Once known as ‘Little Breton California’, the vibrant town of Saint-Nazaire is well worth a visit. It has a host of surprises in store, one of which is VIP, or ‘Le VIP’, as locals refer to it. Featuring a 550-seat concert hall, three rehearsal studios and a resource centre, this is a welcoming haven for artists of all levels and music genres. This year, French audio, lighting and video company, Melpomen has installed L-Acoustics A Series in Le VIP to address the venue’s complex architectural design and deliver homogenous sound across the entire auditorium.

“After 10 years of service, the old sound system was entering a delicate maintenance phase,” said Julien Potin, Technical Director at VIP. “So it seemed an appropriate time to acquire a new system that would address lifelong issues.”

“We knew right from the start that we needed an extra-versatile and scalable solution for a modern music hall like the VIP,” added Samuel Birais, audio technical manager at Melpomen. “Our key objectives were to create a comfortable listening experience for the audience and to respect France’s latest constraints and rules in terms of sound levels, particularly in terms of dBc. To achieve this, we needed a system that delivered high SPL, extended bandwidth of between 25Hz and 20kHz, and evenly distributed sound coverage throughout the hall, without overly polluting the stage space.”

The concert hall is almost 18-metres wide and the FOH control position is barely 7.5-metres from the front of the stage. There is also a mezzanine floor that is as wide as the room but shallow, with a bar along its back wall. Smoothing out the differences in sound levels between the pit and the mezzanine, the latter needing to have a lower level of audio and optimizing the coherence of the stereo image in the room were prime considerations.

Following on-site tests, both with and without live bands playing on stage, the Melpomen team was able to determine the perfect audio solution to address all requirements. The main system comprises left / right hangs of five A15i Focus per side which, to account for the width of the venue, are set to 110-degree horizontal dispersion using L-Acoustics Panflex technology, delivering excellent horizontal coverage in the mid-high range.  Three KS21i are flown in cardioid mode next to each A15i hang, which creates an additional cardioid mode and delivers much better rejection at the bottom of the spectrum on stage. For the mezzanine, the team deployed two A10i and a KS21i per side, with two X8 as delay.

“The physical set-up of the main system, which is quite far back on stage, meant that we were able to cover the entire audience without the need for frontfill on the stage lip, which was ideal as the stage level is very low,” noted VIP’s sound engineer, Christophe Rousseau.

Using the AutoFIR tool in Soundvision the Melpomen team was able to achieve full consistency of mid- and high-range frequencies over the distance while also adapting to the height differential due to the mezzanine. A P1 processor with M1 measurement tools was used to calibrate and EQ the system, adapting it to the room acoustics and aligning all elements correctly.

The entire system is controlled with an LA12X amplified controller, with a fully redundant Milan/AVB audio network managed via an L-Acoustics LS10 Avnu-certified AVB switch. Milan is the first platform to provide deterministic, reliable and future proof delivery of networked data. This guarantees data quality and ensures VIP St Nazaire will not experience any audio dropout.

The final listening test proved to be in line with Melpomen’s expectations. “VIP hosts an extensive variety of music genres and is widely regarded as one of the most versatile venues in France,” concludes Samuel Birais. “To have a system that can be perfectly adapted to the entire sound spectrum and deliver a perfect stereo image across the room, as well as on the mezzanine floor, is just amazing. A Series is ideal for the venue’s programme, both now and for the future. We cannot wait until we can start inviting artists back to the venue so they can experience the full benefits of our brand-new system.”