NORTHRIDGE, California – Not long ago, the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, DC was slated for the
wrecking ball. Built in 1910 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the Howard Theatre went
from being a showcase for artists like Sarah Vaughn, Buddy Holly, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown and Duke
Ellington to its abandonment in 1980. By the time a non-profit citizens group called the Howard Theatre organization
formed in 2006 to raise the $29 million needed to revive the theatre, it was almost in total ruin.
In September 2010 the restoration began, which was completed in April 2012 in a venue of elegance and beauty
inside and out. Washington, DC’s Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Marshall Moya Design were responsible for
the theatre’s design, architecture and restoration. Systems contractor Peltrix (www.peltrix.com) of Purdys, NY
handled the A/V design and installation, which includes a large-scale HARMAN’s JBL VERTEC® line array system.
Richard Talaske (www.talaske.com) of Oak Park, IL was brought in as the acoustical consultant.
“The inside of the Theatre was a complete disaster,” said Amit Peleg of Peltrix. “The roof was caving in, a pile of
debris was in the middle of the floor and it was clear that everything would have to be completely gutted. However,
we knew of the Theatre’s past glories and that there was the potential for magnificence buried amid the wreckage.”
The restoration plans had to combine and reconcile historic architectural elements with modern attributes including
the A/V wiring, rigging, HVAC system and other aspects that were not present in the original construction. “Although
the construction crew wound up tearing down almost everything to the bare walls and even dug a new basement, we
had a lot of historical guidelines that we had to conform to, as the Howard Theatre organization wanted to retain the
charm and distinctive look and feel of the original venue as it was back in 1910,” Peleg noted.
“Obviously, we couldn’t completely hide a system that included more than 50 JBL loudspeakers,” Peleg continued,
“but we worked closely with the Howard Theatre team, the architects and Talaske to strike the best compromise
between the placement and performance of the speakers while ensuring the structural integrity of the installation and
intruding as little as possible on the interior design.”
The main system includes 20 JBL VERTEC VT4888DP-DA powered
midsize line array elements, flown 10 on each side of the stage, along
with six VERTEC VT4880ADP-DA fullsize, arrayable powered subwoofers.
Four additional ASB7128 subwoofers are placed at ground level. The
system also includes two VERTEC VT4887ADP-DA powered compact
line array elements for center downfill and two VRX928LA compact
Constant Curvature loudspeakers for delay fill under the mezzanine.
The Howard Theatre’s impressive stage monitor system consists of 13
JBL VRX915M floor wedges, two VP71215/95DPDA for side fills and a
VP7215/64DPDA powered loudspeaker and ASB7118-DPDA powered
subwoofer to deliver the drum mix.
“As I mentioned, we didn’t have the luxury of putting all the speakers
exactly where we might have wanted them,” Peleg said. “We couldn’t
place any delay speakers in the mezzanine, for example, but on the
other hand we were able to install bigger line arrays than we had first
envisioned. We also placed some of the side fill speakers on custom
moveable brackets so they can be easily moved in and out of the way
when the lighting truss is moved into and out of place for different shows. Because the room isn’t that large, we didn’t
have to worry about having enough speakers to ensure adequate sound or trying to fit too many speakers into the
“The result is absolutely stunning,” Peleg concluded. “The Howard Theatre is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever
seen and I’m really proud of the fact that by making some intelligent placement decisions and working closely with
everyone involved, our team was able to install an exceptional speaker system that does not detract from the
HARMAN (www.harman.com) designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment
solutions for the automotive, consumer and professional markets — supported by 15 leading brands, including
AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon® and Mark Levinson®. The Company is admired by audiophiles
across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform.
More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems.
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