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University of Leicester Builds Advanced Conference Hall with JBL / BSS
The University of Leicester has completely redeveloped one of its primary conference facilities in the Oadby Student Village, transforming Gilbert Murray Hall into a state-of-the-art conference venue. This comprises a large central space, four seminar and break out rooms and a hospitality area.
Tasked with designing a versatile AV infrastructure that would broaden its appeal to external companies, Quadrant Visual Solutions turned to a future-proof Harman Professional solution after winning the contract, supported by UK distributor Sound Technology Ltd.
With Ben Todd of Sound Technology’s project team providing EASE modelling of the space, a system design was proposed to provide highly efficient coverage and to fulfil the technical requirement for the room to be used in two orientations (landscape and portrait format) for audio and visual projection.
On the side wall Quadrant installed two pairs of JBL constant beamwidth line array columns, in the shape of a JBL CBT70JE, sitting atop a CBT70J. The addition of the former is designed to extend the pattern control of the CBT 70J by doubling its height and lowering the frequency the speaker displays over consistent coverage patterns.
At the far end, where a lectern and optional stage are situated, a pair of white JBL AC28 2-way (two 8in LF) loudspeakers are suspended high from the vaulted ceiling on tension wires, via custom brackets – these are in keeping with those used with the giant Glulam beams which form the centrepiece of architects Shepheard Epstein Hunter’s impressive eco-design. The system is powered by a pair of Crown XTi 2002 amplifiers.
Explained Quadrant project manager, Les Bell: “The three key drivers were simplicity and flexibility, with a user friendly interface. We started looking at where we could get best value and this led us to Sound Technology. We worked out the coverage/dispersion requirements and they modelled it for us. The JBL loudspeakers we specified are extremely versatile and directional.”
But the real genius is in the BSS Soundweb London DSP, which in simplifying the control also brings huge cost benefits. By adopting the open architecture Soundweb London BLU-101 (with 12 inputs and eight outputs), extended with the addition of two BLU-BIB 8-input break-in boxes, the facility can carry out automatic mixing without the need for a third party sound mixer, recalling multiple presets.
Crucially, the BLU-101 conference system also supports Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC). Just as auto submixing can also take place within the Soundweb environment, without the need for a dedicated audio mixer, so AEC transforms the BLU-101 from being an audio system optimiser to being a full blown multi-conference system from a single device, without the need to purchase third party processors or proprietary audioconferencing/videoconferencing system.
At present, four AKG C747 shotgun mics, for use at the tables, can be plugged into the system via a 12-way XLR patchbay, while the system’s parameter presets also allow for the room’s sound profile to be reconfigured. The Soundweb hosts its own virtual mixing desk which can be accessed over the network, dramatically reducing the development cycle.
Responsible for programming the Soundweb and ensuring easy communication with the AMX Netlinx system was John Haywood of Jovial Systems. “The beauty of the Soundweb is its open architecture,” he said. “When the Conference Centre wants to switch orientation from portrait to landscape, they move the network link across and switch to the second floor box – the BLU-BIB simply reconfigures the parameter presets. All the complex work takes place within Soundweb so that via the master touch control it is simple plug and play.”
All environmental control is under AMX management, while each of the rooms has been acoustically deadened by the architects (since the hall is in a heavily-populated residential area), and all lighting is LED.
Also included is a bespoke Extron SMX matrix switcher and scaler, while there is a full array of playback and record devices in the equipment rack, with routing to other seminar/breakout rooms. Thus the Quadrant solution has enabled the University to support all analogue and digital formats, including HDMI.
Andrew Gahagan, residential and commercial services, University of Leicester, explained the development path of the new Gilbert Murray Conference Suite. Three years ago a strategic commercial decision was taken to invest in the existing building – and the project developed into a £2.5m investment. A new extension was then added to the 50 year old building by construction company Hallam Contracts with a view to the University’s conference team maximising its usage.
Summing up, he said: “We are delighted with the sound system. We are far more flexible than we were able to be with the old set up and everything has been designed as plug and play, so no technician is needed. We have been provided with plenty of inputs for the mics and other audio feeds.”
14th March 2012
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