The Yamaha LS9 digital console continues to be a huge success in regional theatres across Europe. Combining ease of use, reliability and a feature set unrivalled at its low price point, the LS9 is making life less stressful and more intuitively creative for an ever-growing band of sound technicians. One of the latest UK venues to adopt it is Scotland’s Adam Smith Theatre.
Located in Kirkcaldy, on the north bank of the Firth of Forth, the Adam Smith Theatre serves a wide catchment area which ranges as far afield as Edinburgh, Stirling and Aberdeen. Previously a council-run venue, it is now run by the Arts & Theatres Trust Fife, along with the Rothes Halls (Glenrothes), Lochgelly Centre (Lochgelly) and Carnegie Hall (Dunfermline, not New York - although both were founded by the same philanthropist).
“We put on a bit of everything here,” says Paul Robertson, the Adam Smith Theatre’s head of sound. “From films and stage shows with just a few sound effects, choral performances where we just need a few floor mics and radio mics, through to major musicals with multiple radio mics and a full orchestra or band.
“Because of the variety of shows, we need a very versatile system.”
For nearly a decade the theatre was host to a 24 channel Yamaha 02R console which served its purpose well, but whose channel count was simply not enough in recent years.
“We have a small front of house area and, because of the size of some of the productions, we had to add an analogue Yamaha console to provide enough channels,” says Paul. “We did one show where there were so many radio mics that I had the 02R’s inputs full of radio, plus four more radio mics on the analogue mixer. It caused problems in the space we have available, but it was the only way we could do it.”
When Paul was given the opportunity to replace the mixing console, he chose an LS9-32 with two MY16-AT ADAT extension cards, connected to additional mic preamps, all supplied by Edinburgh-based The Warehouse. Dovetailing seamlessly into the system is a laptop computer running Yamaha Studio Manager software, giving Paul a very powerful mixing system for a great price and taking up very little space.
“I have a 64 channel system in the space of a 24 channel one - and it’s great. I can patch anything to anything now without swapping cables, I can make any fader do anything I need it to,” he says.
“It’s highly programmable and makes it a lot easier to do exactly what’s needed for any production. We don’t have to do workarounds any more, which saves a lot of time and stress. The fact that I also have 64 channels of phantom power, as opposed to the eight I had with the 02R, is a godsend.”
Another benefit, of course, is the LS9’s onboard effects engines, which mean that outboard only needs to take up valuable space if something particularly specialised is required.
“A feature that’s worked out really well is all the things you can do with the USB socket,” Paul continues. “We get quite a lot of amateur productions in and so I’ve now set up a couple of permanent recording mics. I record the show via the console’s MP3 recorder and can put it straight on to a USB stick for them.
“I also did one show where I put the sound effects on a USB stick and allocated them to the hot keys. That worked really well plus, of course, you can load show files via USB.
“We also have amateur drama competitions, where there are five or six plays in the course of a day. It’s a really intensive schedule, so being able to set up each show as a scene and instantly recall it is absolutely brilliant in a venue like this. It saves both them and I a lot of stress and has a hugely beneficial effect.”
Provincial venues are infamous for having to be ready for literally anything, so having a console that is very straightforward to use is another major benefit at the Adam Smith Theatre.
“We still get people occasionally coming in on a touring show and going ‘Aargh! Digital desk’, but it takes literally two minutes to show them how to use it,” adds Paul. “But it’s been interesting to see how many people are very familiar with the LS9, which shows that it is widely accepted. I’ve spoken to a lot of people on tours and in other venues and many regional theatres have either got an LS9-32 or are seriously looking at getting one.
“This is a busy venue and the mixing desk is in use all the time. Being a Yamaha, it’s also extremely reliable. I’m really happy with it.”