Royal Academy of Music Duke’s Hall
Providing the main performance space for London’s Royal Academy of Music, The Duke’s Hall is a multi-purpose space whose duties include orchestral concerts and master classes.

Recently Autograph Sales & Installations was called on to a design a small but capable sound system that would blend into the room’s decor, style and ambience, and also allow an operator to control the system remotely from within the auditorium.

Founded in 1822 and granted its Royal Charter in 1830, the Royal Academy of Music is a conservatoire, a constituent college of the University Of London and Britain’s oldest degree-granting music school. It’s alumni populate every field of musical performance, and include Katherine Jenkins, Lesley Garrett, Evelyn Glennie, Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Henry Wood among many others. The Royal Academy of Music turned to Autograph Sales & Installations based on its past work for high-profile locations where other considerations as well as great audio come into play.

As the main potentially-visible component of the sound system, the loudspeakers had to be as unobtrusive and ‘in-keeping’ with the overall look as possible, while providing even coverage throughout the room. Autograph specified Tannoy VLS 15 column array loudspeakers as the main LR system, supplemented by Tannoy VSX 10BP subwoofers and VX8s for balcony fill, all powered by Lab.gruppen E12 amplifiers. The Tannoy modules were all custom painted to provide a near-perfect colour match to the hall, and this in combination with their compact size and careful installation, means that they are all but invisible. Additionally the VLS 15s were specified because their coverage pattern enabled them to be mounted flush against the wall, further reducing their visible profile.

The key technology allowing the Academy to realise its ambition of system remote control, however, is the Yamaha MTX control platform, as Autograph Project Designer Chris Austin explains: ‘The Yamaha MTX processor gives us a simple “hands-off” control system, with a wall plate located back stage for adjusting levels. The real operational attraction of the MTX system is its iOS control, however, as it allows the engineer to sit anywhere within the audience and control the level of the podium or radio mics from his iPhone,’

‘Another thing we liked about the MTX3, which was key to the brief, was that we could install a DCP4V4S wall plate backstage for adjusting levels manually, which is a very straightforward control system for making rapid changes,’ Austin says. ‘The building’s historic architecture meant that the system had to be as visually unobtrusive as possible, so the compact size of the wall plate and Wi-Fi control were ideal.’

Autograph also specified Shure ULX-D wireless handheld microphones for the project, which are designed specifically for installed applications and feature integral rechargeable batteries as standard.

‘The Shure digital radio mics sound incredible, totally befitting the nature and utilisation of the hall,’ Austin says. ‘Our design placed a real premium on delivering a completely natural sound for this project and their performance plays a key part in achieving that. On top of that, the rechargeable technology is such a simple and effective idea that delivers real benefits to the client – the transmitters are stored on a charging unit when not in use, and when they’re needed the user simply picks up a mic, switches it on and they’re ready. The cells provide up to 11 hours use on a full charge and of course this also makes the system cheaper to run as its not constantly using batteries, and also eliminates the environmental cost of disposing of dead cells.’

The physical structure of the building required Autograph to tie the new systems into as much of the existing cabling, data and audio infrastructure as possible. This included use of the existing IT network whose extensive wi-fi coverage extends the operational reach of the control systems, saving the cost of extra networking equipment.

Autograph always offers to support proposed designs with on-site product evaluations, and the Royal Academy of Music project was no exception: ‘We conducted two demos to make sure that everyone was happy with our design in terms of how it sounded and especially what it would look like, which secured the project for us,’ Austin says. ‘When we were given the go-ahead, however, a new pipe organ was in the process of being installed and it was made clear that the new system had to be ready for the Inauguration of the Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper Organ. Part of the installation of the instrument was the voicing of the huge number of individual pipes, which meant we couldn’t get into the hall while that was underway. Consequently we completed the entire installation over the course of four long nights and the installation was finished on schedule and on budget – all part of Autograph’s commitment to service’.

‘The evening [Inauguration of the Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper Organ] was a great success, and the new system was fantastic – I controlled the system from the mezzanine floor,’ reports Andrew Hawkins, the Royal Academy of Music’s Events Technical Manager. ‘I have been immensely impressed with the level of service and the care and attention to detail from Chris Austin and the Autograph team, the installation is practically invisible.’

See also:
Heard not Seen: Autograph’s Signature Script

More: www.autographsales.co.uk
More: www.tannoypro.com 
More: www.labgruppen.com 
More: www.yamahacommercialaudio.com

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