UNCG Organ Recital Hall and the Birth of the RETRO-Passive Series

It’s often said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This is most definitely true of how our RETRO-Passive® series came about. One job’s requirements made us push the limits further on what our RETRO’s are capable of doing.

The University of North Carolina in Greensboro has a 130-seat Organ Recital Hall which provides an intimate atmosphere, featuring a stunning 35-rank pipe organ made by the Andover Organ Company of Massachusetts. The recital hall also had plenty of old 1000 watt par lamp fixtures that were outdated. They weren’t getting the efficiency they needed from them. Lamps were constantly needing to be replaced. The heat issues from them were also getting in the way of tuning and performances. In 2017 it clearly became time to take advantage of the energy savings and longer lifespan of an LED upgrade.

This was not an easy chore though. The room is also acoustically isolated from the main building. Theatre Consultants Collaborative, who designed and specified the project directed the installer, Bandit Lites, to not add any additional conduits if possible. As such, everything had to dim via line voltage smoothly. The acoustic floor of the organ hall is also near zero, so any fan-cooled LED fixtures were out of the question.

Canto USA’s RETRO series was an easy answer for a dimmable LED retrofit that dims via line voltage. Usually, the RETRO-Classic™ or RETRO-Fusion™ is quiet enough for most venues, but this was a special case. Even the small fans on Classics could be heard on the floor at less than 5 db. Never to back down from a challenge, Canto USA started to work on developing a solution. Our 150’s are fanless but we needed to develop something brighter and this would require a much larger heat sink to dissipate the heat. This project is where our entire RETRO-Passive series came from. We were able to redevelop our RETRO-Classic 700’s into RETRO-Passive 700’s required for the project. The Passives produced no sound in the hall, absolutely 0 db on the floor.

With a solution in hand, Bandit began pulling wire, installing new controls, and replacing fixtures. Dark Lite recessed cans that used Par64 lamps were customized with the adapter rings and RETROs. They also customized uplight sconces with the already passive-cooled 150s, remoting the driver assembly to keep the profile low in the sconce. These were much brighter than the quartz they removed and had a wider distribution pattern that looked great on the walls. The RETRO series fit in perfectly, replicating the previous warm Par64 light and output. The smooth dimming and even wash were a perfect match/retrofit. The room was brighter, smoother, and cooler for performers and patrons. Altogether, the project took them about one month to complete.

“The RETRO has been one of our bullet-proof fixtures on the job,” said Andrew Fisher of Bandit Lites. “We haven’t been back to touch those fixtures and appreciate the support of Canto USA on the project!”

UNCG Organ Recital Hall Blog Article Photo
UNCG Recital Hall with RETRO-Passive 700’s installed inside recessed PAR cans.
UNCG Organ Recital Hall Blog Article PAR Photo
View of RETRO-Passive 700’s inside recessed PAR cans.
UNCG Organ Recital Hall Blog Article Sconce Photo
Customized uplight sconces with RETRO-Passive 150s remoting the driver assembly to keep a low profile.

RETRO-Passive®

CantoUSA RETRO-Passive Series Product Photo

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RETRO-Fusion™

CantoUSA RETRO-Fusion Series Product Photo

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RETRO-Classic™

CantoUSA RETRO-Classic Series Product Photo

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The RETRO. 3 Years Later.

One of Artistic Concepts Group’s typical go-to solutions for houselight replacements is Canto USA’s RETRO series line, and they have produced a number of success stories with them. Fairfax High School, is one of those stories.

It’s been about 3 years and we thought we would check in to see how everything is holding up. We reached out to Andrew Redmon, Field Services Technician for Fairfax County Public Schools, and he said, “The system has performed fantastically since installation. Both the school and myself love how much brighter it is, and the whole idea of never needing to do a huge lamp replacement job again.”

Fairfax High School originally had 500watt E11 Mini Candelabras, and they replaced all 105 units with 3000K RETRO-Classic™ 500 E11 mini candelabras with short reflectors. They dim on an ETC dimming system Sensor 3 Dimmer Rack. The school went from using 500 watts to 49 watts per unit or 52,500 watts down to 5,145 watts in total. That it is over a 90% reduction in power! Replacing with the RETRO-Classic™ also increased the light quality in the room by 30-40%. This is assuming the auditorium was fully lamped, as their previous lamps would start to go out after only 2-3 months of use.

