The National Aquarium in Baltimore unveiled a new centerpiece exhibit, Blacktip Reef, a re-creation of an Indo-Pacific reef ecosystem that features 779 animals representing 70 species, including blacktip sharks.
As part of the $12 million construction project, sound system upgrades to the aquarium were also implemented, including a QSC Audio Q-Sys Core 500i integrated system processor managing 75 AcousticDesign AD-Ci52ST ceiling loudspeakers plus 16 AcousticDesign AD-S52T surface-mount loudspeakers powered by five CX Series multichannel amplifiers.
The new QSC equipment supplements existing background music and paging system at the aquarium, which is located in the city’s Inner Harbor and attracts 1.4 million visitors annually. Burbank, CA-based AV specialists Electrosonic designed the sound system expansion and other improvements to the exhibits, with Nelson White Systems of Towson, MD, providing system integration. “It was one of the largest renovations the aquarium has done in many years,” reports Paul Stephens, CTS-D, system engineer at Nelson White Systems.
A Q-Sys Core 500i with a single I/O Frame handles loudspeaker management, zoned playback of background music and sound effects, and integrates with a new wireless microphone system for dive show presentations at the new Blacktip Reef attraction. The Core 500i is interconnected with the National Aquarium’s existing audio system and offers support for pre-recorded pages. A new QSC PS-800H eight-button wall-mounted paging station was also installed at the security desk for live announcements.
New QSC equipment installed at the Blacktip Reef exhibit in the Great Hall includes 59 AD-Ci52ST 70V flush-mount, ceiling loudspeakers together with 16 AD-S52T 70V surface-mount loudspeakers. The loudspeakers are powered by four CX204V four-channel 70V amplifiers fitted with optional DataPort output cards, enabling full integration with the Q-Sys Core’s monitoring and control capabilities. A further 16 AD-Ci52ST 70V ceiling loudspeakers, driven by a single eight-channel CX108V 70V amplifier also fitted with a DataPort card, are installed at two Bubble Tank exhibits.
Visitors can view the Blacktip Reef exhibit from platforms on various levels above the 260,000-gallon habitat, as well as below the surface. The exhibit features a new 27-foot curved viewing window that allows guests to step four feet into the underwater reef. According to Stephens, the loudspeakers on each level around the attraction are zoned to provide a smooth transition between the exhibit audio and Blacktip Reef presentations, which include daily feedings of the animals by divers.
“As you walk closer to where you can overlook Blacktip Reef you can hear the presentation,” he elaborates. “As you move closer to the exhibits on the floor, you hear any audio associated with those exhibits. When there are no presentations going on, those areas have music.” That music crossfades between one zone and the next in certain areas, he adds.
The entrance to the Blacktip Reef exhibit, where large bubble tubes are located, features a new eight-channel soundscape, sourced from the Core 500i that is assigned and distributed to 16 AD-Ci52ST ceiling loudspeakers. “We installed eight of the ceiling speakers next to each of these bubble tubes and zoned them. They run these bubble sounds through them; we’re using the media player within the Q-Sys Core to play the soundscapes,” Stephens notes.
Wireless control of the system is enabled via the Q-Sys Control app. “The gentleman who runs the A/V department has the QSC app on his phone,” says Stephens. “And the presenters have a small iPod Touch that they use—they just walk up and hit a button for whatever presentation they want.”
“The speakers near the balcony which overlooks the Blacktip Reef exhibit will be used to draw people to the Blacktip Reef dive shows,” says Stephens. “The other speakers are for the specific exhibit areas.”