Opened by filmmaker Danny Boyle at the end of May, Manchester’s brand new £25m arts complex, HOME, is the largest of its kind outside London. Billed as the cultural jewel in the crown of the “Northern Powerhouse”, HOME is a merger of Manchester’s much-loved Cornerhouse cinemas and art gallery and the Library theatre. The building houses two performance venues – a 500-seat theatre and a 150-seat flexible studio space – as well as five cinema screens, gallery space for contemporary art exhibitions, a café bar and a restaurant. Leading technical systems integrators, Stage Electrics, were responsible for supplying full stage engineering, stage lighting and audio systems for the main theatre including a complete theatre sound system from British manufacturer, EM Acoustics.
For HOME’s Sound Supervisor, Paul Gregory, the choice of EM Acoustics for the main theatre was virtually a foregone conclusion. “I came across EM Acoustics five years ago at the Library theatre, and simply fell in love with transparency and crystalline audio quality of their products – I’ve been using them ever since,” he said. “I did go to demos from other manufacturers, but as far as I was concerned, nothing else came close, and in any case, I wanted EM Acoustics! It was also made easy for us by the fact that Stage Electrics are a main dealer for EM, so they were already well versed in supplying and supporting the product.”
Another major concern was, of course, budget. Stage Electrics’ Saul Eagles explained: “Our brief was simple – maximum intelligibility and consistent sound pressure level throughout the auditorium – an emphasis on quality in order to deliver the best possible listener experience. With EM Acoustics products we were able to deliver exceptional quality at achievable costs, and that’s what made the difference in this project between average-to-good theatre audio and outstanding theatre audio.”
“The theatre form which is steeply raked allowed for the most obvious and natural placement of the loudspeakers both acoustically and mechanically,” continued Eagles. “The loudspeaker coverage patterns as well as the physical loudspeaker designs all worked harmoniously with the building to create an excellent listening experience. The main areas of the auditorium were well served with a combination of multi-level proscenium-mounted EMS-121X enclosures. We opted for the powerful but compact 8-inch EMS-81X for the bridge-mounted upper circle delays and the rest of the under-balcony areas (rear stalls and dress circle) were serviced by a number of ultra-compact EMS-51s. A centre cluster of EMS-121X and floor-mounted EMS-115 subs completed the main system providing optimal L-C-R imaging. For the front stall fills, we provided removable EMS-51s with stage-mounted brackets so that they can be mounted on the forestage regardless of whether a thrust is present or not.”
The flexibility of the technical room design permits surround outlets on all levels to support complex theatre productions as well as large scale cinematic applications, hence all aspects of the system are re-patchable at the amplifier racks and an additional supply of EM Acoustics M-10 monitors allows for onstage foldback as required, fully deployable with connections available in a multitude of locations.
“Stage Electrics and Dave Kelland from EM Acoustics have done an absolutely wonderful job with the theatre sound,” concluded Paul Gregory. “I am very, very happy with the results. What’s more, I’ve had really excellent feedback from other sound professional and consultants who’ve had the opportunity to hear the system, which is both gratifying in itself, and a further testament (if any were needed) to the quality of the EM Acoustics products, and of course the service provided by Stage Electrics from initial advice through to installation.”