The multi-award winning Imperial War Museum North opened at Trafford Park in Manchester in 2002 and has since welcomed more than four million visitors. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the striking building is now an iconic feature of the city's skyline. Its exhibitions tell the story of how war has affected the lives of British and Commonwealth citizens since 1914.
IWM North recently called on Pro Audio Systems in Bradford to upgrade the audio system of one of the museum’s star attractions, the Big Picture Show, which uses surround sound, projected digital moving images and photographs to create a fully immersive sensory experience that brings to life people’s experiences of war.
After several A/B comparisons which designated EM Acoustics as both the top-performing and best value solution, Pro Audio Systems supplied a system based on 24 EMS-81X 2-way passive speakers supplemented by four MSE-218 subs. James Byrom of the AV infrastructure team at IWM North takes up the story: “The Big Picture Show is the museum’s core visitor offer. Having recently upgraded to the latest HD technology for video, we needed to make sure that the audio was up to the same standard. We essentially replaced the existing EAW system with like for like – a necessity given the awkward physical spaces available in which to house the loudspeakers – but a modern-day version using up-to-date technology. We’ve also gained in sound quality. We find that the EMS-81X is a much smoother-sounding box than the one it is replacing which needed a lot of control in the upper-mid range to get it to sound good. However, the 81X is much smoother between the 8” and the 1” – whatever EM have done on the crossover board, they’ve made a good job of it!”
The audio system is used to play back 32 separate audio tracks for 24 different screens, each of which has its own dedicated projector. When it’s not in use for the Big Picture Show, it duals as a handy fill system for the venue’s larger Meyer system that is dedicated as a L/R system for corporate events on the main stage.
Byrom and the team are very pleased with the performance of the new system. “Intelligibility has definitely been improved,” he remarked. “I think that’s partly due to the crossover in the 81X which has resulted in a much smoother-sounding box than the one we had previously, which was quite harsh. In the reverberant space that we have here, the audio would bounce around all over the place and was actually quite difficult to listen to. However, the EMS-81X is much easier on the ear which enables you to better digest the audio information, so it’s much more intelligible.”
Byrom was also keen to note that Pro Audio Systems have delivered excellent service throughout. “PAS’s Lee Unsworth came over the other day with SMAART and some measurement mics and noted that we are losing a little in the HF on the speakers that are behind hessian on the walls, so we’ve applied a 3dB boost to the HF from 3kHz to compensate,” explained Byrom. “Other than that, we’ve not had to apply any EQ which leaves it wide open for corporate events, meaning that when we can plug other sources into the system we’re starting with a reasonably blank canvas.”
“Overall, we’re very impressed with the quality of the EM boxes. The system is sounding so much smoother than it used to. The output from the subs is greater – much more heavy-duty – and as for HF and vocal clarity, I really think the top boxes are magic! The sound is excellent throughout, and so is the price point. Pro Audio Systems have done a great job for us, as they always do, both in supplying the right system for our needs and for the flexible, personal service they provide. We couldn’t ask for more really!”