Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama installs Roland M-480 console

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama has installed a new Roland M-480 digital mixing console as part of their extensive refurbishment.

The Cardiff-based college—which is known as Coleg Brenhinol Cerdd a Drama Cymru in Welsh—was founded in 1949 and is the National Conservatoire of Wales.

In June 2011, The Royal Welsh College opened its doors to its new world-class performance and rehearsal venue which cost £22.5 million to build.

The makeover included the 180-seat Richard Burton Theatre and the 400-seat Dora Stoutzker Concert Hall. In order to support the concert hall the makeover included a recording studio which could also be patched into all the new rehearsal and performance spaces.

As well as the Roland M-480 the college has also purchased a large amount of other Roland System Group tech. This includes a M-400 digital console as well as an extensive stock of Digital Snakes including S-1608 stage units, S-0816 FOH units and a pair of S-0808 8×8 I/O Units.

One of the most important features of the new installation for the college is that each of the new venues has a REAC (Roland Ethernet Audio Communication) S-1608 stage box built into their rack rooms.

REAC provides users with 40 channels and 24-bit multirack recording to PC and can provide it using the lightweight and inexpensive Cat5e or Cat6 cables. This means that users don’t have to utilize analog cables which—as well as being expensive to install—suffer from high frequency loss and hums and buzzes.

The REAC technology means that the college has a hugely flexible, plug and play modular system at hand. Indeed, it was the appeal of the REAC technology of the Roland M-480 which made the console so appealing to the college as it meant that it could integrate seamlessly with the equipment currently installed.

The Roland M-480 console—supplied by Reading-based AV hires and sales specialists, SFL Group—is used primarily in the recording studio. Nonetheless, the M-480 can be swapped with the M-400 (which is usually in the Richard Burton Theatre) as needed if users judge the other desk to be better suit to certain applications.

The M-480 is the new flagship of Roland’s V-Mixing System providing the user with 48 mixing channels. Also, with the increased processing power the M-480 is able to handle 4-band fully parametric EQ and gate/compressor on all input channels as well as 214 possible patch points with 90 discrete outputs.

With all this available on one mixing console the College’s Senior Technician, Matt Rogerson, when the console needed replacing in the concert hall recording studio it was an easy decision.

“The ease of use of the Roland products are very high on our priority list—and all the features are built in to the M-480 so we don’t need any outboard,” explained Rogerson, “the same with the recording to USB function—we don’t need any extra hardware, it’s just easy.”

Certainly, the M-480 is designed to be clear, intuitive and easy to learn by users. With a large colour display and dedicated knobs and buttons in the channel edit section users are faced with a clean, straightforward system.

What is more, with a USB port on the rear of the desk and a built-in USB memory recorder/player recording to the consoles is also a piece of cake.

This ease of use is clearly beneficial to Odilon Marcenaro, a Lecturer in Creative Music at the College, as the skill levels of the students coming to the college to study and other users from within the college vary widely. However the intuitive user interface means even those who sit at the desk with the lowest skills levels are able to quickly handle the console.

Even an experienced hand as Marcenaro found the ease-of-use breathtaking.

“The M-480 is a lovely desk with a small footprint,” he explained, “just stick in a cable and ‘hey presto’ you have 40 channels of input – the ease of use is phenomenal. When I received the M-480 I had it out of the box and played with it for 2 hours before I even looked at the instruction manual. The ability to record straight to USB is also a great feature – it is ridiculously easy.”

Indeed, Marcenaro found one particular feature even more useful for his purposes. M-480 users are able to set-up the desk offline using a PC. This means Marcenaro can prepare his sessions offline at his desk. Marcenaro can then email or transfer the session settings using a USB flash drive—this all makes setting up quick and easy.

“There is a lot of preparation involved in this type of subject,” added Marcenaro, “so the configurable offline editing is very good. It is really a lovely desk and I am very happy with it.”

The college has a packed event calendar and acts as the venue for over 300 public performances every year. These include orchestral concerts, recitals, drama, opera and musical theatre.

With the updated audio tech installed, the College looks set to be able to retain the high quality of the performances at the vibrant Welsh facility.