01 June 2010
Just thirty-seven years ago one thousand seven hundred people turned up in all their finery at St George’s Terrace in central Perth for a midnight till dawn event. The opening ball for Perth Concert Hall (PCH), 26th January 1973 was by all accounts, a night to remember, if only anyone could.
Since opening it’s been totally re-roofed in 1988 and had the a/c plant completely renewed in 1998. A major upgrade of the concrete exterior in 2008 has recently rejuvenated the outward appearance. The PCH is the product of the unflatteringly titled ‘Brutalist’ movement of the 1970’s, the building, designed by architects Howlett and Bailey, is far more lovely to behold than that title suggests. Following the exterior treatment, a comparable investment has been made in the Concert Hall’s audio system. True to its origins, this too was a long time coming. “The house had no pre-existing audio when I came; gear has always been rented in,” explained PCH’s Technical Manager Brian Coghlan. “I’ve been here since May 2005; any pre-existing loudspeakers had gone by then. The normal procedure when I arrived was to contract out audio, but it always used to drive me mad because the delay area of the room is so critical. Whipping gear in and out did not make sense; you never got the same system twice; so I did push for an installed system from day one.”
Coghlan now has a d&b audiotechnik Q-Series loudspeaker system, but as is the way of these things, the path was convoluted. “Funding was first allocated in October 2006, but after we’d gone through tendering and the whole process, we ended up with the installation being made three years later.” Part of the delay was, Coghlan admitted, of his own making. “One thing I insisted on for the tendering process was that I got to hear all proposed systems in the hall. Shane Bailey from National Audio Systems (NAS) the d&b distributor for Australia and New Zealand brought along a d&b Q-Series system and it performed so well it became our benchmark. His demo was that good we wrote a specification around that level of quality. After the demo the General Manager came up to me and said he thought it shone.”
Coghlan was thorough in his task, “When I first secured the funding I went to Entech (The Australian entertainment technology show) to get a good look at the latest equipment. As with all manufacturers there, I talked to Shane and fellow NAS Director Peter Holland, and pointed out that I would have to have local West Coast support.” A not unreasonable request when you’re in a city two time zones across from its nearest substantial National neighbour. Bailey found Martin Gould, an experienced audio specialist based in Perth, who became so energised by what he saw of the d&b product potential he established a company specifically for this role, Audio Technik Pty Ltd. “He is doing really well,” said Coghlan. “The house system plan was always to be able to supplement what we have when a show demands it, and Martin has that rental gear in store. In fact as soon as Martin’s company was up and running, before we even had the installation made, we used him and the service and sound was very good.”
Gould’s company Audio Technik, did the majority of the installation work; Bailey brought in Ralf Zuleeg, Head of d&b’s Application Support department to provide the design expertise, determining a centre cluster the best solution to the hall’s lively acoustics. “For aesthetic reasons we had a cradle specially built for the centre cluster,” explained Coghlan. “It’s a relatively small hall holding an audience of one thousand seven hundred and twenty-nine to be precise, and when the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) is playing it looks better without it and so the cradle was well worth the investment; lower it in and wheel it off; takes no time at all. In place the system performs very well. The accuracy of the array really reduces the reverberation, and the delay system is very low profile. It’s a very lively room so it is important not to push too hard. Rear fill to choir stalls are Q7 loudspeakers, sides are Q7 and Q10, whilst the Q1 centre cluster has a Q10 hung beneath. In the stalls under the balcony, an area deeply shaded by the balcony’s depth and angle, we have six d&b E3 loudspeakers for delay. The far corners of the stalls have always been a real issue for coverage; the E3s are accurate, well matched, and fill that hole. Walk between the two different loudspeaker elements, Q or E, and you can’t tell which is which.”