When Nicholas DeLaCruz, founder and CEO of High Rise Production, a Memphis, Tennessee-based production company that specializes in AVL sales, installs, consultations and rentals, signed on with Beale Street Blues Company, an organization that manages many of the music and entertainment venues in the Memphis area, he knew that updating the sound system in the iconic B.B. King’s Blues Club would be one of his first tasks.
“When I was at NAMM, I had it narrowed down to about three or four audio companies, but meeting Tarik [Solangi, RCF vice president, sales & marketing] made all the difference,” proclaims DeLaCruz.
After meeting with Solangi, and seeing what RCF could offer B.B. Kings, in terms of both sound and style, the decision was a no-brainer, according to DeLaCruz. “B.B. King’s Memphis location is a really cool, vibey place and it’s hard to throw a system in there without taking away from the authenticity of it,” he admits. “We’ve got the old Leslie [rotating speaker cabinet] in there, and a lot of what attracts people is the history behind it, so how do you add a sound company that’s going to complement that? The RCF HDL 6-A active line array modules are sleek and they don’t take away from the atmosphere of the venue—the line arrays fit the vibe and the authenticity of the place.” It’s worth noting that RCF product specialist Jim Reed got together with DeLaCruz and put the system design together utilizing drawings, as well as input from Solangi, based on his original site visit.
For the uninitiated, Beale Street, where B. B. King’s is located, is quite possibly Tennessee’s most visited attraction, and, according to USA Today, it’s arguably one of America’s most iconic streets, thanks to a history steeped in blues. Even today, every bar and restaurant on Beale Street features live music, and tributes to area legends abound. One such legend is B.B. King. In the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, King was an integral part of the then-burgeoning blues scene on Beale Street.
“Beale Street was where it all started for me,” King told the Los Angeles Times in a 1994 interview. At the time, he was even in a group called the Beale Streeters, with other future legends, such as Bobby Bland, Johnny Ace and Earl Forrest. In 1991, Beale Street developer John Elkington recruited B.B. King to open the original, and now-iconic, B.B. King’s Blues Club. Other B.B. King’s Blues Clubs have popped up in places like Los Angeles and New York City, but Memphis is the original.
For the B.B. King’s install, Solangi brought in Innovations Solutions of Memphis. Innovative Solutions is a systems designer and integrator that specializes in incorporating technology into engaging spaces. Owner Jason Long shared that they have been working with RCF for several years and have greatly enjoyed working with the company and their products. “We’ve been using their HDL line arrays and other RCF products. Between the ease of installation, customer feedback received, and the support received from RCF, they have been excellent to work with.”
The B.B. King’s RCF installation consisted of the aforementioned HDL 6-A active line array modules, as well as NX 32-A active two-way multipurpose loudspeakers, Sub 9006-AS subwoofers (under the stage) and Media Series M 602 two-way passive loudspeakers as additional fills throughout the room. Long affirms that the installation itself took merely a day, and that everything was straightforward about that process. “I got together with Tarik after he made a site visit,” he recalls. “As a part of the installation, we did some re-wiring of their rack and we were able to do away with a floor-standing rack, which gave back to them [B.B. King’s] some valuable restaurant space. Total time frame was about two days, but the RCF speakers were functional every night along the way.”
RCF product specialist Zac Anthony was on site after the installation to do the final tuning of the system using RDNET software. Long was on site for that as well, but Anthony handled the tuning process. Long has used RDNET on other gigs and says he very much enjoys its intuitiveness. “The user feedback you get from the software, shows what is working and what isn’t working, is great. “The ability to have control of individual cabinets and individual levels, and to be able to balance and EQ a room, definitely provides much more flexibility than an out-of-the-box processor/mixer.”
Long says the RCF line arrays have already made a huge difference at B.B. King’s. “Overall, the clarity and the coverage that we were able to achieve in the space [B.B. King’s] dramatically improved,” he attests. “The HDL 6-A is a great sounding cabinet right out of the box which makes deploying them very easy and saves valuable installation and tuning time.”
Adding RCF HD 12-A MK4 powered wedges has helped High Rise sound engineers, who work at the club, as well, according to DeLaCruz. “Previously they [B.B. King’s] were blowing a lot of wedges because they were underpowered. Now I don’t have to worry about power for each amp, or underpowering or overpowering them. It’s [the power] just there.”
Both DeLaCruz and Long agree that sightlines also improved as a result of the RCF install. “You can now see the stage from all angles,” says Long. “B.B. King’s has a balcony that was pretty well blocked by the old speakers—now you can easily see the stage. And the HD 12-A MK4 floor monitors definitely improved things for the bands.”
“I enjoy seeing the bigger picture,” says DeLaCruz. “When we [High Rise] came on board with Beale Street Blues Company, phase one was to fix broken gear. Phase two was to get correct gear. And phase three is to start fine-tuning it all. It’s a company like RCF that makes all of that possible because they offer such a broad range of scalable products. With B.B. King’s, they really knocked it out of the park. It’s probably the nicest venue on Beale Street right now.”