The acoustic renovation of the Tennessee Theatre was integrated into the historic fabric of the building so carefully that most observers would be unaware that any of the work was “acoustical.” The wide oval room was challenging because it produced very poor sound reflection patterns. Special acoustic plaster designed to achieve only high-frequency roll-off was integrated into areas of the side walls. The result is that people in the audience sitting close to the side walls now perceive the sound coming from the stage instead of from the walls beside them. The auditorium drapes, sound-absorptive finishes, floor coverings and seats were all designed so that they functioned acoustically as well as historically—the result being to increase the sense of liveness and response from the room, while controlling difficult sound reflections. A very thick and heavy orchestra shell in the stagehouse provides ideal acoustic conditions for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, with warmth and full bass response, proper balance of sound throughout the spectrum, and a richness and immediacy of musical experience for the audience. A formerly weak and distant sound has now been transformed into a thrilling musical experience. The pit was enlarged and shaped acoustically to provide proper balance between opera singers and the pit orchestra. Sound and light locks were introduced where possible, and acoustic doors were provided in other locations. The finish on these doors was designed to integrate with the historic refurbishment. Sound isolation to the exterior was significantly improved, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were upgraded acoustically. The new stagehouse and backstage facilities were designed to ensure that traffic noise, particularly from buses that pass beneath the cantilevered stagehouse every few minutes, would not be heard in the auditorium. The dimmer and rack rooms are suspended in the stagehouse – special sound-isolation construction ensures that sound from them cannot be heard on stage or in the house. Heavy drapes and carpet in the lobby also help to control lobby to auditorium noise.

The audio systems at the Tennessee Theatre are designed to provide touring-class sound from the in-house system for many of the events booked by the theatre. The main loudspeaker array can be easily removed for events requiring no amplification so that the decorative proscenium arch is not obscured. A high-quality speech system was installed for announcements and introductions which might take place when the main array is stored. Many features of the systems were designed to complement touring events which provide their own audio systems.

A second mix position is included just forward of the permanent position so that the house console does not have to be disconnected when a touring console is used. The touring system can connect to house loudspeaker systems beneath the balcony, in the orchestra rail and in the public spaces, if desired. Cable connections and cable passes are provided between the stage, house, orchestra pit and loading dock to accommodate a wide variety of purposes. The systems include production intercom, backstage and public space monitor/page and video monitoring production support systems.

Project Details
Audiovisual Systems Design
Sound Isolation
Mechanical Noise Control
Room Acoustics Design
McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Architect, Knoxville, TN
60,000 gsf
1,631-seat theatre