Rising from the ashes of a once-fire damaged warehouse in Chippendale, Sydney, Phoenix Central Park has taken flight as one of the most extraordinary cultural institutions to grace the city in recent years. Designed around both the visual and performing arts, with separate unique spaces for each, Phoenix is a philanthropically funded project centred around brining art to the public, free of charge.
Conceived and financed by arts philanthropist Judith Neilson, with daughter Beau Neilson leading as Creative Director, Phoenix is host to a wide gamut of music, dance and conceptual performance. These acts are accessible to the public through a free ticket balloting system, where a lucky chosen few are admitted to “The Nest” – the venue’s intimate performance space.
‘The Nest’ is a bell-shaped chamber with asymmetrical timber ribs winding around a central stage. Equipped with an immersive PA system, The Nest is able to accommodate a wide variety of amplified performance scenarios, including those incorporating a multitude of sound sources. At the heart of handling these sources now stands a Quantum 338, one of DiGiCo’s flagship digital mixing consoles.
Joshua Milch, Phoenix’s Head of Digital, explains why the Quantum 338 was chosen to handle all FOH and foldback duties in The Nest:
“One of Phoenix’s core tenets is the free presentation of art and performance to a variety of people from all walks of life. We seek to provide a curated set of works catering to many different backgrounds and fields of interest. In the course of accommodating these performances, we’ve been presented with a plethora of different technical requirements. Before acquiring the Quantum 338, we were hiring in hardware based on whatever particular requirements were needed for each artist. We’re delighted to have something permanent now, which will be able to handle whatever mixing requirements may come up. It’s the console’s ability to handle such a range of scenarios that made it the right choice for Phoenix.”
“In the short time we’ve been up and running, we’ve had acts like Sampa the Great, Genesis Owusu, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Jon Hopkins, Kelly Lee Owens and plenty more. Phoenix has hosted piano recitals, traditional chamber music, pop, opera, electronica, experimental noise, Korean hiphop, funk, neo-soul, progressive jazz… you name it- and for each we have a commitment to a high quality of presentation, and to making sure we respect our artists with the best sound available. That’s why audio quality was another huge consideration for us and the Quantum 338 excels in this area.”
With an abundance of innovative new mix and interface features, DiGiCo’s Quantum 338 represents a striking step up in connectivity and processing power, making it the most advanced digital mixing desk for live audio currently available. A comprehensive platform with an immense 128 input channel count, highly dynamic routing capabilities and a rich fx feature set has seen the console adopted by many top production companies throughout Australia.
Felix Abrahams, Head of Audio & Technical Production at Phoenix, holds a substantial background in live audio production and knew early on that a Quantum 338 would be the optimal solution to the venue’s ever-changing technical requirements:
“Phoenix is both an intricate and intimate space, with flexibility very much a recurring theme across our day-to-day work. We’re very glad to have acquired the 338, as it fills a critical role very well- helping us achieve the finesse and adaptability required here. We essentially need to have a console that has capabilities that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
Felix goes on to detail his standard routing setup with praise for some of the Quantum 338’s forward-thinking features:
“Having a desk with a high channel count enables me to designate the first 36 channels as inputs, with the next 36 as monitor channels, the next 12 as stereo fx returns and 12 for system inputs like background music. We also make use of 8 outputs feeding IEMs and 8 outputs go to foldback wedges. The 36 monitor channels share the same inputs as the initial 36, but are routed differently- with entirely separate processing and effects. The ability to have individual dynamic EQs on any channel is a flexible piece of power that is truly unrivalled.”
“I find the eq on the Quantum more responsive than on previous DiGiCo consoles, and I am really liking the Mustard Tube amp modelling- a great improvement over DiGiTube. Mustard Processing has a sonic signature all of its own, and it’s a good one!”
Felix explains that the wealth of the Quantum 338’s onboard features mean much of the mixing is done ‘in the box’, with the processing and effects suitable in meeting the needs of more technically demanding acts:
“We’ve been able to handle the requirements for orchestra, choir, and the sideshows of major artists. But we’ve also already used it on more esoteric setups. One such was a performance called ‘Sound Touch’ with composer Damien Ricketson- incorporating a lot of DIY sound devices, with a zoned PA setup and some channels feeding spot speakers.”
“Another big advantage when working with modern digital consoles like the Quantum is the ability to have ‘save and recall’ on routing and channel setups. The 338 is a significant investment for the venue, but the proprietors may also need it to be used outside of Phoenix. Another likely venue would be Dangrove, which is Judith Neilson’s Art Storage Facility, that also serves as an exhibition and performance space. Being able to program separate Session files for Dangrove and then go straight back into Phoenix with full recall is very useful.”
Opening in early 2022, Phoenix has already played host to well over 20,000 attendees, embodying crucible and canvas for a myriad of national and international artists. Averaging 4 shows a week across a plethora of live expression, the team behind Phoenix maintain a delineated approach to production, as Felix reveals:
“It’s important to us that the character of audio is in line with the quality of audience experience that the venue strives for. Thankfully, the artists coming through love the setup- they often tell me they feel comfortable in what they are hearing and that helps facilitate a strong performance. Part of that is thanks to the wisdom of the team, but another very real part of it comes down to the quality and control we get with tools like the Quantum 338.”