The Royal Albert Hall has completed the biggest improvement to sound in its auditorium since the installation of the iconic acoustic ‘mushrooms’ in 1969, 50 years ago.
Costing over £2 million, the project took 693 days of labour, using 15,291m of cable and 465 individual speakers for the world’s largest loudspeaker install in a single room.
Planned and delivered by a multi-disciplinary team during the Hall’s busiest-ever year, the project drew on the most detailed acoustic surveys and modelling ever undertaken in the Hall, ground-breaking installation methods, and a wide pool of industry-leading expertise.
As a Grade I listed building, the intricate new sound system proposal required special building consent and had to work within the fabric of the famous Victorian venue.
Incredibly, none of the 327 shows that took place during the installation period were stopped or affected, thanks to an overnight engineering work schedule carried out by installation company SFL.
Craig Hassall, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall said: “Kylie Minogue, Take That, Frank Sinatra… these are just some of the incredible artists who have played the Hall, and like them, the Hall constantly has to challenge perceptions and reinvent itself for modern audiences. This investment is about more than just updating the sound-system, it’s about future-proofing the building as we approach our 150th anniversary in 2021, so that it is fit for another 150 years.”
The Hall has a programme of events like no other. In the last year alone, it has hosted everyone from Nine Inch Nails to the London Symphony Orchestra, Clapton to Kasabian, Rudimental to Mary Poppins, boxing, ballet and everything in between. With such an eclectic variety of live entertainment, the issue of building a system to deliver for everyone was not without its challenges.
Steve Jones of d&b audiotechnik said: “The Royal Albert Hall presents a sound system designer with some of the most unique geometry in the world – it was essential that the final audio system design delivered a significant improvement to the amplified sound in this venue. Using the latest 3D modelling and simulation techniques from leading acousticians Sandy Brown, we were able to pinpoint exactly how, where and what speakers we needed to install, maximising the clarity, intelligibility and musicality that the audience expect from a world class venue. Audiences can now expect a level of audio quality and consistency across all seats which was never before been achievable.”
The new system features the first-ever circle, gallery and box speakers, bringing the sound closer to all seats, radically improving levels, tone, and clarity for every seat in the house, meaning sound quality is now equal throughout the Hall.
Built in an era of unamplified sound, the Hall’s iconic design has given it longevity, and the ability to host the world’s busiest programme of events. With its famous echo a thing of the past, the auditorium’s unamplified acoustic is unmistakeable. Treated with respect and care, it is now supported by industry-leading technology to surpass the expectations of the 21st century’s artists and audiences.
Loudspeaker install facts
- 28 weeks/6 months of overnight installation works, during which the RAH hosted 327 individual events without impact from the installation.
- 693 man-days of installation labour.
- 15,291m of cable, including: 14,640m of individual fibre cores / 3,900m of Cat6 / 54km of individual loudspeaker cable cores / Estimated total cable mass of circa. 4 metric tonnes.
- 517 d&b loudspeakers purchased
- 465 permanently installed loudspeakers, including: 3x main arrays / 1x flown sub array / 1x floor sub system / 2x out fill arrays / 2x choir fill arrays / 7x circle delay arrays / 23x gallery fills / Front and rear speakers in all 144 boxes
- 52 loose speakers for monitoring and fills
- 73 installed 4 channel amplifiers
- 211 microphones (38x Shure, 42x Neumann, 110x DPA, 21x Other)
- 120 Microphone stands
Fibre optic and CAT6a networks
- 4 wireless networks running for audio