From its unique double-height dimensions to the extensive use of reflective marble surfaces used during its construction, the Royal Academy of Art’s new Benjamin West Lecture Theatre in London presents some unusual acoustic challenges.
Ensuring high quality sound is obviously a prerequisite for such a prestigious building and it was therefore imperative that the right microphones were chosen – ones that could cope with the unusual acoustics and with the wide variety of uses that the Lecture Theatre covers.
“DPA microphones have proved to be the ideal solution because they allow any technician or engineer to jump in and achieve quality sound,” said Benji Fox, AV events manager at the RA. “We are using a selection of the company’s products in a number of different ways, including acoustic mics for lectures, belt packs and lapel mics for panel discussions and the new 6066 CORE Subminiature Headset Microphones for smaller panel discussions, filming and live streaming.”
Opened in 2018 as part of the RA’s Burlington Gardens’ landmark redevelopment to mark its 250th anniversary, the Benjamin West Lecture Theatre signals a new stage to the RA’s heritage of rigorous and lively debate. Hosting events such as the Festival of Ideas, this space has become a haven for celebrated thinkers from across the arts to come and share their ideas and opinions. As well as being double-height, the Benjamin West Lecture Theatre also showcases bespoke seating and modern design.
The Lecture Theatre’s DPA inventory now includes two 4018 supercardioid microphones, which are positioned on custom lecterns at the front of the room.
“These are ideal for lectures because they have such good off-axis response, so speakers can still be clearly heard, even if they move to the side of the microphone,” Fox said. “We also have five 4098 supercardioid mics rigged on a ceiling winch as pickups for ambient audio and to add to our hearing loop system. We do a lot of podcasts in the Lecture Theatre and these mics are great for delivering high quality stereo sound.”
For panel discussions, the RA is using DPA 4080 miniature cardioid microphones that are usually attached to panellists’ lapels. Fox was introduced to these by an external contractor and was so impressed that he decided to try them out for himself.
“There are features on the 4080 that simply work amazingly well – actually better than all the other manufacturers’ lapel capsules that I have tried on site,” he said. “The unnecessary makeup gain on the 4080s, compared to the other capsules we’ve tried, means that we need less EQ overall. In fact I’ve been able to run a few events with no EQ on channels or on the master bus, something I previously thought was unachievable.”
Fox added that many of the RA’s events are recorded for archive and for podcast, with the production handled by the in-house AV team.
“Whichever DPA mics we choose, from 4080s or our recently adopted 6066 Headset microphones, we know we will be making the best possible source recordings that will need the minimal amount of postproduction. The proven track record of DPA mics at the Benjamin West Lecture Theatre means that I am now looking to expand the RA’s stock across other sites and for a variety of specialised applications.”