Budapest Opera House

The Hungarian State Opera House is a neo-Renaissance building located in central Budapest. Inaugurated in 1884, this historic building is a landmark of the Hungarian capital and a cultural hub for both traditional and modern opera. As part of an overall renovation of the building, Budapest-based integrator Chromasound installed a full K-array loudspeaker solution across the auditorium and other key areas in the building - including the prestigious King’s Red Saloon - in line with the recommendations of sound system designer Andor Fürjes.

“The use of loudspeaker systems in an opera house is controversial,” explains Fürjes. “Some say it is useful, but only to support sound effects. Others say an opera hall is a great place to gather for any purpose and in that case, it should have a loudspeaker system like any other multipurpose venue. Traditionally, architects don’t like to see anything that may obstruct the view or disturb the visual focus of what is happening on stage. People interested in monument protection will reject anything that might affect historic details or harm original structures. On the other hand, users and technicians dream of easy-to-use equipment that sounds musically pleasing and intelligible at all listening positions. Some of these conditions are present in most venues, but all of them were present in the design of Hungarian State Opera.”

The system needed to be discreet, high-quality and win over those sceptical of allowing a loudspeaker system into a traditional opera hall. Preserving sightlines and fitting a renovation brief which focused on returning the Hungarian Opera House ‘back to the original’, was also of utmost importance. In a collaboration between Chromasound, Andor Fürjes and Hungarian distributor Audio Partner, a full K-array system of column loudspeakers, subwoofers and amplifiers was specified. “In the past, I’d had bad experiences with traditional column loudspeakers when trying to sound musical,” recalls Fürjes. “However, the first listening test of K-array products several years ago convinced me that it is possible to make full musical sound from even tiny-looking enclosures if done properly.”

The slim form factor of K-array’s column loudspeakers alongside their range of customisable finishes also made them a great fit for this project as they could blend seamlessly into the historic environment. “The National Opera House has quite narrow wall surfaces at the stage opening, so bulky loudspeaker enclosures were not an option for architects” continues Fürjes, on the challenges posed by the venue. “Also, the renovation aimed for a more direct off-the-pit response and less carpeted surface, so the orchestra pit was moved into the audience area by one or two rows, resulting in a significantly larger proscenium stage area. The larger proscenium stage area also meant more potential risk of feedback, if the loudspeakers were to be installed at the stage opening.”

Through EASE modelling, Fürjes confirmed the viability of a K-array system leading to the installation of eighteen Python and six Kobra line array loudspeakers, driven by Kommander amplifiers. Sub-bass is provided by the Thunder and Rumble series of subwoofers. Describing his design decisions, Fürjes explains, “The main loudspeakers were set to be as high as possible to provide more on-axis response from the stall seats up to the topmost listening positions. Subwoofers were exiled to the upper boxes next to the stage. Some subwoofers are installed below the stall seats floor for a more direct bass response.” Throughout the incredible King’s Red Saloon, fourteen ultra-flat aluminium line array element loudspeakers ensure discreet yet powerful sound. The preservation of the look and feel of the space was of great importance to this project, and the custom finishes offered by K-array helped with this. "It was very easy to work with K-array loudspeakers,” says Chromasound installation engineer, Bálint Rédei. “We were wondering how the custom colours would fit into the environment but on opening the boxes, we saw immediately that the colours were superb and a perfect fit with the space. I especially liked the gold finish on the main PA column in the proscenium, and the tiny red-coloured Vyper loudspeakers, deployed in the corners of the King’s Red Saloon.”

After much anticipation, the Hungarian State Opera reopened in 2022, with an interior renovation that has successfully returned this cultural gem to its former glory. With a full calendar of performances, the K-array system provides clear, reliable and discreet audio across a variety of use cases. Fürjes is positive about the result, “The loudspeaker system is visually just as elegant and graceful as it can be in this historical environment. I sincerely hope that at least some of the audience will be wondering where this great sound is coming from.”