Issue 26

AV Case Study: Frankston Arts Centre

Frankston Arts Centre upgrades its 10-year-old d&b system with… a newer d&b system.


7 March 2024

Story:/ Graeme Hague

The Frankston Arts Centre in Frankston, Victoria, is a pretty typical, regional performing arts centre. Meaning, it’s designed to cater for a wide variety of productions across the year and the crew is always kept busy. Right now, there’s a bunch of noisy touring bands banging on the stage door, ready to rock the place. But before you know it, it’ll be box-set, three-act play or an amateur theatre musical, or one of Australia’s premiere ballet companies. Towards the end of the year the FAC starts to host local events like school graduations and dance academy galas.

The demands on the in-house PA are constantly changing although obviously the system configuration remains the same. The main auditorium seats 800 people split between an upper Dress Circle and Main Stalls below. Recently, the FAC decided to upgrade the FOH speakers and amps, replacing an existing d&b audiotechnik system that was getting long in the tooth after more than a decade in use. Damian Clarkson, the FAC Technical Manager, admits, “The system still sounded great, but we were getting that nagging worry that any one of the amplifiers might fail and they’re too old to be serviceable. Plus, in the cycle of capital equipment budgeting it was past due to upgrade the FOH anyway.”


It wasn’t a given that Frankston Arts Centre replaces like-for-like. Damian assessed a range of alternative brands and systems, but ultimately opted for new d&b speakers and DSP amplifiers. The system design was tweaked slightly in some areas with extra delay units beneath the Dress Circle for the rear stalls, and the front stage fill was increased from five to seven speakers. A major departure from the old layout was replacing the left/right floor subs with four Vi-SUB subs flown behind the centre cluster of three A-Series Ali90 speakers. Still, for the most part this meant that a lot of the existing cabling could be used with only the extra runs needed for the added speakers.

As a bonus (sort of), a long-standing booking for the auditorium suddenly cancelled and gave Damian a two-week window to get the system installed. Otherwise, the plan had been to sneak in bits and pieces when the opportunity allowed.

A compromise was decided in the overall design. While the acoustics analysis had the speakers flown at a certain height, this meant there was no direct line-of-sight with the main components of the rig from the mixing position.

Damian explains, “It’s a bit old-school and common sense at the same time, especially for operators who have been in the industry a long time. We lowered the height of the flown components enough so you did get line-of-sight from the console, and the impact on the system performance was negligible. So everyone was happy after that.”


Damian Clarkson along with every visiting sound operator have been hugely impressed with system performance. There was only one small fly in the ointment. One of the amplifiers didn’t seem to be performing at optimum specs – Murphy’s Law, a part of the rationale for upgrading the PA in the first place.

Damian wasn’t fazed at all. “Stuff happens, and NAS was great and out here in a flash, replacing the unit within 24 hours without any interruption to our programming. That’s the kind of service we know you can rely on from NAS.”

Fair enough. Any other problems?

“The extra headroom,” Damian says. “The new system has so much more headroom than the old rig, so with some of the regular operators we get touring through, I have to sometimes step in and tell them to dial it back a bit. It’s way too loud.”

The end result is excellent coverage right throughout the auditorium – something that’s not so easy when the hall has that Dress Circle architecture. The Frankston Arts Centre can rely on the new d&b audiotechnik PA for at least another 10 years, no matter who’s bashing on the back door.

Frankston Arts Centre:

System Rundown

Main Left & Right: 3x d&b ALi90 per hang
Centre: 3x d&b ALi90
Flown Subwoofers: 4x d&b Vi-SUB,
Front Fills: 7x d&b 44S
Under Balcony Delays: 6x d&b 44S
Balcony Delays: 4x d&b 8S
Amplifiers: 3x d&b 40D, 3x d&b 5D


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Issue 26