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Audiologic and About Sound deliver audio solutions for Cambridge University

Duncan Proctor 3 August 2015
Audiologic and About Sound deliver audio solutions for Cambridge University

King’s College and Jesus College at Cambridge University have invested in new audio systems to expand the capability of some of two of its most historic buildings. The Great Hall at King’s College and the Dining Hall at Jesus College have interiors catered to choirs with reverberant acoustics not suited to conferences and other events. This led the respective authorities to upgrade the audio systems turning to Audiologic and About Sound.

The Great Hall is a Gothic-style building designed by William Wilkins in the 1820s seating over 300 people for formal banquets and facilities for conferencing, fine dining and weddings.

The Dining Hall at Jesus College has been at the centre of college life since its establishment in 1496 and has facilities for a wide variety of events.

Integrators, About Sound, led by Matt Dilley, were called in by both the colleges to design and install audio systems for the venues. The brief was to put in place systems that could flexibly cater for the different requirements of a variety of events. To provide clearly intelligible speech throughout the venues for presentations and conferences was paramount and there was a further requirement for music playback at receptions, parties or ceremonies.

A key element in both projects was for the equipment to be as invisible as possible and that nothing could be done to alter the fabric of the heritage sites. Finally, it was essential that the system was as easy to operate as possible. Once the college authorities had agreed to the proposals submitted, About Sound turned to Audiologic not only to supply the products they had identified as best fitting the jobs but also to consult in respect of the DSP, an area where they felt Audiologic’s expertise would be valuable.

At King’s College, the system in situ occupied three speaker locations (in corners) and the hall’s authorities were insistent that these locations should not be changed. This was not an insurmountable problem in itself but meant that the ‘top table’ area of the hall had to be considered as something of a separate entity. K-Array slim array speakers were chosen as they have the capacity to solve critical acoustic demands at the same time as placing great importance on design and aesthetics, making them ideal in such a situation.

For the main section of the hall, two K-Array Python KP102 speakers were placed in each of the three designated locations, one above the other to make a discreet 2m column. Easily coping with the 28m ‘throw’ the KP102s brought clear intelligible speech where previously there had been complaint and dissatisfaction. Two smaller KK52 line array speakers were attached to the rear of the main array to serve the ‘top table’ area (meaning only one installation point on each side) and four ultra-flat Vyper KV50 speakers were placed almost invisibly into the two balcony areas of the hall which offer additional dining area for the largest events. Two ultra-light KMT18P passive subs were supplied for use at events that required music playback, these could be added and removed easily. K-Array Class D amplifiers (KA84 and KA 24) powered the system.

Xilica

The extent to which aesthetics played a huge role in the installation is indicated by the fact that the main speaker arrays were craftsman-painted by a specialist to match wood panelling in two cases and stone in the other. Four Sennheiser wireless microphone systems, two handheld (ew 335 G3) and two lavalier (ew332 G3) were purchased and these and any further desired audio sources were controlled by a Xilica A1616 DSP unit with Touch 7-SM wall-mounted touchscreen. This was an area of the project where About Sound consulted closely with Audiologic who sent a member of their own team to assist on site with programming and commissioning.

The Dining Hall at Jesus College faced similar issues. Speeches were difficult to hear and complaints were very much the order of the day. Whereas the speaker locations at King’s were not negotiable, the situation at Jesus offered more flexibility and the About Sound team took a different approach. At King’s, the speakers needed to ‘throw’ the audio the length of the hall but here, five pairs of K-Array KK52 speakers were craftsman-painted and placed discretely at intervals down the length of the room offering a more localised provision. Powered by K-Array KA24 amplifiers, the speakers were angled down for optimum coverage and a KMT18P sub was supplied to help reinforce ceremonial music played at weddings or presentations. Two Sennheiser wireless microphone systems, one handheld (ew335 G3) and a Lavalier (ew312 G3) were added and a Xilica Neutrino A0808 DSP unit with touchscreen controlled the system.

Matt Dilley, MD of About Sound commented: “Audiologic’s range of brands catered for pretty much everything we needed for both installations and their setup is efficient and customer-focussed. Dealing with one supplier for all the main kit makes life a lot easier. The Xilica DSP was something that we weren’t that familiar with and so we worked closely with a member of their team to fully acquaint ourselves with its functions. Audiologic’s expert gave us a clear understanding of the technology, something that will doubtless assist in future installations – and the clients’ delighted reaction to both projects demonstrates the value of that close relationship.”

Andy Lewis, sales and marketing manager at Audiologic added: “These projects are a good illustration of how the building of close relationships with our customers works to the benefit of everyone involved. Where the Xilica DSP was concerned they were on less solid ground so we assigned one of our team to offer some education and insight. This level of consultation is a key part of Audiologic’s holistic approach to providing the best solutions possible for our customers and ultimately, their clients.”

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