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Sage Gateshead gets RCF sound upgrade for 10th birthday

An RCF HDL 20-A line array was installed in Hall One of the venue in NE England

The Sage Gateshead,‹ an iconic multi-arts building in the north-east of England which originally cost £70m to construct,‹ is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary with a major upgrade of its sound system.

To celebrate the landmark birthday, the venue (pictured) has overhauled its 1700-capacity Hall One with the installation of an RCF HDL 20-A line array by local contractor Nitelites, a longtime RCF rental partner. An HDL20-A had previously been flown on a temporary basis on many occasions to support the house system by the facility’s head of technical operations, Chris Durant, and his team.

The Sage, home to the Royal Northern Sinfonia orchestra and host to a vast concert agenda that includes jazz, folk, country and rock, says the original beam steering system had “rarely kept pace with [its] promotional ambitions,” and Nitelites found itself increasingly deploying its RCF TT+ and HDL rigs. Eventually, Nitelites’ MD, Jamie Moore, proposed that a flown HDL 20-A be installed on a permanent basis both to save the Sage hire costs and enable the system to be purpose-tuned via a series of preset scenes accessed via a custom panel.

Nitelites co-director Andy Magee explains: “With HDL, we were confident we could get even coverage around the building, whether for speech or classical. The system is easy to deploy, quick to rig and fast to wire.”

The PA is designed to cover the ground floor and two balcony tiers and is split into 12 zones. Nitelites detailed 12 HDL20-A enclosures for each flank, rigged on a flying frame which will take up to 16 elements. The rest of the complement comprises three HDL 20-As a side as portable ground stack on custom dollies atop a SUB 8004. A separate stack features three SUB 8006s in a reverse cardioid pattern (one rear facing), with an HDL 10-A on top.

Two HDL 10-As are also used for under-balcony infill and four as front lip fills. On the sides of the main hang for outfills are four discreet RCF TT08s.

Durant believes that Nitelites’ “attention to detail in tuning” has enabled the venue to get an additional 30 per cent from the system. “We’ve had pretty much every big system in here, and our new in-house RCF house rigs sounds better because temporary systems have to be set up so quickly; this been tuned to within an inch of its life.”

He adds: “The great thing about the HDL 20-A is that it goes down to 55Hz so for jazz and classical there are no subs at all. In fact the first time I heard it I thought our subs had been switched in by mistake.”