d&b continues to enrich audio experience at Theater aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht

Theater aan het Vrijthof

07-05-2021 / Live /

Theater aan het Vrijthof is a magnificent building on a site whose history stretches back over 1000 years. Little remains today of the ducal palace, the nunnery or indeed the monastery that followed; what we see today was commissioned by a prosperous tobacco merchant in 1803 and built on the foundations of the monastery in the neo-classical style. Purchased in 1825 by the commander of the city's fortifications, Baron Dibbets, it became known as the General's House. In 1914 the building was sold to the Municipality of Maastricht, and became successively home to the city museum, the city archives, the municipal library and even a police station.

Plans were first laid for the opening of a music house on the site in 1981. Following extensive renovations, the Theater aan het Vrijthof was finally opened in 1992. Today the venue is one of the most important cultural venues in Maastricht and the surrounding area, and is home to the Philharmonie Zuidnederland orchestra, the Opera Zuid opera company, the Toneelgroep Maastricht national theatre company and the Sally Dance contemporary dance company. The first refurbishment of the main 900-seat Papyrus Hall auditorium followed in 2003, followed by another major renovation in 2017 for the theatre's 25th anniversary. The second phase of this renovation included innovative acoustics - part of which was the installation of a d&b V-Series line array system and a DS100 processor - improved technical infrastructure and new seating.

Renowned Dutch audio consultant, Cees Mulder of Kahle Acoustics, was heavily involved with the renovation, which was largely brought about due to the concerns expressed by the theatre's resident symphony orchestra, the Philhamonie Zuidnederland, about the acoustics in the Papyrus Hall. Mulder's subsequent studies confirmed that the acoustics were far from ideal for classical concert and theatre productions. Mulder proposed a wide-ranging audio and acoustic upgrade which included several architectural changes to improve room acoustics and a comprehensive d&b audio system. Mulder also proposed an MCR (multi-channel reverb) system to support the acoustic treatment, for which he specified a powerful d&b DS100 processor to act as a matrix as well as providing all the necessary DSP functionality.

The aim of the MCR system is to increase the reverberation time so that the audience has the impression of being a large, lush-sounding concert hall rather than a modestly-sized, rather dry-sounding theatre. Mulder had already made significant improvements, both for the audience and the orchestra, with physical acoustic treatments. The rest was handled electroacoustically via the DS100; essentially, microphones placed around the room are connected to each loudspeaker in the system - in this instance one microphone per speaker. The audio captured by each microphone is processed by the DS100 with delay and EQ, and then translated back to the corresponding loudspeaker for playout. The result is a richer sound with greatly increased reverb, creating the illusion of being in a much larger, loftier space.

As the new d&b distributor, Amptec became involved in 2019 during the course of the renovations, both to support the existing system and to further program the DS100. Amptec's Frank Geerts explains that the main requirement was to simplify the operation of the MCR system to allow the theatre's technical staff to get the most out of the equipment. “The staff loved the gear, but were finding it quite complex to use, especially if the system needed to be reconfigured for different types of production,” he says. “What they really needed was a number of presets specific to each scenario that could be recalled at the touch of a button. We recommended the d&b R90 remote control touch panel as the ideal solution.”

Amptec spent three days programming the DS100 via d&b's R1 remote control software with the scenarios requested by the theatre; namely flat floor for orchestral setups, grandstand with a sub-array for certain opera and musical productions, plus a third 'analog' setting which allows for manual PA configurations as required for simpler setups that don't necessarily require deployment of the MCR system.

Eric Meij, technical manager at Theater aan het Vrijthof, is thrilled with the results. “Thanks to the work of Cees Mulder, and now Amptec, we have a system that makes our Papyrus Hall sound as good as any major international concert hall for symphonic orchestral performances. It wasn't easy to configure when it was first installed, but the additional programming combined with the integration of the R90 means that operation is now child's play - to flip between scenarios, you literally just have to press a button on the R90, and that's it. All of the heavy lifting is done by the software. The combination of DS100, which provides a matrix of 64 inputs and 64 outputs, each with EQ, polarity and delay, with the incredibly user-friendly R90 interface is fantastic for us. It saves us a huge amount of time and delivers amazing results.”

Cees Mulder agrees: “DS100 is ideal in this situation - it provides the matrix we need for the audio routing as well as all the processing required to create the effects we required for this room. In fact, we can vary the acoustics depending on the scenario without the need for further reverb gear. The rest of the system can run on the same platform, making it truly multifunctional. For example, for productions based on the spoken word that don't need the reverb required by a symphony orchestra, you can simply use the speakers as a surround system. And of course, now that the R90 has been integrated, switching between scenarios couldn't be easier. Finally, the flexibility DS100 allows for further upgrades, making it a futureproof platform for audio processing.”

Partners in this project

Amptec connx
d&b audiotechnik

Theater aan het Vrijthof
Vrijthof 47
6211LE Maastricht