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Professional AV Retrofit Delivers Modern Experience to a Revered Auditorium In New York

In the heart of New York City lies the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. Renowned for its commitment to fostering creativity and honoring excellence in the arts, the Academy has inspired generations of artists, writers, composers, and architects.

The Academy consists of exhibition rooms and a prestigious academic living room, but its crowning jewel is by far the grand auditorium, steeped in cultural significance and artistic tradition. With a capacity for nearly a thousand, the Academy’s theater holds a special place in the city’s vibrant arts scene, attracting audiences and luminaries from around the world.

Recently, the Academy took on the large task of rejuvenating its revered theater, infusing its time-honored halls with renewed vitality and modern functionality. Assuming a multi-faceted role, the theater demanded a dynamic and professional AV retrofit to become the new home for live performances, lectures, Q&A sessions, and film screenings, all while preserving its historic charm and architectural integrity.

Leading the project’s audio and visual requirements was Leo Garrison, Senior Integration Specialist at Metro Sound Pros (MSP). Recognizing the significance of seamlessly merging tradition with modernity, Leo chose Symetrix to help create an experience tailored to the space’s multi-functional purposes.

“I’ve never had a room where I couldn’t achieve my goal,” Leo remarked, reflecting on his past projects. “Even with challenging acoustical environments and historic architectural considerations, Symetrix’s DSP technology unlocks the potential of every space. With multiple front-of-house locations and stage monitoring areas, we’re ensuring every seat is the best seat in the house.”

Leveraging Symetrix’s robust capabilities, Leo meticulously designed pre-sets tailored to each event’s unique requirements, ensuring a seamless transition. Providing a full matrix for the space, the team utilized a Renkus Heinz Varia Line Array with two dual 18” subwoofers, alongside a Symetrix Prism 16 x 16 unit with Dante capability. Additionally, the team incorporated a 40-foot-long film screen from Stewart, adding an integral viewing experience and ultimately, a new dimension to the space.

Commenting on why Symetrix was selected, Leo says: “Symetrix has always been our go-to choice for audio rooms that require a high acoustical value, given its reliability and versatility. With Symetrix DSP, we have the flexibility to enhance sound quality even in challenging environments, such as front-of-house setups. We’re very proud of this project – it is to be a strong staple in our portfolio.”

With the theater poised to host a variety of events, including stakeholder meetings, ensuring seamless functionality and user-friendly features became paramount. Implementing custom ports on the bleachers, Leo has ensured that the patrons can now use the monitor system that requires no technical expertise. “We pre-designed it so it’s a plug-and-play,” he explains. “Ports are in position and cut out into the bleachers for the poles and speakers so it’s completely user friendly. Symetrix makes it all intuitive and very easy to operate – completely hassle-free.”

The AV retrofit process presented its fair share of challenges. For a project of this magnitude, it was imperative that the installed system encompassed straightforward yet adaptable paging and auxiliary features accessible to theater staff while maintaining functional transparency and aesthetic subtlety to accommodate its multipurpose uses. Despite encountering budget constraints and acoustical limitations, Leo and the MSP team persevered, ultimately delivering a transformative audio experience that surpassed expectations.

Thanks to Symetrix DSP technology, MSP has created an immersive experience poised to bring events, discussions, and performances to life, all while paying homage to the theater’s heyday. “We wanted to ensure that every aspect of the theater’s audio system was completely optimized for performance,” Leo concludes. “With Symetrix, we were able to achieve that goal. Not only does the theater look spectacular – but it is equipped to handle any performance or event that the Academy throws at it.”