The Békéscsaba Jókai Theatre in the Budapest suburbs has spent over two years developing a sound reinforcement system.
Hungary - The Békéscsaba Jókai Theatre, 130 years old and located in the Budapest suburbs has spent over two years developing a sound reinforcement system that meets the expectation - both in sight and sound - of a modern audience whilst preserving the traditional features of the building. Perhaps not the first place you would expect to find such a ground breaking project - so much so the theatre invited representatives from Roland Europe and Japan to visit the theatre to see - and hear - for themselves.

The idea to address the issue came from the statistical evidence that when people sit in front of a movie screen they absorb 40% of the different sound effects whilst in a theatre this figure drops below 10%.The Békéscsaba Jókai Theatre has developed a system that crosses over between cinema and theatre sound in the form of a 8.1 channel surround sound system. The sound comes from eight different locations in the theatre with the addition of a subwoofer for sound that is not detected by the human ear but adds to the overall audio experience.

The result is a richer, more immersive experience for the audience- and of course there are no bad seats in the house! Working with experts from ES Audio, the theatre has been at the forefront of trials for this new technical development. Such has been the success of the system, the theatre is now negotiating with several developers and is being hailed as a great showcase for Hungarian innovation.

Imre Kohári, head of sound and lighting at the theatre explained: "The voice comes from eight different locations and the system is unique in that you are getting a true surround sound experience." The system made its debut at the production of King Lear with critical acclaim.

The Roland M-480 48 channel live digital mixing console was chosen as an integral part of the system at the theatre due to its flexibility, superior sound quality and value for money. The processing power of the M-480 combined with a newly developed mixing engine provides a four-band fully parametric EQ, gate, compressor, and delay on each input channel with 214 possible patch points with 90 discreet outputs.

For applications such as the theatre where audio time alignment settings are critical, the M-480 is equipped with delays on all mixing channels and outputs buses. High quality and precise sound adjustments can be accomplished by using the built-in real time analyzer. The M-480 also offers an impressive 24 DCA groups increasing mixing effectiveness in larger and more complex applications. The 24 DCAs can all be easily edited and controlled through a new, easy to use DCA management interface.

Director of the theatre, Peter Fekete commented: "In a world of multimedia and multiplex cinemas the public are entitled to expect that modern technology is also displayed in the field of theatrical arts. People are used to 'feeling the sound' when they go to the cinema and many have surround sound systems in their own homes. Our task is to introduce these technical enhancements to the theatre without destroying the direct impact that theatre delivers."

Peter Heath, head of Roland Systems Group Europe, visited the theatre with colleagues from Roland company headquarters in Japan and Roland Central Europe. Commenting on the experience, Heath said: "It felt very inspiring to see the great work that the theatre staff are undertaking to make the audience experience more enjoyable."

Manager of Roland East Europe, Janos Kozma added: "The M-480 is a popular console for theatre and we feel proud that is has played its part in such an interesting project and putting Hungary 'on the map' for innovation in sound design."

(Jim Evans)

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