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The Agora Theatre

Thomas S. Friedman • April 2019Installations • April 5, 2019

Cleveland’s Agora Theatre now sports a new Adamson Systems rig

The Pride of Cleveland Returns to its Glory

Cleveland’s historic Agora Theatre and Ballroom is one of the best-known beacons for live entertainment in the U.S. Midwest. Ask virtually any touring artist or technician who’s done a mid-level run across the country and they’ve likely spent time on its distinctive stage.

In July 2017, after years of discussions, concert giant AEG Presents acquired the operating rights for storied venue, making it one of over 60 that AEG currently owns or operates nationwide. A year later, the company unveiled the results of its sweeping $3 million overhaul which, in addition to restorative work to some of its stunning interior architecture, included a brand-new audio system from Adamson Systems Engineering for the 2,100-capacity Agora Theatre.

Designed by Farmington, MI-based Allen Audio Systems and sold and installed by Cleveland’s own Eighth Day Sound Systems, the Agora’s new system is built around Adamson’s sub-compact S-Series and was one of the first to incorporate the S10n narrow-dispersion array enclosure.

Rapper Tech N9ne was among the first artists to use the system

‡‡         Decisions, Decisions

“I’ve been working with Allen Audio for 15 years in a venue I manage in Detroit,” begins Justin Miller, VP of operations for AEG Presents — Great Lakes. “When I was asked to oversee the renovation project at the Agora, there was no question who I was going to lean on when it came time to choose the best audio system for the room. Allen Audio understands sound, and more importantly, they understand how sound behaves in an old, reconfigured theater.”

The Agora, as Miller points out, was originally a soft-seat performance venue, and its acoustic character was designed accordingly. “Choosing the right audio system after the room was reconfigured into a premier GA club venue was critical,” he asserts, “and choosing the right audio company to evaluate the space and make an informed suggestion was invaluable to that process.”

Allen Audio CEO and namesake Mark Allen says his mandate was to design a state-of-the-art system that could comfortably handle any artist that might perform in the theatre while being sensitive to sightlines and the room’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic.

“For the last few years, Adamson’s flagship E-Series has been getting rave reviews from touring engineers all over the world. One of our engineers, Jake Wargo, had been championing Adamson for some time and connected us with Eighth Day Sound based on that,” shares Allen. “We thought the S-Series would fit the bill perfectly, being a sub-compact box voiced the same as the large-format E-Series. After a visit with [director of installations] Tom George at Eighth Day and then a trip to the Adamson factory in Canada for a demo of the new S10n narrow-dispersion cabinet, we knew we had the right system for this venue.”

Sean Hammer, Agora production manager, was also convinced the project was on the right path. “After reviewing every major pro P.A. manufacturer, it was a no-brainer to go with the Adamson system and Allen Audio.”

On the choice of the S10n specifically, Allen explains that many mid-size array enclosures have too wide a dispersion for old theaters like the Agora, “so we were very happy when Adamson told us about what they were developing.”

Close up of the stage right hang

‡‡         The New System

The system in the Agora Theatre is comprised of main left/right arrays of eight S10ns over two S10s per side, supported by three stacks of two E219 subwoofers in front of the stage (left, center, right) and four iS7p point-source cabinets for front fills.

A complement of Lab.gruppen D120 and D200 amplifiers drives the system. “Everyone at Allen Audio is a big fan of Lake processing, so having the Adamson rig powered by Lab.gruppen amps with Lake already integrated was a huge selling point.”

At the outset of the project, Allen says his client spoke about how the previous system suffered from inconsistent coverage and SPL levels, particularly in the rear corners and under-balcony areas. That’s where Adamson’s Blueprint AV 3D predictive simulation software shined for both Allen Audio and Eighth Day. “Using Blueprint, it was easy to work out the number of boxes and their configuration to effectively handle this,” offers Bill Gleespen, Allen Audio’s chief of operations, who handled the Blueprint modeling work.

Six Adamson E219 subwoofers are arranged across the front of the stage

‡‡         Success Story

The installed system has gotten rave reviews. “This building has never sounded so good,” says Agora production manager Sean Hammer. “The system definitely sounds far bigger than it looks,” adds Agora lead audio engineer John T. Blasko. “The pairing of the Adamson line arrays, subs, and fills with Dolby Lake processing definitely helps us overcome some of the challenges of coverage in the older-style theatre. In the 20 years that I have been attending shows at the Cleveland Agora, this is far and away the best the room has sounded.”

Speaking to his collaborators with Eighth Day throughout the process, Allen says: “Tom George has been fantastic to work with through the entire process, from spec’ing the bits and pieces of the system right through to the final installation. The Eighth Day team was instrumental in making the install happen on such a short timeline.”

As for the manufacturer, he adds: “Adamson bent over backwards to get us delivery on a very tight timeline to make the grand re-opening of the Agora. We’re really pleased with how it all transpired.”

That sentiment is echoed by the teams at AEG Presents and the Agora specifically. “The Adamson rig has been aces for us. We get compliments from tours, patrons and industry professionals alike,” says Miller. “In my opinion, it’s the best audio rig we could have put into the room. I’m grateful to Mark and Allen Audio for suggesting Adamson, and grateful to Adamson for producing a top-shelf P.A. system that we’ll be relying on for years to come.”

 

Inside the Agora Theatre

Built: 1913

Capacity: 2,100 (theater); 500 (ballroom)

Main Speakers: (16) Adamson S10n (8/side); (4) Adamson S10 (2/side)

Subwoofers: (6) Adamson E219 in front of stage

Front Fills: (4) Adamson iS7p

Amplification: (2) amp racks, each with three Lab.gruppen D120 and one Lab.gruppen D200; Lake LM44 at FOH (Dante networked to amplifiers)

Audio Designer: Allen Audio Systems

Audio Integrator: Eighth Day Systems

 

For more about the Agora Theatre, visit www.agoracleveland.com

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