Tank Arts Centre

ProjectTank Arts CentreLocationCairns, AustraliaInstallerNAS SolutionsSubmitted byNAS Solutions / d&b audiotecknik

The dynamic and busy hub for visual and performing arts in Cairns, Tanks Arts Centre, has been created from three giant, concrete tanks originally built in wartime to store fuel for the Royal Australian Navy. Of the three main structures remaining, Tank 5 has been converted into one of Australia’s most unusual performance spaces.

Inside its 8m-high, 1m-thick circular wall is a fully equipped performance stage, a tiered audience area for up to 650 people, and a licensed bar. Though the roof is new, it is still held aloft by a veritable forest of oil-stained original timber poles which are heritage listed, as is the entire site.

Established and run by the Cairns Regional Council, Tanks hosts a wide variety of artists, with recent acts including The Hoodoo Gurus, Amy Shark, Vika and Linda Bull, and many more.

Recognising that the existing PA in Tank 5 had multiple shortcomings, Council issued a tender for an upgrade of the FOH speaker system and console.

The circular concrete walls provide just one of the acoustic challenges for this unique venue. The relatively lightweight roof structure meant that sound leakage to adjacent residential areas also needed to be addressed. That made pattern control- whilst providing even coverage of the entire audience area- a priority for the loudspeaker upgrade. The other key requirement was to deliver a rider-friendly, no-compromise PA system that would attract top-flight national and international acts to come to the venue, without having to truck in production.

Having had previous experience installing a d&b audiotechnik system in the Cairns Performing Arts Centre, local Integrator AVLX, working with Graeme Hicks of Entertainment Production Supplies, proposed a solution based around d&b Vi series components.

The winning tender, designed with input from NAS Solutions engineer Doug Pringle, comprised left and right hangs of Vi8 and Vi12 line array loudspeakers, with a pair of flown Vi-SUB cardioid subwoofers on each side plus a V10P centre fill and V7P left and right out fills.

Four d&b B22 subs were mounted under the stage, along with six of the 8S coaxial point source speakers providing front-of-stage fill. Processing and system power was provided by nine of the four-channel d&b 40D amplifiers.

Knowing the venue constraints, and with advice from d&b distributor NAS Solutions, the team proposed the crucial addition of d&b ArrayProcessing to the specification. ArrayProcessing software calculates and applies a series of FIR and IIR filters to each individual cabinet in the array to control the behaviour of a d&b line array system across the entire listening area. It is especially useful in difficult and reverberant spaces.

“The design was done with d&b’s proprietary tool, ArrayCalc,” noted Pringle, who also commissioned the system. “We first plot where listeners are and how to cover them; then put in the walls and see how much spill the design is getting. If you can minimise the spill onto surrounding surfaces and maximise the coverage of the audience, you’ve won the acoustics war.

“d&b line arrays in that environment are good at not overshooting. The flown subs are cardioid, so they shoot into the room and not into the backstage area to excite the acoustics around there. Then ArrayProcessing on top improves that one step further.”

The outcome after commissioning has more than met the exacting tender specifications and garnered praise from all, including touring acts, who love the atmosphere generated in the unique performance environment.

Post-commissioning, Pringle was satisfied that including d&b ArrayProcessing was the right move for the unique construction of the tank. “It keeps excitation of the room down and tonality consistent through the room,” he observed. “You can be in front of the PA with a microphone and no frequency is going to jump out, so level before feedback is improved. It’s a good clean system. It’s not just a beast for the heavy acts. It performs consistently at all volumes.”

“The difference between turning the ArrayProcessing on and off is just unbelievable,” agreed Hicks. “The whole thing is so tight now at the bottom. Speech is incredible. Acoustic guitars are just crisp and transparent.”

Having listened in on a recent sound check, Hicks also pointed to the benefits of the d&b system’s midrange clarity. “A lot of PAs aren’t kind to female vocals,” he noted. “There is a crossover point between the mids and the horns that in other systems is often not reproduced well, but in there it was just so smooth. This particular engineer got up, walked around the room and came back and said, ‘Well, I won’t bother doing that anymore – it sounds the same everywhere I go!’”

Pringle stated the investment will unquestionably achieve the ‘rider friendly’ goals for the upgrade. “For Tanks Arts Centre, it’s definitely an investment in the quality of the show it wants to have.”