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Royal Academy of Music

The Duke’s Hall is the beautiful main performance space within the Royal Academy of Music on London’s Marylebone Road, and has recently benefited from Autograph’s expertise in creating bespoke solutions for high-profile locations where others considerations as well as great audio come into play.

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, Arthur Sullivan, Sir Henry Wood and others far too numerous to list.

I have been immensely impressed with the level of service and the care and attention to detail from the Autograph team. The installation is practically invisible.

The Duke’s Hall is a multi-purpose space whose duties include orchestral concerts and master classes, for which a small but capable sound reinforcement system was required. Autograph Sales & Installations were tasked with supplying and installing a design that would not only blend seamlessly into the room’s decor, style and ambience, but also allow an operator to control the system remotely from within the auditorium.

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, whilst providing even coverage throughout the room. Autograph specified Tannoy VLS 15 column-array loudspeakers as the main left / right system, supplemented by Tannoy VSX 10BP subwoofers and VX8s for balcony-fills, 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 asymmetric coverage pattern enabled them to be mounted flush against the wall, further reducing their visible profile.

The key technology allowing the Academy to realise their ambition of system remote control however, is the Yamaha MTX control platform. Autograph’s project designer was Chris Austin who said, ‘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,’

The Duke's Hall with the Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper Organ

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. Chris again: ‘The Shure digital radio mics sound incredible, totally befitting the nature and utilisation of the hall. 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 their 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 offer to support their proposed designs with on-site product evaluations, and the Royal Academy of Music was no exception. Chris again: ‘In conjunction with the manufacturer 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. 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’.

Andrew Hawkins, the Royal Academy of Music’s Events Technical Manager commented, ‘the evening was a great success, the new system was fantastic - I controlled the system from the mezzanine floor. 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.’

Royal Academy of Music

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