MAY 20, 2020

Tokyo’s Artware hub Brings Immersive to Life with S6L and Spat

View from behind the S6L mix position at FOH

Shinjuku has a long history as one of Tokyo’s most vibrant areas, and Waseda is arguably the district’s cultural and creative nexus. The area is home to the renowned Waseda University, as well as numerous museums, theaters, night clubs, and performance spaces.

Waseda’s newest venue, the Artware hub, opened its doors in late 2019. Commissioned by the Kakehashi Foundation (Arts and Cultural Foundation), the space is the realization of a lifelong dream of Roland Corporation founder and visionary Ikutaro Kakehashi.

What appears at first glance to be a fairly typical live performance venue is, in fact, much more. Designed as an experimental acoustic space, the facility incorporates an unparalleled 36.8 multi-channel immersive audio system based around an Avid VENUE | S6L live sound system and FLUX::Immersive’s Spat Revolution software engine.

Theater with seating, projection screen and 24 in-wall speakers

The concept for the space was brought to life by Ikuo Kakehashi, the Kakehashi Foundation’s Director, and son of the famed inventor, working with producer/engineer Keiichi Itoh. As Ikuo explains, his father was always cognizant of the relationship between music and technology, and the impact of an environment on creative collaboration. “My father used to say that no matter how good the instrument maker made the instrument, it would be meaningless without a proper place to experience it,” Ikuo observes.

The venue takes its name from the term “Artware,” coined by Ikutaro Kakehashi. The term refers to not just hardware and software, but also to the human experience of an artistic performance. “We wanted to create a space that was more than merely a concert hall, that was a place where content of all kinds could be realized, and an environment where multiple people could gather and share in that performance,” Ikuo explains.

Ikuo Kakehashi and Keiichi Itoh sitting in front of the S6L console
Ikuo Kakehashi and Keiichi Itoh

The immersive listening experience was an important part of the performance environment for Ikutaro Kakehashi. As early as 1991, he had developed a 3D audio processor dubbed RSS – Roland Sound Space – one of a number of early attempts to create an immersive experience using regular stereo speaker configuration. “In designing the space, one of the most important areas of content creation for us was immersive audio,” Ikuo confirms.

Engineer and producer Keiichi Itoh was deeply involved in the project starting from the initial concept development through to the final system design. He settled on an Avid VENUE | S6L-24D system at the core of the Artware hub system, with an E6L-192 engine and a Stage 64 stage box. The S6L not only serves as the Artware hub PA console, but also as the audio interface for the facility’s Pro Tools | HDX system. “We chose the VENUE | S6L to enable mixing and recording without any stress," Itoh explains.

“The system can send and receive 128 channels to and from Pro Tools via AVB, so you can not only mix the sounds on the spot, but also easily record and playback. On the other hand, you can mix live and recorded channels [via Virtual Soundcheck] by switching selected S6L inputs from microphone to Pro Tools with this system if not all performers are available,” he continues. “Also knowing that we will be featuring artists from all over the world, we wanted to install a console that would be familiar to the greatest number of engineers—I felt the VENUE | S6L would be the best system.”

S6L at back of room to mix both FOH and monitors

An Avid Pro Tools | MTRX interface is connected to the S6L via MADI and provides the routing matrix and system monitoring and control for the facility. Outputs are converted from MADI to Dante for system distribution.

At the heart of the immersive audio system is FLUX:: Immersive’s Spat Revolution, providing acoustic simulation that allows the user to freely arrange input sources in a virtual space where loudspeakers may be freely placed to create virtually any configuration of sonic landscape. The system is configured using a single purpose-built computer. Audio sources from the stage, as well as Pro Tools outputs, are routed from the S6L to Spat via MADI.

Pro Tools | MTRX interface connected to S6L via MADI to provide the routing matrix, system monitoring, and control

The multi-channel speaker arrangement is comprised of 24 in-wall speakers at two elevations, 2.5 meters and 5 meters, each with 12 speakers arranged in 360 degrees at 30 degrees apart. Nine more speakers – eight in a circle and one at zenith – are attached to a central grid mounted to the ceiling. Three more speakers occupy temporary locations on the front floor for special effects. Eight subwoofers in four cardioid pairs complete the loudspeaker configuration.

Keiichi Itoh mixing at the S6L console
Keiichi Itoh

Since its opening in the fall of 2019, the Artware hub has hosted a wide range of performances and garnered high praise from visitors and performers alike. Thanks to the efforts of Ikuo Kakehashi and Keiichi Itoh, and innovative technologies like Spat Revolution, Ikutaro Kakehashi’s vision can finally be realized.

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