Networked audio system brings Harrogate Convention Centre up to date

The Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC) has invested in a new distributed, networked audio system with a Symetrix DSP backbone and Dante audio networking supplied by CUK Audio and installed by Acoustic Solutions
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Harrogate Convention Centre - Royal Hall

The Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC) has invested in a new distributed, networked audio system with a Symetrix DSP backbone and Dante audio networking supplied by CUK Audio and installed by Acoustic Solutions.

HCC has been evolving as a conference and events venue since what was then the Spa Rooms hosted the British Medical Association in 1884. The first purpose-built halls were added in 1959, and today HCC is recognised as one of the country’s leading multi-use venues with 13,700sqm of completely modular exhibition/event space across nine flat-floored, interconnected halls. The audio upgrade brings the venue fully into line with modern standards and expectations.

“We clearly needed to replace our old system which was becoming unreliable,” explained HCC’s technical manager, Ross Simpson. “The site has grown considerably over the years and ‘bolt-on’ additions to the existing PA system resulted in a clunky, difficult to assign and often inaudible product. We needed a system that would allow multiple inputs and outputs which were useable at the same time. The site often has multiple tenancy which each require use of a hall’s PA in their contracted areas. The PA volume requirements of these multiple tenants differ, so we needed a system that allowed for easy and reactive volume adjustment, and even allowed limited end-user control. Programming of the system for individual client areas and requirements needed to be simple and flexible.”

CUK’s Stuart Cunningham and Charlie Brown from Acoustic Solutions devised a solution based on two dual-redundant Symetrix Edge DSP processors with 64 bi-directional Dante audio channels each, and Symetrix Dante-enabled analogue input and output expanders to collect, process and distribute audio around the site.

“The site required a flexible system with a high level of futureproofing as it is constantly adapting to meet the ever-changing needs of the events and conferencing industry,” said Brown. “The Symetrix/Dante system was the ideal choice. All areas had to be served with announcements and BGM from multiple sources. We have around 20 input points across the site for microphones and music players. Fortunately, there were existing copper and multimode fibre tie lines running from most key locations so cabling was quite easy. We used a number of CISCO switches with fibre converters to create the DANTE network. A great advantage of the DANTE system is that the venue can also send audio from an event into other areas (such as speaker lounges) just by a quick click on the patch screen.”

Rob Duerden, who handles sales for CUK’s installed AV division, was also instrumental in the project, reflected that Acoustic Solutions had achieved great results for the HCC team. “Charlie has provided a simple and elegant solution for HCC with the Symetrix Edge processors and Dante network implementation, which is a great choice for high quality audio in large, multi-building sites,” said Duerden. “Audio can now be flexibly routed in and out of each of the exhibition halls, each of which can be configured precisely according to the requirements of the exhibition organisers. Front line staff have floor-level, wireless access to ARC-WEB browser-based control surfaces, connected to the in-house Wi-Fi network, for instantaneous local volume controls. This increased flexibility helps the Convention Centre to provide a tailored service and positive experience for event organisers and their visitors.”

Brown added: “The Edge system’s web-based app is a really great tool for the event stewards to be able to control the levels in each area as they move around the site. It’s especially handy when there are several independent events across the site at one time, all with different requirements. Fortunately, the whole site is covered by WiFi, so system control set-up was very straightforward.”

HCC’s Ross Simpson concluded: “The installation has been a multi-phase project, culminating in a final software update in February. The system does everything we required of it and, so far, seems to be very stable. The ability to access the system remotely is a great comfort as it means that any potential issues can be resolved with a quick phone call to Charlie at Acoustic Solutions who doesn’t even need to be on site to make system changes. It’s improved the quality of the audio immeasurably across the entire site and improved workflows enormously. Yes, we’re very happy!” 

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