It has been a busy Autumn for Canegreen and SSE Hire - two leading UK sound rental companies that are part of SSE Audio Group.
Flying Meyer for Ray LaMontagne
Between mid September and early November 2009 the two companies provided PA at London's Royal Albert Hall on no less than six ocassions - although using three different systems.
Canegreen is well-established with Meyer systems - as used for both Ray LaMontagne and Andy Williams concerts at the Hall.
SSE Hire use both NEXO and L-Acoustics systems, with NEXO GeoT used for Michael Bolton and a PRS charity event featuring, amongst others, The Faces; while L-Acoustics new K1 system was used for Maximo Park and Morrissey at the venue.
L-Acoustics K1 system flown for Morrissey concert
18 months into the merger of Canegreen and SSE, events like these have seen the two businesses working closer and closer together.
"Although the PRS Event at the Royal Albert Hall is a Canegreen account, it's using SSE equipment from Redditch and I'm very happy to use the Nexo GeoT line array." says Canegreen founder, Yan Stile.
Nexo GeoT arrays for 'Helping the Heart of Music'
Echos of the Past
The list of famous performers and world figures who have appeared at the Royal Albert Hall since it opened in 1871 is unrivalled. From Elgar to Sinatra; Eric Clapton to Bill Clinton; Wagner to Winston Churchill; Verdi to Jay Z; and BB King to HM the Queen.
That said, it's never been the easiest venue from a sound point of view.
At a concert that followed the opening ceremony by Queen Victoria in March 1871 the Hall's acoustic problems became immediately apparent. The echo was so bad, it used to be said that the hall was the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice!
The vast internal auditorium, 185 feet wide by 219 feet long, covered by a glazed dome constructed of wrought iron girders at the time, was the largest structure of its kind in the world.
Nearly 100 years would pass before the acoustic problem was tackled in 1969, when a series of large fibreglass acoustic discs (commonly referred to as "mushrooms" or "flying saucers" were installed in the roof.
More recently the Hall has undergone a rolling programme of renovation from 1996-2004. The first complete refit since 1871 has upgraded the backstage facilities including an underground service entrance and yard and once again the acoustics were re-cast.
Sound System Design
Yan Stile (pictured right at the Hall for the PRS fund-raising concert 'Helping the Heart for Music') explained that:
"SSE and Canegreen regularly do shows in the RAH so we've gained an awful lot of experience about how to treat a very lively room, and we're as good as anyone at designing systems for this purpose".
Typically, four hangs of line array speakers are used to cover the audience, who are spread almost in the round and high into the roof in the galleries. When the audience occupy the Choir seats behind the stage, a further two hangs are used.
Meyer arrays used for Andy Williams
"The venue produces loads of low to mid energy swirling around, which we can handle with good system design and system EQ", explained SSE Project Manger, Dan Bennett.
Placement of the PA is largely determined with prediction software, within the constraints of the flying points in the Hall.
L-Acoustics K1 in the RAH - Predicted Dispersion
"We installed T- pieces of truss, mounted on the house grid and we were able to leave these, together with the motors, in place for the series of events we've recently serviced."
The line arrays are aligned with the help of ProSight, a laser inclinometer system designed and manufactured by SSE.
Dan Bennett explained that whatever main system is flown, it usually requires supplementing.
"With such a tall auditorium, lots of vertical dispersion is required and the trim height of the hangs means the audience on the ground require infill coverage - typically by L-Acoustics dVDOSC and ARCS or Nexo Alpha EMs."
For the PRS show, L-Acoustics SB-218 subs were place under the stage.
Cabling for the hangs at the Royal Albert Hall has to be taken up from each array and fed back to points before dropping them to the back of the venue. Amp racks - Camco Vortex 6 amps for the Geo-T system and LA8s for L-Acoustics - are placed either on the floor backstage or in one of the galleries, depending on configurations and the seats in use.
Dolby Lake processors are located in the Drive rack at FOH and a remote wireless tablet is used to help time-align the system, enabling the vast number of areas around the hall to be checked for unwanted resonances.
With a combined experience of 60 years, Canegreen and SSE can pool their expertise as well as equipment. Both Yan Stile and SSE Audio Group MD, John Penn believe the interplay of their combined experiences - or cross-pollination as they call it - is proving a powerful tool. Whether in a classic venue like the Royal Albert Hall or in one of the UK's new arenas, musicians from whatever tradition increasingly rely on highly specialised support.
"Whether its sound system design, digital mixing consoles or in-ear monitors, we need to provide the latest knowledge and expertise in a growing number of disciplines, that clients can depended upon. And that's whay we are now able to do", says John Penn.
The Royal Albert Hall - Autumn 2009.
Sound Systems by SSE Hire and Canegreen
Ray LaMontagne, 16th September, using MeyerSound
Andy Williams, 5th October, using Meyersound
Maximo Park 9th October, using L-Acoustics K1
Helping the Heart of Music - PRS Benefit 25 October 2009, using Nexo Geo T
Morrissey 27 October, using L-Acoustics K1
Michael Bolton 2 & 3 November, using Nexo Geo T