Supersonic Class
Thursday, 10 May 2001
The established relationship with British Airways, enjoyed by both the TOA Corporation and Unitek Displays, reached a pinnacle last month when the new Concorde Lounge opened at Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

Designed by Sir Terence Conran, in preparation for a resumption of supersonic services later this spring, the airline’s ambition is clear to see. In addition to employing top designers - including FutureBrand for the simultaneous development of their new First Class Lounge - they also invited spa specialists Molton Brown to create a shower room, steam room and massage area.

In the Molton Brown spa, a discrete TOA PC-5WL speaker can be found in each shower cubicle as well as the massage room, with local volume control independent of the overall level setting. The area is also serviced by a single TOA HB1 sub-bass unit.

However, the scheme in the new Executive Lounges has not been realised without some acoustic compromises. Since the architect requirement was for a completely flat ceiling, the 25 soft-dome, process-controlled TOA PC-121Cs have been utilised without their suspended spheres, designed to allow wide-dispersion soundwaves to be distributed coherently, and panned via TOA’s bespoke Sound Space Design spatializer. Although the sphere has been removed to facilitate total recess-mounting, using TOA’s AC-120 to provide dedicated system control, there is little evidence of cancellation or dead spots. This circular ceiling speaker is run in combination with TOA F-101 full-range speakers, which, like the 121s, house a 4" driver.

BA have also standardised on TOA PM660D paging mics at reception - favoured in view of staff familiarity and the fact that they are extremely durable; thus through the gentle ambience, the flight announcements and paging messages ring crystal clear. Hidden away in the bunker, the 47U high isolated power racks are generously plugged with TOA VP-1240 (240W) and P1060 (2 x 450W) Professional Series power modules, although the Lounge Pavilion is a 100V line installation - as opposed to the low-impedance design featured in executive lounges elsewhere around the world.

Commissioning the public address system is the responsibility of Windsor Voice Services, who are based at Heathrow Airport and are exclusively contracted to British Airways Voice Services. The original template was for TOA to provide a multiple CD source. However, when it became both practical and essential to move over to a hard disk replay system, the company duly sub-contracted Nottingham-based TTL Music to provide their Music Manager delivery system, with software specially modified for BA’s purposes. "This allows us to multi-stream the outputs, while TTL can take care of the management," explained Windsor Voice Services’ Jonathan Smith. The model is for psycho-acoustic programming - or relaxing ‘soundscape’ management - while the playlist has been carefully programmed and synchronised by Smith to coincide with flight departures, as this information will tell him the optimum volume profile to set.

Nothing is left to chance in the world of the executive traveller, and so the changing status of passenger flight information is now also displayed on state-of-the-art plasma screens, interspersed with new, conventional CRT monitors, provided by Unitek Displays. At the same time, Unitek managing director, Richard Nye confirmed that in replacing the original monitors, the company has also upgraded the software: "We will shortly be proceeding to the next stage, which will be to change the platform on which the system works to a Windows-based environment," he confirmed.

In the Concorde Room, three 41" 16 x 9 Hantarex SVGA plasma screens will now present the information in widescreen, complemented by eight KME 21" colour monitors (in standard 4 x 3 aspect ratio).

Unitek fulfil a wide range of briefs for BA - including the provision of interfaces to allow the airline to monitor the fire status as well as the flight informa

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