Like many great universities, the University of Rhode Island began as an agricultural school. Now a major research university with a beautiful campus near the Atlantic Ocean, the university celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2017. In September 2018, URI opened its new 11,000 square foot Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center, a stylish interactive facility that will serve 50,000 annual visitors, including prospective students and their families, visiting scholars, guest lecturers, and community and business leaders.
The Higgins Welcome Center hosts many presentations and other events in its Hope Room, an approximately 50-foot-deep by 44-foot-wide space. The room’s AV system features a 3×3 video wall flanked by a pair of Renkus-Heinz IC16-RN digitally steerable line arrays, part of the ICONYX Gen 5 series.
“The Hope Room has an interesting architectural layout,” offers Senior Consultant Brian Masiello of Acentech, who designed the space’s AV system. “The main space is rectangular and has a cathedral-style, peaked ceiling about 28 or 29 feet high. A wall on the house left, if you’re facing the video wall and loudspeakers, separates the main room from the kitchen. At house right, by the windows, the room extends out and has a low, flat ceiling.”
Acentech was involved in the project from the beginning, working with architectural firm DBVW Architects. “One of our acoustical consultants had discussions with the architect on acoustics recommendations,” Masiello notes. “The space is not overly reverberant but we could not hang a distributed system with pendants; in a space like this, no architect would like that. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience with Renkus-Heinz, and I was confident from prior experience that ICONYX would be a good solution.”
The Renkus-Heinz’ ICONYX Gen5 IC16-RN loudspeakers that Masiello specified feature 16 4-inch coaxial transducers, each with 3 high-frequency tweeters, along with 16 amplifier and DSP channels. Each column can deliver up to eight steerable beams, which can be individually shaped and aimed using powerful, software-controlled DSP. Beam control is effective down to 400 Hz.
Systems integrator Adtech Systems installed the two IC16-RN columns approximately 6.5 feet above the floor. “Niches were designed to house the loudspeakers and the video wall so the speakers would be flush with the surface of the wall,” describes Masiello. “We wanted to make sure that the loudspeakers were as close to the front wall surface as possible and not set back so far in the niches that there would be obstructions. We could then aim beams to cover all of the low-ceiling side section on house right.” The loudspeaker niches were then covered with black loudspeaker grille cloth.
The Hope Room has no permanent seating; the staff brings in chairs as needed. All presentations are focused on the video wall area, with a lectern located underneath and in front of the IC16-RN column on house left. A floor box at the lectern location and some wall box inputs enable connection of wired microphones, and the system also includes wireless mics.
“ICONYX loudspeakers have a wide pattern, so I was not concerned about hitting the side areas,” Masiello assures. “The two columns did a great job of covering the entire space. But we did set limits on system level and mic levels to ensure we wouldn’t have feedback because the lectern mic is in directly front of the left speaker, and we couldn’t steer the beams completely around it. We also had to cover the area on the far left by the kitchen wall. So we had to shoot audio over the presenter as much as we could. Even then, because of where the client locates the first row of seats when they bring in chairs, we had to tuck the pattern in fairly tightly. But with that done, it works well.”
Although speech intelligibility was a primary concern for presentations and guest speakers, events can include video with a soundtrack and perhaps program music. To ensure rich, full low-frequency sound reinforcement for these applications, Masiello specified one Renkus-Heinz PN212-SUB dual 12-inch subwoofer, mounted in a niche at floor level, below the center of the video wall. As with the IC16-RN columns, the niche is also covered with a black grille cloth. Although the subwoofer is on the floor, Masiello explains, “coupling with the floor wasn’t a concern. The floor is on grade, with no basement.”
A Biamp TesiraFORTÉ audio DSP manages the system. All connections are analog. Microphones connect directly to the DSP from floor and wall boxes or wireless receivers, and the DSP provides mic preamps, level control, and routing. Program audio associated with video-say, from a laptop-goes to a Crestron digital media system that uses its video transmitters to send to a video switch, and from there audio is sent to the processor. A Crestron touch screen provides user control of microphone and program audio levels.
“We’re very pleased with this project,” declares Masiello. “Adtech Systems did a great job with the install, and we enjoyed a good working relationship with them, as well as with DBVW Architects. Renkus-Heinz ICONYX loudspeakers gave us the ability to steer the beams where we wanted them, and the sound quality is excellent. The Renkus-Heinz ICONYX did exactly what we wanted.”
Headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, Renkus-Heinz, Inc. is the worldwide leader in the design & manufacture of audio operations networks, digitally steerable arrays, powered & non-powered loudspeakers, system specific electronics & fully integrated Reference Point Array systems.