Amptec powers up the Turbine Hall with d&b at De Centrale in Ghent
De Centrale21-09-2021 / Live /
Housed in a former power plant, ‘De Centrale' is a multi-cultural performing arts centre in Ghent with a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The focus is largely on the creation and presentation of music that reflects the diversity of the urban population, offering a stage for artistic expression and cultural exchange.
De Centrale boasts a variety of multi-purpose spaces for performances, rehearsals, theatre and film productions, workshops, courses and meetings, as well as a bustling café, bar and restaurant. The main performance space is the Turbine Hall, a lofty 490m2 room with raw brick walls and painted steel girders that reflect its industrial heritage. After 20 years of faithful service, De Centrale decided that the time had come to retire the old PA system and inaugurate something more modern and efficient - and especially better equipped to deal with the Turbine Hall's challenging acoustics. City Sounds Rent, De Centrale's AV service company, recommended that they talk to Amptec, who designed a d&b point source solution supported by a variety of products from their own brands for networking, cabling, fiber, and acoustic treatment.
Stijn Opbrouck, technical manager at De Centrale, explains that over the years, the venue has expanded from its roots as a local arts centre into multi-cultural creative melting pot that draws patronage from across Flanders. Consequently, the AV infrastructure needed to be brought into line to reflect current standards. “The biggest challenge was to provide even coverage throughout the room at all times and for all configurations given the flexibility of our room layout,” describes Opbrouck. “We have a retractable grandstand and a completely removeable stage, and when we use the stage and the grandstand together, the stage is offset relative to the grandstand. Sometimes we don't use the stage at all and sometimes we have a completely flat floor configuration.”
Another crucial requirement was controlling the spread of sound to ensure that there was no spillage outside the building, as De Centrale is located in a busy part of Ghent with lots of close neighbours. “We needed to monitor and control sound levels very closely so as not to disturb the residents of the busy neighbourhood around De Centrale,” explains Amptec's sales manager in charge of the project, Dieter Claeys. “This is partly why we preferred a point source solution to a line array as we could ensure very tightly controlled dispersion in an acoustically challenging space. It also ensured even sound coverage whatever the room setup with a minimum of system reconfiguration required by the technical team between different scenarios.”
De Centrale offers an extremely varied programme ranging from pop/rock concerts to world music, cinema projections, and children's theatre. In addition to the coverage and noise containment issues, the requirement was for a sound system with sufficient power to handle the rock concerts, yet with a low visual impact in all setups. Amptec specified a point source system from d&b comprising a Yi10P on each side for the main L/R system, a central cluster of a Yi7P and a Yi10P, a centrally flown Vi-SUB for stageless performances and a cardioid sub-array of six V-GSUBs underneath the stage when the stage is in use. A d&b R90 touch screen remote control panel enables De Centrale's technical team to switch instantly between the most common scenarios, which are grandstand with stage which utilises the sub-array and the main L/R system, and flat floor with no stage which activates the main L/R system, the centre cluster and the flown Vi-SUB.
“By using several point source loudspeakers in combination with the R90, we can easily switch between scenarios by activating and deactivating certain elements as well as changing level and delay without having to make any mechanical adjustments,” explains Claeys. “It's all done by presets in the R90 which makes switching between different setups very straightforward. We've also integrated measuring software and our own intelligent limiting software so that the crew doesn't have to worry about maintaining acceptable noise levels - the engineer at the FoH desk can see at a glance exactly what's going on and adjust accordingly.”
He notes that tight dispersion control to attenuate the room acoustics was a highly appreciable characteristic of the system design. “The compact Yi7P and Yi10P cabinets from d&b offer excellent dispersion control yet are still powerful enough to handle loud rock music. The use of a cardioid sub-array also makes it easier to control the low frequencies and prevent them spreading into areas where you don't want them,” he says. “The result is better frequency response in all setups and considerably improved intelligibility, despite the challenging acoustics. Finally, the visual impact has been greatly reduced.”
Opbrouck and the rest of the team at De Centrale are thrilled with the results. “Having had a line array for so long, we assumed it would be replaced by another line array,” recalls Opbrouck. “We were very surprised - and slightly sceptical - when Amptec proposed a point source system. It's very compact compared to a line array, so the difference it makes to sightlines is impressive. In fact, it's hard to believe that such a physically small system can replace what we had previously, but it's actually a big step forward for us. Previously we fell short for volume in the low frequencies; now there is plenty of headroom. The system is flexible and easy to reconfigure and much less sensitive to feedback. The sound quality is great at all pressure levels and, even more importantly, the dispersion control is much better than any other solution we tested, which of course leads to better intelligibility. The cooperation with Amptec has been excellent at every level - they've provided us with a high quality solution and high quality service, so yes, we're very pleased.”