Steeped in history, The Royal Society at Carlton House in London is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence and home to over 1,600 of the world’s most revered scientists. Its aim is to recognise, promote and support excellence in the field of science.
With regular meetings held between Council members, important committee discussions and the hiring of space within the building for external clients, audio quality is paramount across the Society. So, when the need came to upgrade the existing system, The Royal Society chose Shure Microflex Advance MXA910 (MXA) and Microflex Complete Wireless (MXCW).
Three rooms were chosen for the upgrade, with the MXCW system installed in the Council room and the MXA910 system within the conference/boardroom and the main 300-seat lecture theatre, the Welcome Trust Lecture Hall.
Liam Helm, AV services manager at The Royal Society, commented: “The MXCW system was needed primarily for audio capture in the Council room, particularly when remote participants join by VC or phone. It has a fixed oval table and had previously used fixed microphones for Voice Lift to help with members who needed assisted hearing. The MXCW replaced the older system, with a view to using the system in other rooms if necessary.
“The roving system fulfils a need where we often have external clients requesting push-to-talk microphones – we frequently hired them in, so having our own made sense. This was sometimes just because the client wanted them, but also we’d hire in to be able to record boardroom style meetings (most of the mics/PA in these spaces are configured for theatre style scenarios, though as they are flexible in layout they were often used for boardroom/cabaret as well) and we hired them quite often when we had boardroom style events requiring simultaneous translation.
“For the conference room an MXA910 is installed, set to a number of pre-sets to capture audio around different boardroom setups which feeds a NUC PC endpoint running Teams/Zoom, albeit in a room that’s not your typical VC-enabled room ( it is large and has a high ceiling, etc). It has performed really well, particularly in a round of committees that meet annually to elect the current year’s Fellows. They meet in two rounds in January and March and in March, as Covid was gathering pace, it really proved its worth as an increasing number of committee members could not travel so they joined via video conferencing.
“The other MXA910 is in our main 300-seat lecture theatre. My hope here is to use it for voice reinforcement in chat show and coffee-table-style panel discussions, as an alternative to putting lavier microphones on participants, especially when faced with back-to-back panel sessions and little time to swap microphones in the middle of a session.”
Being based in a listed building can bring its own set of challenges with any installation project, and the project at the Royal Society was no exception. “Unfortunately, when running cables to the floorboxes our Facilities team alerted us to the presence of asbestos,” explained Helm. “It was some way below and not a great threat, but nonetheless I halted the project and we eventually had an asbestos contractor pull the cables under instruction from the integrator, resulting in a delay of around 10 days.
“The fact that the MXA910 requires one Cat6 cable for signal and control was a big plus – it required drilling a single hole in the ceiling. I had concerns about the appearance in an otherwise quite antiquated environment, but the lighting in the Conference room consists of a number of rectangular units containing four light fittings, suspended on four steel cables.
“I figured if the tile was similarly hung from cables at the same height as the lights, it would blend in as well as could be expected and not interfere with the throw from the projector.
“This resulted in it hanging at the optimum height for coverage of the largest boardroom set-up, so all in all it was a great success.”
With the installation completed just before lockdown and the subsequent closure of the building, there was a limited amount of time to use the systems.
However, what little time Helm had still made a big impression, with every indication both projects had been very successful indeed, helped by support and advice from the team at Shure. “We demo’d the MXA in situ before installing in the Conference room and Shure’s advice and support has always been exceptional. What the MXA and MXCW systems bring to the table is incredibly useful to me and my team and we look forward to using them again when we return to the building.”
Reproduced from Inavate Magazine August 2020
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