Allen & Heath and Martin Audio Power Ashton Colleges Theatre

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Ashton College is an English-medium private school, situated in Ballito, Kwa-Zulu Natal. The school offers a unique concept within the context of the South African Educational System, covering both the Independent Examination Board (IEB) and the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).

In 2019, the School enlisted the services of MGM Music Solutions, a Durban-based audiovisual company with vast experience in the consultation, installation, training and product support phases of AV based projects. The brief was simple – create a hybrid room for both theatre and cinema in the newly constructed Ashby Theatre, positioned in the heart of the Ashton College campus.

Marcel Maddox, Owner and Managing Director of MGM Music Solutions, was involved from the word go, including the planning stages of the theatre itself. The installation phase was therefore much faster and simpler, saving the school ands its board potential escalating costs. During the planning phase, Marcel immediately leaned towards the use of an integrated Dante Digital Audio networking system throughout the venue. Dante allows all traditional copper cable connections between microphones, mixing consoles, processors, amplifiers and speakers to be replaced with a computer network. All connections are able to be managed by software, effortlessly sending hundreds of channels of audio and video over slender ethernet cables with perfect digital fidelity and reliability. Dante networking opens up tremendous opportunities for digital audio distribution and dynamic control.

In this particular case, the flagship Allen & Heath dLive system ticks all the boxes. Dante can easily be implemented into a dLive setup, and it is one of the few systems that can be configured as a 5.1 surround sound system – perfect for what the venue is trying to achieve. Marcel said that the decision to use dLive to drive the system was an extremely easy one to make. “Personally, I have a lot of experience with Allen & Heath mixing consoles. They’re all fantastic, but dLive is just the perfect candidate for this particular setup.” Marcel added, “dLive is so intuitive, with a simple scene change the system output configuration can change from a cinema 5.1, to a standard stereo Main LR for theatre use. Setting this up via one of the many soft keys on the C1500 makes it very simple for anybody to control.”

The dLive system consists of a CDM32, tucked away in a small room beneath the stage. A C1500 is controlling the system, positioned at FOH, with a Dante option card installed. A permanent CAT connection between the Dante option card in the C1500, and a network switch beneath the stage was established. This allows all speakers to be plugged into the switch in the rack alongside the CDM32 beneath the stage, and also allows the user to easily configure the Dante network from the FOH position. The beauty about having a C1500 at FOH, means that it’s small footprint allows it it to fit neatly into any small space. There is nothing else in the market which provides such a flexible, easy-to-use interface, coupled with such a transparent and natural sound.

When the decision needed to be made about which speakers would be installed within the venue, Martin Audio’s CDD- LIVE! was the obvious choice. CDD-LIVE! combines the ‘point-source’ benefits of coaxial designs with the consistent coverage of Differential Dispersion technology. CDD-LIVE! full-range systems project sound evenly front-to-back while exhibiting wide horizontal coverage close to the speaker leading to far bigger audio sweet spots than conventional point source. As a result, all corners of the audience receive a full, even sound. What also makes this range of speakers unique, is that they are Dante-enabled, which allowed for easy integration into the existing Dante network.

Within the Ashby theatre, 4 x 8” CDD-LIVE! speakers were installed onto the side walls, evenly spaced between the optimal listening positions within the theatre. A single 15” CDD-LIVE! was installed and positioned above the stage proscenium. It’s extremely wide 110° horizontal dispersion and max SPL of 132dB peak at 1 metre means that it’s perfectly suited as the centre channel. 3 x 18” SXP118 were flown across the proscenium, taking care of all low to mid frequencies within the system.

All connections share across the same Dante network, so signals can be sent between any devices no matter where they are located within the venue. This is all controlled via the Dante option card plugged into the Allen & Heath C1500 at FOH. This setup also allows for easy expansion in the future with other Dante devices such as I/O wall boxes.

As part of the extensive audio-visual setup, a Vivitek DW4650Z-WH Laser projector was also installed into the venue.

Martin Audio, Allen & Heath and Vivitek are distributed by Audiosure in South Africa.

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