility. The system design was based on the requirement that they be able to cover 99 percent of their local production needs as well as meet national touring riders."
The primary design challenge was to accommodate the unique layout of the Majestic's 50-foot-tall main room, which is 50 feet wide and measures about 65 feet from the proscenium to the back wall. "The theatre is built on a triangular lot," Woodworth explains, "and the room takes a 45-degree turn about halfway back from the stage. That results in an asymmetrical balcony that is oriented 45 degrees off-axis from the main floor, which raises some very challenging coverage issues. At the same time, the room is very reflective, with wood floors and walls of concrete and plaster. So there are a lot of areas in the room—the front of the balcony, the back wall, the angled stage left wall—that can cause the kinds of reflections that we needed to avoid."
Intellasound applied two main strategies to keep reflections to a minimum. One was to design the system in zones that allow coverage of the balcony to be easily turned off when that area, which is closed for smaller shows, has no people in it to absorb sound energy. The other was to choose a line array with tightly defined pattern control. "We chose the EV XLD291 dual eight-inch line array element," Woodworth says, "because its 90-degree pattern helps us avoid reflections on the walls."
Chosen with confidence
Intellasound's confidence in Electro-Voice line arrays is based on the company's extensive experience with both the X-Line and XLC line-array loudspeaker families. "We've had an extremely great relationship with EV over the years," Woodworth says. "We have X-Line and XLC in our rental inventory, and we love the sound and voicing of those boxes. We get so many compliments on our full-sized and mid-sized line arrays that when EV told us that the same voicing was carried over into the smaller XLD line we were excited to hear it, and we thought it would be the right choice for the Majestic."
Intellasound flew the XLDs in two hangs of 10 elements each. "The height of the top row in the balcony and the location of the front row combined with limited PA trim height created a challenging situation," Woodworth says. "The curve of the array had to be pretty extreme, with the top box aimed up 18 degrees and the bottom box aimed down 45 degrees. Due to the size versus the output of the boxes, the XLD should be considered whenever the length of the array is limited. The size of the cabinets makes it very easy to get a lot of them into a small space without compromising sound quality. They sound great."
Another contributor to the system's quality sound, Woodworth says, is a pair of Electro-Voice Dx46 sound system processors, one for left and one for right. "The Dx46 is a great example of how EV brings touring industry technology with big-dollar features down to a price point that will work with any budget," Woodworth says. "The Dx46's FIR-Drive loudspeaker optimization really helps the XLDs sound bigger than they are. And the Dx46 is the best investment in protection, because you get both Peak Anticipation and TEMP limiters, which protect the speaker components from both excursion and temperature in the coils. You just tell the Dx46 which EV speaker is being driven by what model of EV power amp for each of its outputs and it automatically knows the temperature limits within which your voice coils can safely operate."
In the Majestic's setup, the power amplifiers are eight Electro-Voice CP4000S. "The system is run in a four-way configuration for better control and headroom," Woodworth says. "We use two of the CP4000S for the subs, which are three Xsubs stacked on the floor on each side. The Xsubs do a great job with all types of music; they seem to throw well but also stay nice and tight in the near field. We've asked a lot of them in our rental systems, and they always come through for us."
The arrays, meanwhile, are configured as four five-element zones: top-left, top-right, bottom-left, and bottom-right. The eight-inch mid drivers in the two left array zones are powered by one CP4000S, with channel A for the top zone and B for the bottom. Another CP4000S is used for the mid drivers in the right array. The same pattern is applied on each side to the eight-inch hi-mid drivers and to the high-frequency drivers. When the balcony is not in use, the top zones on each side are silenced by turning off the A channels of the array's six amps.
In with the new
While the system involved dozens of different components, Intellasound had only a single day for installation. "The old leased system was loaded out one morning, and we were able to get in that afternoon," Woodworth recalls. "We then needed to install the entire system, tune it for the room, and be done in time for an event the next day."
Woodworth says the short turnaround would not have been possible without EV's technical support. "EV did a great job of job getting us the product early," he says, "so that we were able to prep the install racks, cabinets, and cabling in advance. And George Georgallis at EV was a tremendous help with configuring our IRIS-Net file for the Dx46s and with using EV's LAPS software to define exactly how the line array should be aimed. So when we were finally in the theatre we were able to utilize our time better and focus on system tuning."
With the system now up and running, the Majestic's management couldn’t be more pleased with the results. "The feedback that they have been getting has all been positive," Woodworth says. "And all of the theater staff has noticed the difference. For example, they have a church service there on Sunday mornings, and we were told by their FOH engineer that after the first service with the new system he had comments about the sound quality difference from a lot of people in his congregation. When even people without a trained ear can hear the difference, that tells you that there is a very noticeable improvement."
Photos: George Georgallis