Torquay Hotel Turns It Up
Front of House Productions gives Torquay Hotel a pub rock audio install for the ages.
Pub rock never had it so good! Entertainment has long been a cornerstone of the Torquay Hotel offering. The band room isn’t huge but it’s been a beloved pitstop for many touring acts, with the likes of Boy & Bear, the Beddy Rays, Slowly Slowly, and Pete Murray on the 2022 roster.
That said, the hotel operators wanted more from the sound. Traditionally, it was bit of a coin toss — sometimes a band could sound fine, while on other occasions it could be a train wreck. There are a contributing few factors. The ceiling is low. The room is L-shaped. The stage is in a corner. And there’s a bulkhead halfway up the room that lowers the possible trim height of the PA.
Front of House Productions (FOHP) became part of a conversation with the owners and offered to put in a temporary PA to demonstrate how they might attack the problem.
The owners were delighted with the results and gave FOHP director, Ryan McCann, carte blanche to get the room sounding that good — ‘whatever it takes’.
FOHP is on the up. Founded by three seasoned industry veterans with diverse talents, the company is poised to continue to expand out of its AV events/touring bread and butter into audio installations.
“But only d&b installations,” insists director, Ryan McCann. “We only want to work with venues that are after a desired result rather than wanting to demo a dozen PAs. We know the results d&b loudspeaker systems can achieve, and those results set us apart from the competition. We’re not interested in using other brands.”
FOHP has brought on Jesse Mahoney to head up its audio team and is equally glowing in his praise of d&b: “d&b takes the guesswork out of the planning and visualisation work with ArrayCalc and the consistency of quality — everything is voiced the same and the predictability is huge.”
Even with ArrayCalc, the geometry of the room presented a challenge. A d&b Vi10P point source loudspeaker aside does much of the work (“the output you get from one 35kg point source box is outrageous”). A Y-Series Yi7P loudspeaker takes care of fill in and around the bar, while four E8 loudspeakers act as delay fill on the other side of the bulkhead.
Jesse had to borrow some tricks from his lighting colleagues to get the loudspeakers correctly positioned: “You can’t fly the speakers as high as you would normally prefer to because of the bulkhead. And you can’t hang much from the ceiling because there’s almost nothing between the ceiling and the venue’s roof. Working out how to hang the main PA, almost in a void, was a challenge.
“Borrowing some tricks from ‘lighting world’ we used two-inch pipe and scaff clamps and it is working great. In fact, I can’t imagine putting the main PA in a better place — I’m really happy with the result.”
Subs aren’t normally the star of the show, but these d&b subs are a bit special: “We’ve got the first KSL Subs in the country,” mentions Jesse Mahoney. “They’re hugely impressive. They sit in the same performance space as the J Sub but these are about two thirds of the size and only weigh 82kg.”
The low-profile KSL Sub is slim enough to fit under the Torquay Hotel stage. Three subs are used in total, which represents the maximum the stage design would accommodate given its unusual geometry.
The KSL Sub employs a cardioid design, each requiring two amplifier channels to get the cancellation required. This keeps the worst of the rumble away from the restaurant and accommodation behind the stage. But Jesse Mahoney reckons the biggest beneficiary of the cardioid design is the FOH mix engineer: “We’ve all stood on stages where the subs are activating the stage and the drums are resonating. The KSL Sub focusses the energy towards the audience and helps to keep the mix clean because the stage isn’t bouncing around.”
We know the results d&b loudspeaker systems can achieve, and those results set us apart from the competition. We’re not interested in using other brands
As mentioned, Jesse Mahoney gives a big wrap for d&b’s prediction and optimisation software, ArrayCalc. The online tool proved to be instrumental in successfully nutting out the audio design of the room: “With any system design, you want your overlaps between your loudspeaker coverage areas to be at the -6dB point. That wasn’t difficult to achieve in the HF with all of the top boxes — we had the budget to put in enough sources to cover the room properly.
“Where things got trickier was with the subs. Because the stage is in a corner, the audience wraps around it in a 90° fan. There was only enough room under the stage to fit three KSL Subs and evenly spacing them wasn’t an option because of the odd geometry of the stage. So I had to do some interesting things in ArrayCalc to work out the optimum spacing, and also the best way to do an electronic arc, taking the shape of the audience area into account. In my experience, I can’t imagine doing that in any other piece of software.”
Tuning and commissioning the install proved to be smooth sailing as well, according to Jesse: “Because of the versatility of the amplification system and the amount of control we have over time alignment and system optimisation, it was seamless. We were able to time align everything in about 15 minutes. Much faster than I would have expected, given the shape of the room. And it’s now brilliant at the front of house position. It’s gone from being the worst seat in the house to as good as any other seat in the house. Thanks to this d&b design, there are truly no bad seats.”
MONITORS & AMPS
Six d&b Max2 stage monitors handle foldback, along with a drum fill.
“The Max2 power-to-weight ratio is off the charts. You can carry two of them from the back room and they fill the stage. They’re formidable… maybe a bit too formidable for the size of the venue! We opted to go above and beyond with the stage monitoring. Most pubs would have four sends, while we’ve got six plus a drum fill. It might be rare to have all seven sends used but for that one night when a ska band arrives and everyone in the horn section wants their own send… we’ve got them covered!”
Five D20 multichannel amps power the system. All 28 channels are accounted for.
FOHP also supplied a Digico SD11 for front of house (“a popular choice… it seems like just about everyone has show files for it”) and lighting from Event Lighting.
Ryan McCann remains resolute that as his installation business develops, the kind of work he’s done for the Torquay Hotel is the level at which he wants FOHP to operate. You can see why. It’s a formidable and classy pub installation.
“The audio just melts away as a factor or an issue,” explains Ryan McCann. “It becomes invisible. That’s what you want. You’re not fighting the PA; you’re not fighting the room; you’re enjoying the show.”