CantoUSA RETRO Before After Fairfax High School Photo

The RETRO line continues to be a fantastic product. It is a great solution for us because we can go LED, get high quality dimming, and typically be brighter than before, all without having to replace fixtures, tear up a ceiling, or run new wire. I look forward to continue to use the RETRO line in the future,” said Andrew.

Below is a video of the before/after timelapse. The video was shot with a smartphone. Please excuse an iris/aperture adjustments during dimming up or down.

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RETRO-Fusion™

CantoUSA RETRO-Fusion Series Product Photo

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RETRO-Passive®

CantoUSA RETRO-Passive Series Product Photo

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RETRO-Classic™

CantoUSA RETRO-Classic Series Product Photo

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Owen Valley High School Simplified Two Systems into One with Canto USA’s RETRO Series

Owen Valley High School in Spencer, Indiana was looking to upgrade their auditorium’s existing lighting. The school had 20 300W mini candelabra standard pendant cans for performance dimming as well as 20 secondary mercury or sodium vapor fixtures for day-to-day activities. They wanted an option to do dimmable LED house lights for their performances.

They reached out to Aaron Seelig of Indianapolis Stage Sales and Rental, Inc. Aaron recommended the school go with 20 of Canto USA’s RETRO-Classic 700 and they would be able to replace both systems with one fixture type. The RETRO series customization and adapters also allow for the installer to replace the lamp without having to modify or replace the entire fixture and dimmer system.

Since no rewiring work was needed and the installation was as simple as replacing a lamp, the installation went quite smoothly. There was some minor work on the fixtures to remove the existing reflector and glass, install the RETRO-Classic 700, replace the reflector only, and attach the safety cable to the body of the fixture. Vapor fixtures were just abandoned in place. The auditorium was replaced in one evening so they could have classes meeting in the space the next morning due to COVID requirements.

Owen Valley High School Before Canto USA RETRO Series Install Photo
Before Canto USA RETRO Series Install
Owen Valley High School After Canto USA RETRO Series Install Photo
After Canto USA RETRO Series Install

The auditorium director was amazed that only 20 fixtures were able to replace the two existing systems.  They can now use one system for both dimmable house lights and daytime instructional periods. This also simplified their control system as opposed to having two different ways of turning on these fixtures.

“I am a huge fan of the Canto RETRO line!” said Aaron, “I have been able to use it on any dimming system I have come across, from ETC to Strand to Colortran and more. These have been a lifesaver for projects that don’t have the funds to hire an outside electrician to pull new LoVo wire to each fixture. At first my customers may seem hesitant to look at this theatrical screw-in retrofit due to the price. However, when I bring an electrical contractor’s quote to replace all the fixtures with new cans or pull new LoVo wire to each fixture they quickly see how this design and the phenomenal dimming curve it has will save them on costs and deliver superb quality.”

The RETRO Series Line of Products

RETRO-Classic™ – Flexibility & Customization

CantoUSA RETRO-Classic Series Product Photo

The RETRO-Classic our original 0-100% phase dimmable (forward and reverse) variable wattage LED 2700K-6500K 80-97 CRI engine retrofit house light and most customizable RETRO in the entire RETRO family. They are heavier than the Fusion, yet lighter than Passive.

RETRO-Passive® – Absolute Silence

CantoUSA RETRO-Passive Series Product Photo

Being fanless, the RETRO-Passive is perfect for sound-sensitive spaces like museums and concert halls. They also have heavier heat sinks to compensate for not having active cooling.

RETRO-Fusion™ – Lighter & Smaller

CantoUSA RETRO-Fusion Series Product Photo

With the RETRO-Fusion being lighter and lower profile, along with a beveled top edge, it is able to squeeze into more shallow fixtures without having the lens protrude from the front of the trim ring. That reduces any type of glare. This new design opens up more opportunities and applications.

RETRO-PAR – PAR Lamp Replacement

CantoUSA RETRO-Par Series Product Photo

The RETRO-PAR is easy to replace/install, modular, and customizable. Customizable features include active or passive cooling, different wattage outputs, and different optical beam spreads. It comes in PAR 38, 46, 56, and 64 styles, as well as custom.

RETRO-HPL

CantoUSA RETRO-HPL Product Photo

The RETRO-HPL is a direct replacement for existing Source 4 PARs in the marketplace, especially those used for house lights.

About CantoUSA

Founded in 2013, Canto USA is a manufacturer of houselight retrofits and followspots. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to our mission: “Our customers come first. In order to do this, we continuously train our team on the latest trends and needs of the industry, while at the same time becoming a trendsetter in the development of new products and technology that no other company has available.” 

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