Refreshed Audio at The Roundhouse, UNSW — AV.technology
The Roundhouse is a conference, gig and hireable venue in the University of New South Wales. Since its opening in 1961, bands like the Foo Fighters, Green Day, 21 Pilots and Fear Factory have graced The Roundhouse stage. The iconic space has a 2200-person capacity and holds everything from major dance parties, comedy, theatre, conferences, private parties and sold out gigs.
The Roundhouse is managed by ARC — an organisation comprised entirely of UNSW students and alumni. With the speed of evolution in sound reinforcement technology, The Roundhouse’s audio system was tiring quickly. In 2016, ARC initiated an 18-month project to give The Roundhouse the thorough refurbishment it long deserved.
Shelley Valentine, Director of Student Services at ARC, acted as Project Lead for The Roundhouse refurbishment. “The Roundhouse hadn’t received a significant audio upgrade since 1961,” says Shelley. “For anything that was international we had to get a higher end system that could cope for international or top Australian acts.”
As part of a larger refurbishment, ARC decided to replace the outdated PA with a new system that would effortlessly handle anything asked of it — from a corporate seminar to an international punk band.
When drawing up the system design, it goes without saying that the trickiest challenge to negotiate was the fact that The Roundhouse is… round. Completely negating the acoustic effects of a circular room is virtually impossible, so the system design process was a delicate balancing act between too much coverage (which would mean copious reflections) and too little coverage (which would mean quiet spots around the room). As always, d&b ArrayCalc software was the indispensable tool that allowed NAS to ensure the loudspeaker design wasn’t tossing sound where it didn’t need to be while meeting the SPL requirements for the main ground floor and balcony area.
Besides the circular shape conundrum, ARC was adamant that the new PA system be completely capable of handling the needs of every artist on the Roundhouse roster. The previous PA system’s inability to deliver sufficient SPL and coverage for big acts meant extra speakers were commonly hauled in to add SPL for big shows. The new permanent-install system had to be both powerful and flexible.
After an intensive shootout period that pit five big-name PAs against each other, d&b audiotechnik’s V-Series system emerged the winner. Chris Braun from the NAS Projects Team worked with the installers (The P.A. People) to design and configure the best possible rig that would exceed ARC’s expectations within the available budget.
Front-of-house is handled by two array hangs, each comprised of six V8 boxes above two V12 boxes. Six dual 18-inch d&b B22 subwoofers (three per side) are stacked across the length of the stage for earth-shattering bass. Filling in the gaps two pairs of d&b V7P point source loudspeakers as outfills to spread sound towards the balcony and underneath it. Underneath, four d&b E8 loudspeakers line the lip of the stage as front fills so the moshing punters don’t miss their share of SPL.
On-stage monitoring had to be revamped too. This was taken care of with 10 new d&b M4 stage monitors, each with a 15-inch LF driver and 1.3-inch HF horn-loaded coaxial driver to provide powerful, directional sound to musicians and singers on stage. The drum fill is a single d&b B6 subwoofer. All monitors can be bumped on or off stage as necessary, depending on the requirements of each show. Seven d&b 30D amplifiers power the entire rig.
After living just a few weeks in the Roundhouse, the new d&b system has certainly made an impression on ARC members, customers and showgoers alike.
“We’ve had some bands through already,” says Shelley. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It sounds amazing and the bands have loved it. It’s a really clear sound and it’s got a wider listening area — not just at the front and a bit to the sides, but almost a 180° coverage.”
An ARC representative summed it up during a speech at The Roundhouse’s grand opening: “When the sound system was turned on for the first time, there were tears of joy.”