Founded in 1830 in London, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is the leading centre for geographers and geographical learning. With over 16,500 members, the venue is home to a collection of more than two million historic items including maps, photographs, books, documents, paintings and artefacts.
The society recently decided to upgrade its 750-seat Ondaatje Theatre, which hosts a range of events aimed at providing more information on the world’s people, places and environments.
“When we voted to invest in the theatre revamp, the sound system became our first priority,” comments RGS business development manager Luciano Figueira. “Most of the events we host are conferences, speeches and lectures, so we needed a solution that would help the speakers deliver their insights and bring the best in audio clarity, regardless of where the audience is seated in the theatre.
“While some speakers are gifted or trained orators, others are more comfortable in the middle of the arctic wilderness than in front of an audience, so we needed a solution that would be flexible and efficient enough to help them share their stories, and grab the audience from their seat. The audio element of the refurbishment became of paramount importance.”
The structure of the theatre itself also presented a number of challenges. It features a balcony and large wooden panels across the theatre walls. The RGS turned to Plus 4 Audio to tackle the brief – and they rethought the entire sound system for the theatre before selecting the audio equipment. “We are close to a number of iconic music halls and auditoriums in London, so we asked them who in their opinion would be the best integrator, and Plus 4 Audio stood out,” explains Figueira.
Understanding the Society’s needs for precise sound and reliability, Plus 4 Audio opted for APG’s new Uniline Compact range. “The sound system had to meet a number of requirements: The Royal Geographical Society theatre welcomes presenters that aren’t always professionally trained, and as a result their speech output can be quite low,” says Plus 4 Audio managing director Stewart Chaney. “The historical dimension of the theatre and its layout were also major considerations. So we needed a sound system that would not only be compact and powerful, but precise and flexible enough to perform flawlessly regardless of the circumstances. We needed speakers that could reach every single person in the room”.
In total, Plus 4 Audio specified 18 APG Uniline Compact loudspeakers equally split in an L-R flown line array configuration. Each line array is made of eight UC206N for the medium/long throw requirements, coupled with one UC206W speaker (dedicated to the front rows) and two UC115B bass speakers. Completing the installation is 14 DX5 coaxial loudspeakers: two of them act as onstage monitors, three are installed in front fill, while the rest are equally spread across the room both under and above the balcony. Both the line array boxes as well as the DX5 situated below and above the balcony were customised in white in order to blend in with the environment.
The entire system is powered by two APG DA:50 and four DA:15 DSP amplifiers, allowing for various cabling configurations depending on speakers and impedance load. For the front of house, Plus 4 Audio specified one DiGiCo SD9 and two DiGiCo 32:16 D Rack, along with a Tascam SS-CDR200 audio recorder. Sennheiser 2000 series radio mics are available for speakers and the audience alike.
Plus 4 Audio involved the RGS in selecting the right PA system, and organised A/B tests onsite. “We listened to different loudspeaker brands, but when APG demonstrated its Uniline Compact range, we were immediately sold,” adds Figueira. “The performance was fantastic, and we were most impressed with the bass levels. We first tested the system without any subwoofers and the result was already amazing. A senior representative from APG also took the time to come over, which was most appreciated and gave us further confidence that we were making the right choice.”