Vilar Performing Arts Center debuts new state-of-the-art sound system |

Vilar Performing Arts Center debuts new state-of-the-art sound system

The $500,000 system upgrade is part of a strategy to make VPAC more of a draw for world-class artists

Two new 12-box line array speakers hang above the stage.
John-Ryan Lockman/Courtesy photo-19

Performers and audience members at the Vilar Performing Arts Center will enjoy an improved listening experience this season following the installation of a new half-million dollar, state-of-the-art sound system.

The center is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and with each passing season has progressively pursued higher caliber artists to perform on its stage. Executive Director Owen Hutchinson is furthering the organization’s strategy to invest in a higher quality and quantity of artists and said it was crucial to update the center’s 15-year-old sound system to meet rising industry standards.

“The new sound system will raise the bar that’s already been set at the Vilar Performing Arts Center and help the venue stay relevant and competitive with the caliber of artists we expect to bring for locals and visitors alike to enjoy,” Hutchinson said. “With this investment in new technology, we hope to continue to elevate the significance of artists in upcoming performances.”

The new $500,000 system expands the old line array model from eight to twelve boxes and increases its curvature to ensure that audience members will experience the same level of sound immersion in every seat of the house, whether they be in the front row or back.

Cheyenne Mendoza, the center’s technical director, was responsible for designing the new system in collaboration with Erik Brown, the director of special projects and infrastructure.

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“Anybody who has set up the building since we completed this upgrade in the last few shows would be able to immediately see the system has grown — it’s taller, there are more individual boxes working together,” Mendoza said. “With having more boxes, the goal wasn’t chasing loudness or sound pressure level or overall volume, we were chasing control. It allows us to be extremely granular with where we point each individual box and the control over each zone of the audience.”

Mendoza said that he worked with French manufacturer L-Acoustics for three months to optimize the system for the space using digital modeling before importing it to the valley.

“We took a look at all the blueprints for the building and compiled them into a 3D model that we could then place the new sound system into and predict what the frequency response and what the total volume and characteristics of the system were going to be, allowing us to get it perfect in the design phase and tweak as much as we wanted to without the risk of buying ahead of time,” Mendoza said.

The new system ensures that audience members will experience the same level of sound immersion in every seat of the house.
John-Ryan Lockman/Courtesy photo

As part of the installation, subwoofers were hung above the stage with the speakers to create a more direct line of sound to the listener. Mountainside Production Services installed the system on Oct. 26, which debuted at a live show on Dec. 10 with the band OREBOLO performing.

Mendoza said that they have already received positive feedback from the artists, and more importantly audience members are noticing and appreciating enhanced quality at shows.

“It’s one thing to have traveling engineers and artists say ‘Oh wow, the system sounds great,’ but it’s a completely different thing to have the audience base get enjoyment out of it, and that’s truly what we’re here to do,” Mendoza said. “Since it’s such a powerful and very controllable system, we’re still slowly making little tweaks that we notice show by show. It’s an iterative process and the PA (system) is just going to keep getting better and better as every single show goes by.”

The new speaker system is the first in a number of acoustic improvements that the Vilar Performing Arts Center plans to invest in this year. Next up, Mendoza said that they are working on upgrading the acoustic banners to increase reverberation in the room during non-amplified performances, such as orchestras, quartets and small, intimate shows that do not play through the speakers. Not only will this deepen the sound of the show, it will also alter the aesthetics of the theater, a change that is still in the works for upcoming months.

The Vilar has just kicked off its 25th winter season, and has dozens of shows scheduled between now and the end of April. Upcoming opportunities to experience the new sound system during a live music performance include Old Dominion on Jan. 10, Rising Appalachia on Jan. 11 and Samantha Fish on Jan. 19.

“It is a very special season, as it is the Vilar’s 25th anniversary, and I would encourage everybody to come out and have a listen to the system,” Mendoza said. “We have programming for everybody, and whatever it is that you’re interested in, I guarantee you the Vilar books some of it. For anybody who wants to experience the system, I would absolutely recommend dropping in for one of our shows.”

For more information about upcoming shows, visit

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