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Manchester's Royal Exchange reinvests in TiMax SoundHub
Manchester ’s Royal Exchange theatre has reinvested in TiMax technology via its recent purchase of a TiMax 2 SoundHub via Autograph Sales. TiMax will provide the audio system management and spatialisation resource for the theatre and the many varied productions which grace its boards each year.

The natural endpoint of the original TiMax Classic Rack system, after 16 years in constant use, coincided with a time of flux in the theatre’s sound department. Within a year, the department had turned around so as to be entirely new and justifiably an immediate decision to replace was put on hold.

Head of Sound, Sorcha Williams, explains, “We viewed the situation as an opportunity to really explore our options. As sound designers came in with their productions we invited them to choose what they wanted to use, so we had a Galileo and a Yamaha DME, and then a sound designer came along who’d just used TiMax on one of her shows and really wanted to use it again, so we took one on trial for her show and kept it on for the remainder of the season, to really test it on other types of show – and it proved itself time after time in that period.”

Most noticeably the sound department found TiMax enabled them to set up the crossover shows that are a regular part of the theatre’s schedule, simply and easily, without disturbing any of the existing show information. Williams expands, “We just create a separate show space on the Cadac desk and then create a new cue in the cuestack for TiMax so we can reroute things, change the eq, put eqs on mics, all without affecting the actual theatre show that’s running.”

A weekend live music event brought an engineer with his own desk wanting solely to mix the band. Williams describes, “He gave us four feeds from his desk which we fed into our TiMax SoundHub system and we were able to route and balance it as we knew it needed to sound in our space. The engineer didn’t have to worry about any of that, we just did it for him – and it was so simple to do.”

Another show came directly from the Music Theatre in Stoke. The sound designer who accompanied the production was amazed at the difference the Exchange was able to engineer. Again Williams explains, “Though all the settings remained the same, he could hear the detail we were able to pick out here and play with.” The main productions appearing at the Royal Exchange are also benefitting from the advanced spatial programming that can be achieved effortlessly in TiMax SoundHub. In Much ado about nothing the party scene was made to feel more busy and exciting with crowd noises, laughter and applause, ‘literally swirled around the space’. More recently, in Hamlet, the character of Hamlet’s ghost was realised as glowing light bulbs and a humming sound of its own, ‘...so when the ghost would appear in the space, it was very localised to one area. We set up the sound to move and the lights would move as well, then the ‘ghost’ would jump to the other side of the stage and slowly move back.’ Williams adds, “It was a great way of being able to time all that and, as we’ve discovered, TiMax is the only product that could do that easily and as effectively.”

And when TiMax is not in use in its most show-stopping guises, it’s still being used in a very fundamental capacity for systems management. Williams explains, “To assist and preserve our ageing speaker system, the sound department has put high and low passes across certain groups of outputs as a protection measure so that designers can’t inadvertently affect our drivers. So TiMax has made it a lot easier for us to manage the system in that sense.”

Indeed the Manchester Royal Exchange has come full circle with the new TiMax SoundHub reaffirming how vitally beneficial the TiMax delay-matrix processing, timeline sequencing and object-based dynamic spatialisation is to a theatre at the most grass roots level. Williams sums up what it really means to the sound department there: “We can trigger everything from QLab in the TiMax and it just works. TiMax enables us to turn around shows very simply and quickly which is of the upmost importance in this busy theatre.”