Symetrix Prism Sheds New Light on Historic Czech Concert Hall

The Czech Republic spa town of Mariánské Lázne has long been one of Europe’s most exclusive destinations, drawing the patronage of British royalty, Frédéric Chopin, Alfred Nobel and even Winston Churchill. The historic town, whose name translates into English as ‘Maria’s Spa’, is also home to the Casino Cultural and Conference Centre – a beautiful building, constructed in 1899, which once hosted the world’s first film festival, and now accommodates the annual Chopin Festival as well as the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra.

Within the venue is the Marble Hall, a stunning banquet and concert space of more than 4,047 square feet (376m2). But while the ornate marble walls, pillars, domes and arches all offer a feast for the eyes, the resulting acoustic properties were less kind to visitors’ ears. Until very recently, the problem was somewhat compounded by the venue’s long-term use of pole-mounted two-way enclosures. Finally, in 2015, the venue’s management decided to seek out a new audio solution for the space that was simple to use but capable of matching up to the Marble Hall’s multi-purpose clientele and grand reputation.

The company charged with finding that solution was renowned systems integrator STA Servis. In turn, the Karlovy Vary-based company, with a team led by Petr Kabat and Tomas Müller, engaged Prague’s Audio Digital to join the project as a consultant. Ultimately, the search led to a system using a Dante-equipped Symetrix Prism 8×8 as its DSP backbone.

Michal Zeman of Audio Digital explained further: “A very diverse range of events take place in the Marble Hall, from simple presentations to corporate events and banquets and even occasional DJ parties. Because of that diversity, it was very important that the system was easy for the venue operators to use, but still powerful in terms of its flexibility and reliability.”

The team considered a number of options for sound reinforcement. As it turned out, the difficult acoustics weren’t the only challenge; another major factor was to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the room, which meant meeting very strict requirements in terms of the system’s visual impact. So Michal and his team began what felt like a virtually endless loop of designs, acoustic simulations and talks with the authorities.

Adding a note of agreement was Radim Řezníček, of STA Servis who also commented: “We have undertaken very challenging installations in many high profile interiors all over the region, but for sure the Casino Cultural and Conference Centre is at the top of the list of projects where only a perfect finish was good enough.”

In the now completed hall, the majority of the audience area is covered by two wall-mounted coaxial two-way SR-S4L + SR-S4S column speakers from TOA. No attention to detail has been spared – even the wall-mounting brackets have been custom designed to match the interior of the hall. Delays for the rear of the hall are courtesy of two wall-mounted SR-S4S column arrays, while low-end extension is provided by two Electro-Voice powered subwoofers that can be added to the set-up when required.

Crucially, the Symetrix Prism 8×8 ties the system together as the main Dante-equipped, eight I/O DSP, providing the required ease of operation. This was a typical example of a venue with almost contradictory requirements – a really complex and feature-rich DSP was necessary but at the same time the user needed a simple-to-use GUI for real time control of the system by non-technical staff.

Michal and his team knew Symetrix DSPs combine these two worlds very well in a single unit, and all at a reasonable price point, which is always a big factor in our market. More importantly, the integration convinced them that the Prism 8×8 was exactly what they needed.

Michal stated that now the entire DSP and control is done with one Symetrix Prism 8×8 and a bespoke PC GUI. In the Prism, all input and output processing is taken care of including feedback suppressors, equalization of the speakers and room time alignment, and of course limiter settings for the individual speaker bands.

According to Zeman, the management of the Casino Cultural and Conference Centre have been exceptionally pleased with the results. The audience coverage achieved with the line arrays is very uniform and the sound is both clear and intelligible with speech or vocals while really powerful with music content.

Once again,Radim agreed to comment and concluded with the following: “I was surprised by how dramatically we managed to improve the sound of the venue by simply doing the right thing with the right gear.”