The MK Gallery in Buckinghamshire, England’s Milton Keynes is a new arts venue designed by architectural firm, 6a architects. The new development encompasses the original MK Gallery and adds a new structure to more than double the space available. The completed development, which opened in March 2019, provides five exhibition galleries, a large learning and community studio, and The Sky Room, a flexible auditorium on the upper floor with 150 retractable seats (300 standing) and sweeping views over Campbell Park and the countryside.
The Sky Room is fully equipped with a sound system based on the EM Acoustics EMS Series and the dedicated installation i-Series range supplied by event production specialists, Hawthorn.
An EM Acoustics system was specified as part of the global design of the Sky Room. “It sounded great but I felt that the initial spec was lacking a bit of low end, and needed a bit of tweaking in order to really suit our needs, so I got in touch with EM Acoustics directly to see if they could help,” explains Jamie Aylard, facilities & technical manager at MK Gallery. “EM’s David Kelland came to see us, and with his help we were able to design a system that suited both our needs and our budget. The results now are fantastic – I’m really pleased with how it sounds.”
The overriding criterion was flexibility as the Sky Room is a truly multi-purpose space. As well as being the new home of independent cinema in Milton Keynes (in partnership with Curzon), the venue also plays host to live music, theatre, lectures, conferences and more. “Whatever the event may be, we have to make it work,” says Aylard, “and that means that the sound system has to adapt accordingly.”
The main system is comprised of two i-C12 coaxial, reflex-loaded full range loudspeakers flown from the ceiling grid. “These are used for lectures, conferences and of course cinema,” says Aylard. They are supplemented by four compact EMS-61s also flown from the grid which provide additional vocal reinforcement and help fill the back of the hall. For live music applications, Aylard uses a pair of EMS-215 subs with a pole-mounted i-C12 on top to create a full range L/R system. He also has four M12 stage monitors and a spare pair of i-C12s that can also act as monitors when required or additional reinforcement for the main system. Two DQ-20D amplifiers handle power requirements and the entire system is networked via Dante for quick and easy setup and configuration.
“Having everything on a Dante network makes life so much easier,” enthuses Aylard. “We tailor the system to bands’ needs every single time, and it’s never the same thing twice – visiting engineers are always impressed by how quick and easy the whole thing is to set up and manage. And then they are impressed by the sound quality which, for such a small space, is superb. It’s like being in a proper concert hall.”
“Ultimately, the system in the Sky Room is exactly what I’d hoped for,” he concludes. “It sounds amazing, it’s versatile, and it’s quick and easy to set up whether we have a flat floor configuration with or without seating, or raked seating with or without a stage, or a cinema setup. EM Acoustics have been fantastic to deal with and David was an excellent help when it came to tweaking to system to suit our requirements. I’m a very happy customer.”