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Toronto's Iconic Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Upgrades to FreeSpeak II to Address Current and Future Needs


In August 2021, Toronto’s iconic Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre went through a major renovation to streamline its audio equipment. The endeavor resulted from a need for more flexibility to accommodate a diverse set of production requirements, as well as a desire to provide visiting production teams with the industry’s latest and greatest. As part of the renovation, the theatre upgraded both the Elgin and Winter Garden performance spaces to include Clear-Com®’s Encore® Analog Partyline and a FreeSpeak II® Digital Wireless Intercom system in the Elgin Theatre.

Originally built in 1913, the Elgin and Winter Garden venue is the last surviving Edwardian-era stacked theatre in the world. It started with vaudeville acts and silent films, later moved into B-list movies, and after its first major renovation in the late 1980s, it went on to host everything from the world premiere of the Musical, Napoleon and the 1995 Toronto run of the Who’s Tommy musical to Christmas pantomimes, episodes of NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the taping of Bryan Adams in Concert for PBS’ Great Performances, and many other events including photo and film shoots.

With the number of varying productions circulating in and out of the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres, the venue wanted a communications system that could flex with differing needs, be compatible with incoming equipment and that was widely used throughout the industry so visiting equipment engineers could hit the ground running.

“Clear-Com is the de facto industry standard,” said Robin Johnston, Head of Audio for the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre. “Every big musical that comes in uses Clear-Com, so I wanted to keep everything under that umbrella.”

The venue now features a Clear-Com Encore Analog system in each theatre, as well as a FreeSpeak II system in the Elgin Theatre, with two FreeSpeak II transceivers strategically placed for optimum coverage.

FreeSpeak II is a five-channel, full-duplex digital wireless intercom solution, ideal for large-scale, complex designs or specialized applications requiring team members to be untethered and talking in independent channels of communication. With FreeSpeak II, you have many options with the way you choose to configure, deploy, operate, integrate and use the system and its components. It can operate in 1.9 GHz or 2.4 GHz frequency bands or both, as a standalone system or integrated with the Eclipse® HX Digital Matrix Intercom, it can provide point-to-point and/or partyline communications, connect over CAT5 or Fiber, and it can be configured on the base station or via the browser-based CCM.

“Because all our comms systems are now Clear-Com, the way everything interfaces is seamless and effortless,” explained Johnston. “I’ve got it wired into the network so I’m able to open my computer anywhere and do what I need to do; go in and reconfigure a beltpack for someone, check battery levels, or whatever. Also, previously we might get five hours battery life, now we’re getting up to eighteen hours.”

The upgrade dramatically increases the fluidity and efficiency of Johnston’s workflow and incoming engineers alike. “Before this, if I had another operator come in and they had to change or repatch something, it was more complicated than necessary,” Johnston said

“Ultimately, the new systems will better support the theatre’s clients – whoever they may be, and whatever needs they may have,” Johnston concluded. “With the state-of-the-art intercom system from Clear-Com, we are confident that these systems will serve the Elgin & Winter Garden’s needs for many years to come.”