The Great Hall at Reading University
UK - Reading University is a globally renowned institution. Ranked amongst the top 1% of universities in the world, its reputation for teaching, research and enterprise is formidable. Reading is also home to some of the country's most beautiful campuses and a number of heritage buildings. It was in respect of one such heritage site that the university contacted POLARaudio, seeking a solution to an audio headache on a grand scale.

The Great Hall, situated on the original London Road campus, is a Grade 2 listed building which hosts a wide variety of events, not least of which are graduation ceremonies for thousands of students. In response to a growing number of adverse comments in relation to the poor audio quality at such events, the university's Vice-Chancellor took the decision to improve things.

Having previously enjoyed a successful working relationship with POLARaudio, the university once again sought the company's advice over the best available solution. The system was primarily to offer voice reinforcement and on occasions, musical playback in a reverberant space with a high curved ceiling approximately 25m x 15m.

The heritage nature of the hall also demanded that it be as discreet as possible in order to avoid compromising the beautiful interior. Following an initial site survey, POLARaudio made certain recommendations and the university commissioned a demonstration to interested stakeholders from its conferencing and events sectors. The demonstration duly took place, all parties were impressed and the go-ahead was given for integrators Snelling Business Systems to commence the installation.

POLARaudio supplied two Renkus Heinz Iconyx IC-24 speakers as the basis of the solution. These digitally steerable line array loudspeakers are controlled via software to create beams of audio which can be directed to give an even coverage of intelligible sound in the most demanding acoustic environments. Just as it is possible to focus the sound on the audience, so too it can be steered away from the hard reflective surfaces of the space (and in this example the cylindrical ceiling) to minimise reverberance.

The Iconyx series ranges in size from the IC-8(smallest) to the IC-32(largest). As the speaker length increases, so does its ability to more sharply focus the audio on a listening area and 'throw' the audio over a greater distance. The IC-24s were deemed to be of the optimum size for the Great Hall, enabling the size of the space to be comfortably overcome whilst preventing excess energy from 'leaking' into the ceiling area.

A Biamp Nexia SP was employed for all signal processing in conjunction with a Mackie VLZ4 1202 12 channel mixer. All microphones for the system were from the beyerdynamic range.

Additional to the permanent installation of the Iconyx speakers, in order to cater for occasional music playback, a pair of AD-Systems i.Flex15BHP bass reflex speakers were supplied (powered by MC2 TI3500) as well as a single Flex 8 full-range speaker for onstage monitoring (powered by Australian Monitor AMIS250P). This system was entirely portable and so could be removed and stored when not in use.

Senior technician in IT Services at Reading University Mark Taylor was delighted with the outcome: "We've always had a very productive relationship with POLARaudio that goes back quite some time. Naturally, when we needed to address the sound reinforcement issues at The Great Hall, they were our first port of call."

POLARaudio's head of installation Stuart Leader adds, "The Great Hall at Reading University was a very satisfying job. We'd worked with the university before and it was plain that they had great confidence in our ability to deliver a solution for what was quite a challenging set of circumstances."

(Jim Evans)

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