Ferguson Center for the Arts, located within Christopher Newport University in Virginia, has become a hub for a diverse range of performances since its inauguration in 2004. Designed by renowned architects I.M. Pei and Henry Cobb, the world-class venue has welcomed over two million visitors and counting. The centre has played host to Broadway Musicals and a wide range of touring acts, including Andrea Bocelli, John Legend, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Jay Leno and Ziggy Marley to name only a few.
A substantial upgrade of the audio installation, featuring a range of RCF loudspeakers, compliments the building’s outstanding architectural presence. One of many recent site upgrades, the RCF system serves to maintain the venue’s ‘world-class’ designation, providing best-in-class technology for the centre’s PA setup. “In some ways it seems we are always in a state of upgrading something somewhere,” muses Eric Kelly, the facility’s audio engineer.
Kelly began his career touring with acts including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff. When Kelly arrived at Ferguson, the main 1,700-seat Diamonstein Concert Hall lacked a main PA system. “It was really just for speech reinforcement and had limited coverage. We would rent PA for all our visits by touring acts, and as those fees piled up, I was able to convince management to purchase a system of our own that would serve both our in-house needs and those of our visitors.”
Recognizing the need for a highly capable in-house system, Kelly advocated for a PA that would serve the venue’s needs whilst also attracting touring artists. “We needed a system that could meet a broad range of production needs,” explains Kelly. 20 x RCF TTL 31-A loudspeakers and a pair of TTS 56-A subs were chosen, providing enhanced coverage and versatility throughout the hall. “We went with the RCF products based upon sound quality, and the unmatched support they had given us over the years,” Kelly reveals.
After the venue’s initial RCF acquisitions, Kelly saw an opportunity to further improve the system. His vision was realised with the addition of 24 x TTL 55-A cabinets, RDNet-equipped three-way line array modules featuring 96 KHz 32-bit DSP. Further additions included RCF’s TTL 36-AS active subwoofers, configured in a flexible optional cardioid setup for maximum versatility. Stage monitors from RCF, a combination of TT 20-CXA and TT 45-CXA wedges, are also used.
Kelly was particularly impressed with the double-12” configuration of the TTL 55-A cabinet:
“Even at low volumes you can feel the impact of our new, upgraded system. My take has always been that when you have ample headroom and power at hand it tends to keep engineers mixing at quieter levels, and that’s a valuable attribute in a theatre of our size. These double-12s are mounted in a clam shell band-pass loading configuration as well, and that makes the box actually not much ‘bigger’ horizontally than most others it competes with. Bottom line, the visual impact isn’t huge at all, but the physical impact is.”
The system was tuned by Kelly and team, with the aid of RCF’s Tarik Solangi and Oscar Mora using RDNet to investigate and shape the performance of the individual RCF boxes and groups. Kelly also emphasized the value of RCF’s proprietary finite impulse response (FIR) filter technology:
“FiRPHASE makes a difference, especially when you consider the number of guest engineers that pass through here. Everyone mixes differently, and every show requires different mixing. Now it’s nice to be able to hand an engineer a tablet and have them be able to use the filters instead of doing a lot of EQing when they can.”
“The thing that really differentiates this PA from our previous one is that it’s very linear,” Kelly highlights. “It doesn’t matter if you’re running it down quiet around 65 dB or jumping up north of 100. There is a nice consistency, increased power, vocal clarity, and remarkable imaging.” Reflecting on Ferguson Center’s most recent set of upgrades, Tarik Solangi, VP of Sales and Marketing at RCF USA, summarizes:
“This installation shines a spotlight on our flagship TT+ Series, which is expressly designed for live concerts, sports events, speech reinforcement, performing arts centre like Ferguson, and other high-end applications. […] We couldn’t be happier to continue our relationship with everyone here at the Ferguson Center. It’s a positive association that anyone in this industry would be rightly proud of.”