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Historic New York Theatre, Audio Systems Upgrade


Shea’s Buffalo Theatre now features high quality sound systems, enabled by Dante and Attero Tech, the latest update in an 18-year, $20 million restoration project. The 1926 former silent movie venue and vaudeville house has undergone such a comprehensive refurbishment as it is one of the few remaining Tiffany-designed theatres in the US.

Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is one of three theatres that make up the Shea’s Performing Arts Centre and now boasts leading sound systems in the main theatre and in the Grand Lobby, which integrate over a Dante network.

The Grand Lobby, which hosts weddings, receptions, concerts, and other events, has the most recently added sound system. There, the Dante network is accessed using Attero Tech unD6IO Dante-enabled audio wall plates. The unD6IO provides two analogue XLR inputs with switchable mic/line gain and phantom power and two unbalanced inputs that can be switched in software between RCA and 3.5mm stereo jacks. The two analogue output channels feed a 3.5mm jack and two balanced outputs on a side-mounted, de-pluggable connector with software-controlled volume.

“We revamped the main sound system and put in a lobby system where none existed before,” said project manager Chris Dietrich, of AV engineering firm Specialized Audio-Visual Inc. (SAVI), which designed and installed the system. “We gave them one of the nicest lobby sound systems I’ve put in anywhere, and a big part of that was Attero Tech Dante wall plates. In an old building, it’s not easy to get conduit retrofitted. It’s much easier to take a piece of plenum-rated Cat5 and wiggle to locations that you couldn’t easily get to running a lot of analogue pairs. With Dante, I can take one Cat5 cable, plug it in with a PoE switch at one end, and provide analogue on and off ramps with Attero Tech Dante interfaces.”

Dietrich continued: “The unD6I0 brings the audio into the Dante network and to a BSS 806 Dante-enabled DSP. We put unD6IOs in strategic locations to provide multiple spots with input into the lobby sound system, and they are the on and off ramps for all signal exchange to and from the network. From the DSP, audio flows to the rest of the lobby sound system and also into the main sound system in the theatre because the theatre and lobby systems can share audio back and forth over the network.”

Given the painstaking restoration of this historic building, one of SAVI’s biggest challenges was keeping the sound system as unobtrusive as possible. “The first question they asked when we looked at the main theatre in initial discussions was, ‘you’re not going to put any more holes in the roof, are you?’ said Dietrich. “We were very constrained where rigging points could go, and we had to get creative in our rigging. It was the same thing in the Grand Lobby. Theatres of this type have a historic preservation director and staff, and we worked hand-in-hand with Shea’s restoration consultant Doris Collins. We started with custom-coloured speakers that pretty much fit where they were going to go, and then Collins customised the paint work to make them blend in as well as possible, with a full marble finish when appropriate.”

The Attero Tech unD6IO wall plates offered the SAVI team an unobtrusive, relatively small footprint. As with the loudspeakers, the unD6IO faceplates were custom-painted to match the marble in the lobby. “I just put a few unD6IO two-gang Decora wall plates up, they could paint it however they wanted, and we have all the connectivity we need,” said Dietrich. “I don’t even have to run a big conduit to get there. With Dante, we don’t need a bunch of analogue infrastructure. We use a single Cat5 cable and eliminate a lot of wiring, termination, conduit, and labour, saving our customers a lot of money in the process.”

Historic theatre completes 18-year restoration

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