Originally built in the 1960’s to house the University of Texas Alumni Association – the Texas Exes – the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center has grown a fair bit over time, undergoing substantial renovations and upgrades to better serve its members.
That process is ongoing, says David Reeves, director of ITS and facilities at Etter Harbin, and has involved a variety of upgrades, including the complete replacement of the building’s antiquated audio infrastructure in the late 2000’s and the installation of a system with Tannoy loudspeakers – exclusively – in the facility’s 400-capacity Connally Banquet Hall.
The Etter-Harbin serves a variety of functions, explains Reeves, including housing offices for the alumni association’s administrative staff, hosting UT’s annual Alumni College lecture series, various corporate recruiting sessions, weddings and gala dinners, as well as “tailgate” parties prior to Texas Longhorns’ home games for alumni and simulcast broadcasts of the games for all students.
UT tapped Austin-based Dickensheets Design Associates to head up the new system project. Previously the company has provided design services for UT’s drama and business departments, as well as the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center and the UT Performing Arts Center. The firm has also specified a quantity of Tannoy studio monitors for use in the university’s electronic music studios.
Although the Etter-Harbin is a decidedly multi-purpose space, Dickensheets was able to meet – and expand – the main Banquet Hall’s functionality with a relatively simple system comprised of 42 Tannoy CMS 401e in-ceiling loudspeakers, 6 Tannoy VS 15BP subwoofers, Biamp Nexia processing and control, and QSC Audio power amplifiers.
An integrated video system was also included in the design as part of the upgrade, dramatically upping the Etter-Harbin’s game in terms of offering both alumni and private clients more options for their events.
The Tannoy CMS 401e loudspeakers were chosen for two reasons; first, for the high level of intelligibility they offer for reinforcement of speech and music and secondly, because they allowed installers to aim the speakers manually by adjusting them within a fixed ceiling mounting ring.
“That was a necessity,” explains Ken Dickensheets. “The room was live enough that the sound system had to ensure high speech intelligibility. The Tannoy 401s and subs met that need, but because the ceiling design is a step configuration – like an ancient pyramid – we had to mount some of the speakers on sloped areas. With the CMS 401s we could aim them straight down to provide sound where it was needed.”
Although primarily intended as a distributed audio system, the coverage and quality of the Tannoy CMS 401s also offered the venue an unexpected benefit; the provision of reinforcement of acoustic musical acts for dinners, weddings and other private functions. “That was a bonus, and not something we’d originally planned on,” says Reeves.
“We knew from our attendance at various events that the music aspect would be needed and used frequently so our design included two delay patterns – from an end stage and a side stage location,” Dickensheets adds. “The delays, along with the musical quality of the CMS401s, provided a perfect solution for them.”
For Dickensheets’ part, he didn’t need to think twice about what type of speaker would best meet his client’s needs. “It was pretty obvious what we needed and the CMS 401s fit the bill perfectly. With their intelligibility, overall performance and the flexibility of the gimble mount, there weren’t even any second choices.”