Perelman Performing Arts Center Opens at World Trade Center Site with d&b Soundscape Systems

February 14, 2024

The new Perelman Performing Arts Center on New York’s World Trade Center site opened last fall with three flexible performance venues: the 450-seat John E. Zuccotti Theater, the 250-seat Mike Nichols Theater, and the 99-seat Doris Duke Theater. But since these three spaces can morph into 60 stage-audience arrangements with capacities ranging from 90 to 950 seats, the venue teamed up with Charcoalblue, Sound Associates, and Masque Sound to come up with sound systems as flexible as the space. The solution comes in the form of d&b audiotechnik systems leveraging d&b Soundscape for flexible and precise sound reinforcement.

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world trade center performing arts

Michael Bloomberg’s plan to develop a cultural center at the new World Trade Center first began 20 years ago, when he was still mayor. This goal included a performing arts center as the cultural keystone in the master plan to rebuild the World Trade Center site following 9/11. The Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) is that keystone and the final public element of the World Trade Center site. PAC NYC held its first public performance in September 2023, and is during its ambitious inaugural season.

Named for businessman, philanthropist, and benefactor Ronald O. Perelman, the Perelman Performing Arts Center is a 138-foot-tall, cube-shaped building with radically flexible capabilities designed by the architecture firm REX, led by founding principal Joshua Ramus. REX’s design, developed in collaboration with executive architect Davis Brody Bond, theater consultants Charcoalblue, and acousticians Threshold Acoustics, is conceived for an artistic program that will offer vast and varied events to serve New York’s extraordinarily diverse arts community. The building is wrapped in nearly 5,000 half-inch thick marble tiles laminated into insulated glass units. The marble has been book matched to create a biaxially symmetric pattern that is identical on all four sides of the building. The marble facade allows light to radiate in during the day and glow out during the evening.

Three principal venues – the John E. Zuccotti Theater (seating up to 450 people and known during the design phase as theater A), the Mike Nichols Theater (seating up to 250, theater B), and the Doris Duke Theater (seating up to 99, theater C) can be used independently or by combining them. In all, the auditorium can transform into 10 different proportions that collectively adopt more than 60 stage-audience arrangements with capacities ranging from 90 to 950 seats, and with audience circulation and lobby areas varying to match. The inaugural year will feature commissions, world premieres, co-productions, and collaborative work across theater, dance, music, opera, film, and more.

“Charcoalblue was hired in 2013 as the theatre consultants for the Perelman,” states Senior Consultant Josh Loar. “I joined CB in 2021 and took over as lead AV consultant and designer for the Perelman to see it through opening. This involved both working with existing infrastructure plans that had been in motion and approved long before I joined, and accommodating the evolving creative ambitions of the organization as it staffed its artistic and executive leadership team. I have always held d&b products in very high esteem – to my ears they are one of the two topmost manufacturers of loudspeakers and processing for live audio in the world, and their speakers have a deserved reputation for musicality and clarity.”

Loar said the Perelman developed a programming brief that was uniquely ambitious, looking to serve both a wide range of musical events (everything from chamber ensembles to fully amplified contemporary music), theatre (straight plays and musicals), dance, opera, spoken word, and film. “In extensive conversations with the client, we developed a plan that focused on delivering a “kit of parts” system, which is to say a collection of equipment that can be repurposed in dozens of different configurations to suit different production needs. As such, we wanted to make sure that the Perelman had enough tools in its arsenal, and that those tools minimized model types so that boxes not in use by one production could serve as spares for other productions. Additionally, because the Perelman is nearly endlessly reconfigurable, and they permitted approximately 64 different initial configurations, they needed speakers to accommodate traditional end-stage, in-the-round, and a host of other shapes.”

“Our approach was centered on two basic ideas,” says Loar. “First, we were to provide a stock set of configurations that act as a baseline for the venue – these are configurations that allow rental events or short-run events to select one of Perelman’s already-tuned configurations and run with it. The understanding here is not that these would always be the designs for any given configuration, but that these were baselines for times when a sound designer was not part of a touring company’s coterie of staff, or for when they are presenting musical events that don’t typically have a theatrical-style sound designer. And second, we wanted to incorporate Soundscape capabilities for full sound design flexibility in the venues.”

