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Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre Comes Back to Life with L-Acoustics Kiva II

The Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre, one of several venues that comprise the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo, is located on the campus of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), situated on the beautiful Central Coast of California. Spanos Theatre, built-in 1960, is a 498-seat proscenium house that joined the 1,289-seat Harold Miossi Hall, the 400-capacity multipurpose Pavilion, and the 180-seat classroom Phillips Hall as part of the Performing Arts Center campus when it was inaugurated in September of 1996.

The Spanos Theatre is characterized by its single, slightly sloped floor of seating and two aisles, with a sightline that nearly parallels the stage floor, adding a unique sense of connection between stage and seat. Like many venues around the globe, the Spanos was forced to go dark during the pandemic. However, that downtime was put to excellent use as San Luis Obispo-based Bill Gaines Audio (BGA) designed and installed a new L-Acoustics Kiva II-based loudspeaker system for the theatre. Infrastructure and wiring for the new system were integrated by Spanos Theatre Manager and Technical Director David Beals, who instigated and shepherded the project for the University, along with Bobby Genereux, and Conor Vache.

“It’s been closed for a while now, so it felt great to get back in there again and mix a show on the new system,” says Bill Gaines, president and CEO of BGA and who also handles front-of-house mix duties for the venue’s more complex productions. He mixed Latin Grammy-winning Spanish guitar musician Diego “Twanguero” Garcia on January 29th, as well as the recent Hill Benders “WhoGrass” show—some of the first productions in the venue for over a year.

The new L-Acoustics system, designed to address every type of show the Spanos Theatre hosts, is meeting productions with the utmost clarity and performance. The newly installed setup features 16 L-Acoustics Kiva II enclosures arrayed eight per side in a two-hang stereo configuration on either side of the proscenium. A center array comprising a pair of A15i Focus speakers is on a cart and is rolled out to provide the center channel for movie showings. The system is buttressed below by six SB15m compact subwoofers, arrayed three stage-left and three stage-right, along with a pair of SB18 subs ground-stacked under centerstage in the orchestra pit. In addition, four 5XT two-way passive coaxial enclosures are used as front-fills along the lip of the stage. Five networked LA4X amplified controllers drive and process the entire loudspeaker system.

The Performing Arts Center is no stranger to the L-Acoustics brand. Just a few years ago, BGA supplied the complex with a stage monitoring package for Harold Miossi Hall—previously known as Sidney Harman Hall—consisting of 18 coaxial X12 wedges.

For the Spanos loudspeaker installation, Gaines worked closely with L-Acoustics Senior Application Engineer, Install André Pichette, using L-Acoustics Soundvision software for system design and the P1 processor with M1 measurement tools for final system tuning. “The Kiva II are the perfect speakers for this room,” he says. “Compact and lightweight, they’re able to be hung as part of the overhead stage grid and easy to take down and reposition as needed for different types of shows. They entirely cover the seating while keeping energy off the walls, and you can get excellent stereo imaging when sitting all the way on either side of the room, front to back and left to right.”

The Spanos Theatre is a Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts venue, and Gaines says the Kiva II is also a great sound system for students to learn theatrical sound on, in keeping with the school’s longstanding “Learn by Doing” core philosophy. “They learn right from the beginning what a theater audio system is supposed to sound like and why it’s important to design the system to keep sound off the walls and other hard surfaces, and how the right speakers enable that,” he explains. “It’s another way that L-Acoustics makes a difference.”

For more info on Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre, please visit Find Bill Gaines Audio online at


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