Ramova Theatre's Resurrection Helps Bring Chicago's South Side Back to Life with L-Acoustics
January 24, 2024
Chicago's South Side is on its way back and the Ramova Theatre, a 95-year-old community landmark, is part of that structural and spiritual renewal. Located just a few blocks west of the White Sox baseball team's home stadium, the renovated Ramova, a former cinema in the Bridgeport neighborhood before it closed in 1985, now offers the area a beautiful 2,000-capacity Spanish Revivalist-style live music venue with an adjacent modern tap room, grill, and beer garden. Ringing in its official 2024 grand opening with a New Year's Eve performance by Chicago favorites Slo 'Mo, the $30 million renaissance of the venue has strong community support, including local celebrity co-owners Quincy Jones, Jennifer Hudson, and Chance the Rapper.
"The client wanted to do something really different, unique, and special with this venue," notes Brent Bernhardt, audio department manager at Technotrix, the venue's installation and integration vendor. The design by theatre, acoustics, and experience consultants Charcoal Blue marks the first installation of L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive technology in the Chicagoland area.
L-ISA is compatible with all of L-Acoustics' loudspeaker series, but Bernhardt says they specifically recommended the A Series for its combination of weight, form factor, and power. "We chose the A Series because, in addition to overall sound quality, it met all of the design criteria: SPL, coverage, and the weight restrictions imposed by the renovation." he explains. "When evaluating any type of installation, festival, or touring application, we always want to choose a system that puts out sufficient SPL consistently over the entire audience area. This venue's longest throw distance is only 80 feet, and these boxes are rated for just over that. In addition, the passive cabinets and high density amplification helped keep the budget in check. A Series was perfect for this venue."
The loudspeaker system utilizes five Scene arrays consisting of one A15i Focus and two A15i Wide per hang, and two Extension arrays of one A10i Focus and two A10i Wide per hang. In addition, there are two off-fill hangs of two A10i Wide per hang, and one A10i Wide used as a VIP balcony-fill (stage left). Five coaxial X8 round out the spatial front-fill, and seven additional X8 are distributed as under-balcony fills. Eight KS28 subs are ground-stacked in a broadside array with arc delay under the front lip of stage.
Processing is accomplished via an L-ISA Processor II and a pair of Milan AVB-compatible P1 processors located at FOH. Three LA7.16i and two LA12X amplified controllers provide power for the entire system. Network and signal distribution is accomplished via redundant AVB protocol through four LS10 switches. Monitors comprise ten X15 HiQ floor wedges and an SB18 drum sub, all powered by five LA12X.
System design and positioning relied heavily on L-Acoustics' Soundvision prediction software and the P1 processors' M1 measurement algorithms, which Bernhardt says were incredibly accurate. The two P1 at front of house are also used to manage the distribution of multiple audio sources to other areas of the venue.
Beyond sonic performance, he notes that L-Acoustics was able to fulfill the order in a timely fashion. "Supply-chain issues still run rampant in the entertainment industry," Bernhardt points out. "This project had been in the works for a long time and project fatigue was becoming very real. The prospect of having to wait another two-plus years for their PA would have been devastating to our clients. L-Acoustics was able to meet our demand and did a great job helping us keep the venue's grand opening on track."
Like any venue of its vintage, Ramova Theatre had some acoustical issues to contend with. "With any type of older, plastered theater-style venue, there's always acoustical challenges in those spaces," he says. "That said, the excellent directionality and intelligibility of the L-Acoustics A Series has gotten us to a great place to accommodate all types of programming."
That's also how Ramova director of operations Pete Falknor views this rejuvenated venue: a great place for all types of music. Noting that the Ramova Theatre is named for the Lithuanian word meaning "sanctuary" and "inner peace," the goal is to reflect both the neighborhood's character when it first opened nearly a century ago and how welcoming it feels today. Falknor says the search process for the PA system took into account both the venue's architecture and the need to attract a wide range of top-tier artists in today's hyper-competitive touring market.
"We needed the sound to be great everywhere, including under the balcony, to help this room stand out. In a destination like Chicago, the goal is to be a place that touring artists and agents find unique," he says. "All of that pointed to an immersive sound system."
In over 20 years of mixing and touring, Falknor has encountered most of the PA brands available, and he knew L-Acoustics was on the venue's short list. L-ISA's growing reputation as the roadmap to immersive live sound, along with a realistic delivery timeline, clinched the deal. "This is the future," he says, "and we want to be part of it."
For more details on the Ramova Theatre, visit www.ramovachicago.com