A spokesperson for d&b Americas said, “When Charcoalblue reached out to D&B Audiotechnik about the Perelman project and described the demanding requirements; flexibility, and quick turnaround while expecting the highest quality and ability to deliver to meet the highest expectations from creative artists, we knew we wanted to be a part of the project. d&b’s Soundscape was designed for incredibly quick deployment (touring) in a new space every couple of days, without the complex tuning and setup that some of the immersive solutions require, so we felt like it would be at perfect fit. The Perelman having a near infinite number of possible configurations, ease of deployment was a must, and that is where Soundscape really shines.”

In developing iterations of the designs with the Perelman artistic team (who included a review panel of professional designers brought in to evaluate Charcoalblue’s work), they focused Soundscape capabilities on the B and C venues, with the idea of creating a “sound designer’s playground” where anyone could fully actuate sound in three dimensions via the powerful object-based panning system. The license is flexible, and can be used in theater A, but the idea of theater A was that it would (mostly) be a slightly more standard mixing environment, run in variations of stereo, LCR, or mono in default modes, or in totally custom modes for theatrical use.

d&b Soundscape enables further connection between the stage and the audience, creating a more intimate experience. While Soundscape systems typically require more loudspeaker positions than a traditional PA setup, the loudspeakers can often be smaller cabinets at each position, improving sightlines or even tucked away out of sight. Since both level and delay processing are independently utilized per loudspeaker position in real time, multiple loudspeakers are producing sound simultaneously to create accurate localization no matter where a listener is seated.

d&b En-Scene is the Soundscape software module for object-based signal management. This extends the basic matrix function of the DS100 Signal Engine with an object-based positioning tool for every input. In addition to the possibility of independent positioning and moving up to 64 sound objects, an algorithm-based control of up to 64 loudspeakers is provided, based on the loudspeaker positions and their assignment to function groups.

d&b En-Space is the Soundscape software module to enhance or build an acoustic environment, either indoor or outdoor, based on convolution of many impulse responses captured in acoustically renowned performance spaces ranging from chamber recital to large concert halls.

So, over the course of several revisions, Charcoalblue landed on a point-source system driven by Y10P, Y-SUB, 8S, and 44S loudspeakers mounted in a wide range of configurations. Further, they specified V-Series arrays and point sources paired with V-SUBs for end-stage and other array configurations. “We also designed some expanded systems, where the Perelman elected not to purchase all recommended units, but to hold the designs as reference for rentals when needed,” adds Loar. “This includes SL-Series boxes (they bought SL-SUBs, but left SL tops for rental when needed), additional 44S boxes, and E-Series boxes. We also designed the lobby sound system, centered on E-Series (E8, E6, E12X-SUB), and a small kit of M4 and M6 stage monitors.”

Loar led the CB team in designing PA configurations, with robust support from colleague Ben Truppin-Brown, who developed and refined individual PA configurations, and colleague Alex Dietz-Kest, who supported the team in a range of situations with quality assurance, testing, and documentation. “Our work was enormously aided by the support of Drew Levy, Michael Eisenberg, and Steve Seable from d&b, Micah Zucker on the Perelman team, and Phillip Peglow and his team at Sound Associates, (who held the contract for PA equipment) and Masque Sound who executed the building-wide infrastructure installation,” notes Loar.

“It is very exciting to have a full d&b system with V line arrays and extensive Y point sources while also having dedicated DS100’s and being able to utilize all that Soundscape has to offer,” says Micah Zucker, Lead Audio PAC NYC.  “During our opening season, we have switched configurations regularly and the flexibility Soundscape provides gives us the ability to pivot from one configuration to the next. Sometimes when we move between shows the PA configurations remain, but we change designers. When one designer wanted vocal delay matrixing, and the next designer wanted an LR and Sub system, having d&b products including Soundscape and the rest of their line has made the job of changing configurations quickly much easier and smoother. This also allows us to recall the settings the next time we return to a configuration.”

The three separate venues needed to have a sound system as flexible as the space. According to Loar, “d&b provides an excellent backbone to ensure beautiful, lucid sound reproduction in any configuration.”

For more information on The Perelman Performing Arts Center, visit

For more information on Charcoalblue, visit

For more information on Sound Associates, visit

For more information on Masque Sound, visit