Coal Drops Yard, London

The Opportunity

Part of the 67-acre King’s Cross estate, Coal Drops Yard is a former offloading site for coal-carrying trains that has been transformed into a retail center, dining destination and public gathering space. The Victorian-era brick buildings, which feature iconic architectural additions by Heatherwick Studio, now house a variety of restaurants and shops including Samsung’s flagship experience space, Samsung KX. Located just across Regent’s Canal from the King’s Cross and St. Pancras International rail stations, Coal Drops Yard is a popular destination for locals and travelers alike. To enliven the space with evenly distributed background music and support a robust events program, the venue required a flexible distributed audio system that could easily be reconfigured for different uses.

The Solution

RG Jones, a London-based audio integrator with a 95-year history, equipped Coal Drops Yard with a complete HARMAN audio system featuring JBL loudspeakers, Crown amplifiers and BSS signal processors.

To deliver high-quality sound while complying with historical building regulations, RG Jones used custom mounting brackets to affix JBL CBT Series line array column loudspeakers to the cast iron drainpipes at street level. JBL CBT 70J-1 loudspeakers feature Constant Beamwidth Technology for consistent directivity up to the highest frequencies, resulting in even distribution with minimal volume fluctuation throughout the space. CBT 70JE-1 extensions offer improved output and extended low-frequency response for the West side of the property, which is wider and requires additional coverage.

JBL Control HST loudspeakers provide broad coverage on the upper-level walkway, featuring two splayed tweeters for 180-degree horizontal coverage and a wall-facing woofer design that eliminates inconsistencies from reflections found in other wall-mounted speakers. JBL Control 28-1 high-output outdoor loudspeakers provide supplemental coverage underneath the walkway, with built-in InvisiBall mounting hardware that minimized damage to the buildings. All speakers feature durable all-weather construction for protection from temperature, humidity, salt corrosion and other environmental hazards.

To provide precise control of the system with superb flexibility for special events, RG Jones powered the JBL speakers with network-connected Crown DCi Series amplifiers and used Soundweb London BLU-806DA signal processors for routing. In addition to providing crystal-clear amplification, Crown DCi Series amplifiers feature onboard EQ, delay and crossovers for precise speaker calibration and fine-tuning, as well as the acclaimed LevelMAX limiter suite for overload protection. Connected via the Dante audio-over-IP protocol, BSS BLU-806DA signal processors provide advanced signal routing across the entire system with easy reconfigurability.

RG Jones created multiple custom user interfaces via HiQnet Audio Architect software, which provide varying levels of control for different users. Security staff have access to basic functions like turning the system on and off and adjusting the volume, while event operators can manipulate the routing and settings of individual speakers. Administrators can schedule changes for different times of day and even control specific speakers located near individual shops.

The Impact

“The main goal was to give us the flexibility to support the brilliant events program at Coal Drops Yard, but we also wanted to support the day-to-day ambience of this amazing space,” said Jen Ponting, Senior Project Manager, King’s Cross. “The biggest challenge with the speaker system was the fact that this is a heritage location, meaning it’s a lot more sensitive than most venues, and we wanted any installations to be subtle and in keeping with the location. We were also sensitive to our residential community—we have residents living adjacent to Coal Drops Yard. The solution that the team came up with was to have a lot more speakers, but at a lower volume. This gave us much more flexibility and control over the sound.”

“When choosing the speakers, we looked at pattern control and sound reproduction,” said Jon Berry, Sales and Installations Director, RG Jones. “The venue is in a very densely packed area, which was a consideration from a noise control perspective. It was very important to be able to control the dispersion of the sound, as opposed to simply putting in the biggest, loudest speakers we could. The other parameter was the visual aesthetic—it was critical that the speakers be able to blend in sympathetically with the surroundings.”

“We’re a longtime user of BSS products and Crown amplification, and they work really well together,” added Berry. “We used all of the flexible processing and routing, we’re doing EQ and dynamics on the front-end inputs and we’re doing loudspeaker EQ, delay and crossover in the Crown amplifiers. The great thing is that this system can grow with them. It’s a very flexible and user-friendly solution.”

“The moment we switched it on, it just lifted the space,” said David Tod, Events and Enlivenment Manager, King’s Cross. “We wanted to create a natural, welcoming feeling in Coal Drops Yard, no matter the weather. A little background sound is very important to creating the sense of relaxation which we strive to achieve here. We also trialed some outdoor fitness classes in Coal Drops Yard over the summer, and the system worked brilliantly. It was able to target relatively loud music to a very specific area, so as not to disturb others in the space.”