If the Halo Fits - Autograph at Dorking Halls
Autograph Sales & Installations have recently supplied and commissioned an EM Acoustics HALO system into the main performance space at Dorking Halls in Surrey.
The handsome inter-war facade of the Halls (opened in 1931 and extensively refurbished in 1997) conceals a vibrant, contemporary entertainment and conference complex in which three separate spaces variously host live music, cinema, corporate events and theatrical productions throughout the year. Comedy is also particularly well-represented with the regular ‘Screaming Blue Murder Comedy Club’ on Fridays, plus acts such as Omid Djalili, Ruby Wax, Sean Lock, Lee Nelson, Ross Noble and Rob Brydon appearing in their own shows.
The main hall has a capacity of 791 seated, rising to over 1000 when part-standing and it is in this space that Autograph recently specified and commissioned a new EM Acoustics HALO system. Comprising 22 HALO-C compact line-array elements plus a single MSE-218 subwoofer per side and four EMS-61 modules, the entire system is powered and processed by just two EM Acoustics DQ20s and one DQ6 advanced system amplifiers.
The new design was required to overcome a number of hurdles common to many similar venues - Autograph’s sales engineer Peppe Mallozzi takes up the story:
“One of the first considerations was locating the new system - part of the reason for replacing the old (ground-stacked) setup was to improve sight lines, and to achieve this the new PA had to be flown. However, for structural reasons, the fixed flying points are only rated at 500Kg each so we had to balance acoustic requirements against all-up weight. This factor alone meant that no self-powered system could work but it also pointed us straight at the HALO, which we knew from previous projects to be very light at only 17Kg per module. Our final design uses 11 HALO-C compact line array elements per side and even including the rigging and cables the total load is only 270Kg per hang, while easily meeting all the performance specifications.”
“Each side of the PA is powered and processed by a single 4-channel EM Acoustics DQ20 advanced system amplifier, with the HALO-C arrays split into three zones of four, four and three modules top to bottom, with the fourth channel powering the MSE-218 subwoofer. The internal processing of the DQ20 allowed us to EQ and power the HALO-C zones relative to each other so that the coverage and SPL from the front row right to the very back is perfectly even. The only additional coverage is for the area right in front of the stage where we specified four EMS-61 compact enclosures as near-fills, driven by a DQ6 amplifier.”
“When tuning the system I was amazed how little needed doing in terms of EQ to make it sound completely natural. There’s a bump at 5kHz to brighten it a little, necessitated by the natural acoustics of the room and its fittings, then a small dip between 200 Hz and 400Hz to reduce the proximity effect from the side walls - other than that it’s dead flat. There’s plenty of power when needed and the vocal intelligibility for stand-up and similar applications is just outstanding.”
Peppe concludes, “Autograph do many projects in locations like this, where we have to strike a balance between what’s necessary, what’s in the budget and what’s physically possible - the HALO system really helps us to do just that with a combination of low weight, space-efficient power and processing plus superb audio quality in a very cost-effective package.”
EM Acoustics’ Ed Kinsella, who specified the system, is very pleased with the results achieved by Peppe and his team. “The requirement was for a flexible system able to handle anything from one man and a microphone to really quite heavily reinforced live music. We know from experience in countless other venues that this is an ideal scenario for HALO-C.”
“The only real issue we had to contend with is that the hanging positions are quite wide and fairly close to the wall, but again, we know that this is something that HALO-C is very good at coping with. Indeed, we managed to achieve flawless coverage throughout the entire room with no delays at all, just a few EMS-61 for front fill, and that was it. It’s classic L-R system in a lovely room that presented few technical difficulties, and it sounds terrific.”
Michael Knight, Technical & Facilities Manager at Dorking Halls, commented, “As always, Peppe and Autograph as a whole have been very patient and a pleasure to deal with throughout this project. From initial conception to final deployment they’ve been supportive and understanding of all the council procedures and policies and have provided a personal, human touch in every aspect of the process. The first moment that we fired the PA up with Peppe and Adam, and the smiles on their faces, showed how much they cared about the project’s success.”
Dorking is quite close to EM Acoustics’ HQ in Cranleigh and Michael is keen to recognise their contribution to the project: “You couldn’t hope for a better service (or product!) than that provided by Ed and Mike (Kinsella and Wheeler respectively). From the initial demo to final tuning they’ve been happy to offer advice and support, all the while being honest and upfront about their own products compared to the competition. There were no attempts to blind us with science or to reinvent the wheel; just honest explanations based on solid loudspeaker theory. All in all, a bit of a rarity these days!”