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Royal Opera House installs ‘invisible’ K-array loudspeaker system

London’s Royal Opera House has upgraded its sound system while maintaining the venue’s aesthetics fitting a discreet K-array system with loudspeakers mounted each side of the proscenium arch.

London’s Royal Opera House has upgraded its sound system while maintaining the venue’s aesthetics fitting a discreet K-array loudspeaker system with eight KP102s mounted each side of the proscenium arch.

Installers Stage Electrics took a KR402 system to the Royal Opera House for head of sound, Steve Zissler to hear. Jamie Gosney from Stage Electrics, who designed the system at the Royal Opera House, explained: “They thought it was just the sort of system they’d been looking for. We didn’t know what results we’d get in the venue, but with just that one portable system, we could hear it wherever we went. It was pretty amazing.”

After discussions with Steve and his team, Gosney and Dave Wooster, from K-array distributor 2B Heard, put a series of designs together. “We’d send them to Steve and he’d say, ‘Ah, right, but can we do this?’,” recalled Gosney. “And we redid it until we got it to the point that everyone was completely happy.“

The system comprises the aforementioned KP102, colour matched to the gold of the proscenium arch, with 24 KKS50 Compact Sub-Bass in six clusters of four subs, three clusters each side. As well as eight KK102 front fills built into the new thrust stage, two KA84 four channel amplifiers powering the main proscenium L/R system, a KA84 four channel amplifier powering all six sub bass clusters and a further KA24 four channel amplifier powering the front fills.

“One of the truly amazing performance aspects of the system is the image across the room,” commented Wooster. “From sitting in the very first box, round to dead centre, the stereo image is impeccable. Even if you are sitting in the first box house left, you experience a lower level of the left array due to proximity, but you also receive a strong level of house right because the distance allows the system to couple more elements. Combined with the 110-degree horizontal spread, left and right are well balanced.

“The other benefit of this system is that due to the amount of drivers in the column you are always on axis to the system. This has a dramatic effect on the requirement for under balcony delays and the real experience of sound coming from the stage and not above your head.

“The overall performance of the system, totalling eight KP102s per side, each providing 720W from 12 drivers in each section, suddenly starts to mount up. With 96 3.15in drivers providing around 5,760W, a dispersion of seven degrees vertical and 100 degrees horizontal and weighing in at 96kg, this becomes a system like no other.”

“Mixing on a system like this does require a small amount of mind over matter if you constantly look at what’s in from of you, as opposed to what you’re hearing. But if you stop looking and start listening your mind will easily remember what matters; a system that has a dynamic and fast response to what it receives and accuracy in what the engineer expects and wants it to do.”

“As well as being an opera house, we also host commercial events,” said Zissler. “And for us, the K-array is a system that covers at least 90/95% of what we want to do.

“When you walk into the auditorium, you’ve got the grandiose gold proscenium, rich red plush seats and you’re not expecting to see a loudspeaker hanging above your head. That’s the key to it for us; it’s all about people coming into the auditorium and not seeing a loudspeaker, or not having a sense of the sound being reinforced. For a commercial event, it’s fair enough, but generally, if we’re doing some of the more contemporary operas or ballets which may have electronic instruments as part of the score, you just want that sense of the sound being lifted, but not the sense of it coming from that loudspeaker over there.”

K-array loudspeakers