Pixel Artworks recently specified an OutBoard TiMax SoundHub spatial audio server as the key component in a new audiovisual experience greeting visitors arriving into Dubai International Airport. The immersive installation captures the spirit and ethos of the rescheduled Expo 2020 event, now running from autumn 2021 to spring 2022.
Raven AV’s Dan Roncoroni handled the sophisticated audio aspects of the installation, following an earlier preparatory visit to site by Out Board’s Robin Whittaker. Due to its late addition to the project, TiMax had to be retrofitted into an existing system design within very tight timescales.
Aside from the airport’s highly reflective environment and characteristically high level of background noise, the requirement for loudspeakers to be neither surface mounted nor visible added to these challenges. Additionally, significant negotiation with the airport had been necessary to ease some restrictive decibel limits, and because intended electrical cabling ran contrary to the airport’s infrastructure schedule, only data cables could be run across the airport.
Despite these challenges the client expectation was for sound as immersive as the visuals from a comparatively small physical area. “Only TiMax was up to the job,” Roncoroni says. “The project called for a spatial audio setup outside the envelope of most spatial audio processors. It was just one of many situations where you could either mess around doing something difficult in a difficult way, or you just do what you need to with TiMax.”
A 32-channel TiMax SoundHub delivers a multilinear soundscape via Audinate Dante networking to 16 EM Acoustics EMS-51 loudspeakers, which were secured to haloes of flexible LED display panels fixed around four of the airport’s marble pillars. Four loudspeakers per pillar were positioned to give coverage across a 120-degree angle per pillar. “I don’t know another processor that could so easily have dealt with groups of four loudspeakers pointing at each other from 20 meters apart at the widest gap,” Roncoroni notes.
Audio playback from TiMax is triggered by the Seventh Sense Media server, and it also handles all the audio mixing and equalization. Further, the spatialization capabilities of TiMax helped to ensure that the airport’s restrictive decibel limits — a mere 10 meters from the installation — were adhered to. The loudspeakers are driven by Powersoft’s new Mezzo half-rack power amplifiers, producing enough low end to compensate for the subwoofers that could not be accommodated.
“I couldn’t have done that with larger loudspeakers running stereo content and the only way that worked really was with a TiMax,” Roncoroni concludes. “Despite being possibly the worst environment to install a spatial audio system I’ve ever come across, TiMax allowed us to create an incredible and cohesive soundscape that is impressive to all who pass through the installation. With the excellent localisation achieved by TiMax, the airport’s reflective environment stopped being a worry, the loudspeakers effectively became acoustically invisible and there was just a soundfield of incredible quality.”