Clair completes $1.8M upgrade at American Music Theatre

By on September 5, 2018

When k.d. lang performed at American Music Theatre in March, Jim Martin, the venue’s president, sat near the back of the house. While the singer-songwriter could “sound good in an empty soup can,” Martin says, he was blown away by how crisp she sounded that evening.

Lang’s tour manager and sound engineer­ longtime Clair Global client­ was interested in testing out some of the company’s new technology when her “Ingenue Redux” tour came to town. The sound was strikingly crisp. Martin had been considering upgrading the venue’s sound system for four or five years, and hearing lang’s performance with an advanced system was convincing.

“After hearing that, I said we have to at all means, at all costs, we have to get this system in here,” Martin says.

Brandon Martin,Director of Production at American Music Theater, looks over the sound board where a new sound system was installed.

A specially tailored sound system is at the heart of a $1.8 million facility improvement campaign completed by the venue in July. While pieces have been upgraded over the years, it’s the first overhaul to the PA system since the theater opened in 1997. In addition to the new sound system, the venue has a new roof, HVAC system and LED lights in its auditorium and lobby. Home Free, Texas Tenors and Rodger Hodgson of Supertramp were the first three acts to perform with the new sound system.

The sound system lang used in March was made by Clair Global, the Lititz-based touring production company. The system in American Music Theatre was designed and installed by Clair Brothers in Manheim. The companies are separate entities, but share some engineering. American Music Theatre’s director of production, Brandon Martin, Jim Martin’s son, led the search for a new sound system. The theater’s previous system was also by Clair Brothers. After exploring what other companies had to offer, Brandon Martin says he decided to stay with Clair Brothers.

In July, Clair Brothers installed a C8 Truefit loudspeaker system at American Music Theatre. Each part of the line-array system is designed to order for a space’s particular shape. Inside of each speaker is a horn, which is splayed at a particular angle to achieve a certain sound. But in previous systems, Brandon Martin says, consumers were somewhat limited in the angles that were available for purchase.

Clair Brothers sound speakers installed above the stage.

“If you think about an acoustic guitar, for example, and the tone woods being such a large player in the projection and quality of that sound, people aren’t making fiberglass guitars that sound good,” Brandon Martin says. Subwoofers, which reproduce low-frequency sounds like basslines, are typically found spread out on the stage. In AMT’s new set-up, the subwoofers hang above the stage in the center to avoid the two sound waves meeting in the middle and, in some cases, canceling each other out.

Jim Martin says a big selling point for him on the system was the ability to guarantee the same sound experience for every seat in the house. The previous system was built to reproduce audio for a theatrical, musical revue performance because of AMT’s singular focus on theater when it first opened. Now that it also hosts rockers like Gene Simmons and comedians like Bill Engvall, there’s a greater need for a more versatile system, Brandon Martin says.

Audio Engineer Gordon Liggitt looks at the Clair Brothers sound equipment in the lower level of the American Music Theater.

“We’re looking at a different game now in terms of what we’re trying to reproduce,” Brandon Martin says.

AMT’s roof and HVAC systems were replaced simultaneously as Clair Brothers worked to install the new sound system. Jim Martin says energy efficiency was a priority of all the upgrades. While the summer’s projects were a significant financial investment, Jim Martin says he “takes the long view” in matters of American Music Theatre.

“This is a world-class venue,” Jim Martin says. “For us to stay a world-class venue, we have to stay up to date with all systems. We don’t want to fall behind. It’s just a matter of that, keeping our building up to date and viable for the future.”

Jenelle Janci is an entertainment reporter for LNP. She can be reached at JJanci@lnpnews.com, or 717-291-8647. You can also follow @jenelley on Twitter. 

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