Over the last two years the University of Liverpool has been has run an ambitious £14m project to upgrade and refurbish three of its venues. The largest of these being Mountford Hall, Liverpool’s second largest concert space. Adlib Audio were responsible for the install, installing an L-Acoustics line array to combat various challenges.
The hall is in heavy, regular use both day and night and runs a full programme embracing Students’ Union activities. It also plays host to various genres of music and performance, including the BBC’s ‘Question Time’.
A significant part of the upgrade budget for Mountford Hall has been invested in a permanent PA and lighting installation, minimising the potential delays and increased costs that can arise when performers use their own equipment.
The new L-Acoustics sound system comprises amplifiers, cabling and suspended speakers. Flexibility is required within the fixed installation to accommodate the varying audio requirements of each performer. This can be provided by raising and lowering four independent speaker arrays to achieve the best sound balance for differing performances.
Traditionally this speaker manoeuvring was carried out manually; a labour intensive procedure that was not only costly, but time consuming and potentially dangerous. Staff would be working at height within the roof void in order to access cable routes and rigging. On occasion this could lead to untidiness within the venue, in the form of trailing speaker cables overhead.
A solution that has been adopted in many situations, is to interconnect the fixed and moveable audio elements through slip rings. These allow flexibility in extending and retracting both electrical signal and power cables, however their operation depends on a break in the conductive paths. This is undesirable in high power, high quality systems such as the Mountford Hall installation because of its adverse effect on reliability and potentially signal quality.
A similar situation existed for the overhead lighting trusses, which also needed to be raised and lowered to rig equipment to suit different event requirements.
Adlib Audio, the sound and lighting designers, suppliers and installers for the entire upgrade project, turned to igus for an alternative. For the speakers, this was delivered in the form of four custom igus e-chain and e-spool cable management systems, one for each of the four main speaker arrays. These provided no-break connections between the amplifiers and the speakers, eliminating reliability and signal quality issues. Previously problematic speaker manoeuvring is now a simple, automated procedure that can be conducted at will prior to rehearsals and sound checks.
Trailing cables of the past are also no more. In the start position, the e-chain is completely rolled up to save space. The twisterband connects the roll to the shaft block, acting as the interface to the speaker cables. There is never any tensile load on the cables and cable droop is eliminated to save space and keep working areas clear.
A similarly flexible, robust solution for the lighting trusses was used, known as ‘zig-zag’ e-chain. When the trusses are at maximum trim height, the collapsed e-chain is stored in a ‘basket’ above each lighting truss. If the truss is lowered, the e-chain automatically unfolds. When the truss is raised, then the e-chain is stored automatically into its default position into a basket over the truss.
Adlib Audio had not used e-chain or e-spool products previously, but e-spool’s ability to carry a large number of cables was a significant factor in the decision.
Roger Kirby, installations director at Adlib Audio explains further: “Overall we felt that igus offered us a large catalogue range of high specification items coupled with the knowledge and skills to develop specific solutions for our needs. After this first project, we will definitely consider using the e-spool technology again. From a cabling and reliability point of view it works brilliantly.”