One of London’s landmark theatres has installed a new Soundcraft Vi3000 digital mixing console as the first phase in a planned sound system upgrade.

The Grade II-listed Hackney Empire is one of the few surviving Frank Matcham designed music halls, built around the turn of the 20th century, and according to Technical Manager, Othman Read, with the new desk the venue has made its first excursion into digital en route to replacing the entire technical infrastructure.

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The Empire had previously maintained the same control set-up since the theatre reopened following major refurbishment in 2004 — and that included a 48-channel Soundcraft MH4 analogue desk.

“This had been an absolute pleasure to own, a brilliant workhorse,” Read confirmed. “But it only had 48 channels and looking at modern day production requirements, you need to provide at least 90 channels.” But since the MH4 had proved such a brilliant house desk over a 15-year period, they instinctively turned to Soundcraft. “We wanted to see where they were going digitally and how they would meet our channel count requirement.”

Despite having a wide knowledge of industry standard consoles from other incoming productions Othman Read was soon on the phone to Sound Technology, Soundcraft’s UK and Ireland distributors, setting out his needs within the available budget.

As a result, he opted for the Vi3000 and fibre multicore. The addition of a new Compact Stagebox would ordinarily give him 32 analogue in/ 8 analogue and 8 AES out — but this has been custom configured to provide 48 / 16. This has been carried out by replacing the standard 8 + 8 output panel with an extra 16-XLR input module.  By using the two Studer D21m expansion slots, two D-Subs on the desk each carry 8 channels to a Studer 16 output analogue XLR panel racked to the rear of the Stagebox.

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“This modification has made it perfect for our needs,” confirms the technical manager, “since with the additional 48 channels from the Stagebox the Vi3000 now provides us with 96 mix channels — which is ideal.”

He adds that a major plus factor was the speed with which shows can be loaded on the desk. “The fact that a couple of engineers who work here swear by it also helped to sway the decision.

“It is also quick to teach on. In the time I have had it we have had BBC live broadcast engineers, who are familiar with the Studer Vistonics II interface, and recognise the similarity the two boards but who still need training.”

In terms of usability, every parameter is on point, he believes. “Everyone tells us that the logic of the surfaces means that it is infinitely easier to use than other digital desks. The layout is similar to the MH4, with the VCA controls in the centre, sonically it delivers the warmth of analogue — and performance wise you can’t fault it.

“This has certainly raised our spec for the house,” he said in conclusion. The next upgrade phase, with replacement of amplifiers and loudspeakers, is expected to take place next year, along with the existing GPO patch system — another reason for purchasing the Soundcraft set-up.

For further information please contact HARMAN’s UK/ROI distributor Sound Technology Ltd on 01462 480000,


  • Hackney Empire
  • Landmark London Theatre

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