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 an amazing collection of more than two million historical items including maps, photographs, books, documents, paintings and artefacts.
Reaching millions of people each year through publications, research groups and lectures, the UK’s learned society and professional body for geography organises events to enrich the knowledge of the world’s people, places and environments in the magnificent 750 seat Ondaatje Theatre. The Society recently decided to upgrade this perfect location with equally prestigious sonic capabilities.
Luciano Figueira, business development manager at the RGS, comments: “When we voted to invest in the theatre revamp, the sound system became our first priority. 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.”
Figueira continues: “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 called upon integrator Plus 4 Audio to tackle the brief – and they re-thought 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 Plus4Audio stood out,” explains Figueira.
Understanding the Society’s needs for pristine sound quality and reliability, Plus4Audio opted for APG’s new Uniline Compact range. At the time, the French loudspeaker manufacturer had just introduced its new compact system based on the concept of “Modular Line Array”.
Explains Plus4Audio managing director Stewart Chaney: “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. 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, Plus4Audio specified 18 APG Uniline Compact loudspeakers equally split in an LR flown line array configuration. Each line array is made of 8 x UC206N for the medium/long throw requirements, coupled with 1x UC206W speaker (dedicated to the front rows) and 2 UC115B bass speakers. 14 x DX5 coaxial loudspeakers complete the installation: two of them act as onstage monitors, three are installed in front fill, while the rest is 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 integrate perfectly in 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, Plus4Audio specified 1 x DiGiCo SD9 and 2 x Digico 32:16 D Rack, along with a Tascam SS CDR 200 audio recorder. Ten Sennheiser 2000 series radio mics are available for speakers and the audience alike.
Plus4Audio 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. 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,” comments Figueira.
When asked if specifying a challenger brand for such a prestigious client is worth the risk, Chaney responds: “It is easy for integrators to take a safe approach and recommend the big brands everyone knows about, but we pride ourselves in choosing the right solution for the right application, and APG ticked all the boxes with its Uniline Compact. I don’t think we would have achieved the same results with other speakers, and we’re proud to be the first company to install the Uniline Compact range in the UK.”
Concludes Figueira: “It took a few weeks for us to learn to drive this Formula 1 car, but now we are simply flying with it! The sound is perfect; it is exactly what we wanted it to be.”