Pennsylvania Convention Center

Mission: Distribute Audio All Around

Expansion made it the largest public works project in state history, but to get the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) in downtown Philadelphia better equipped to host guests at its state-of-the-art meeting spaces, it needed an audio system that would be up to the task of accommodating guests and IT staff alike in what had become one of the 10 largest convention center properties in the nation.

To install the network-based digital system, the system’s designer and audio consultant Acentech chose AVI-SPL.

“AVI-SPL understands what we’re working with, and it’s been open communication between our organizations.” – Eric Erle, project manager, Pennsylvania Convention Center

Acentech’s design took into account the need for system control across the facility, so that PCC’s AV services team could distribute the audio for different events from one area.

“We liked that it was networkable and flexible,” said Joe Nicolo, AV services manager for PCC. “We needed the system to serve multiple functions.”

Those functions include the ability to deliver clear, resonant music, general announcements and emergency notifications through the center’s large spaces, including ballrooms and exhibit halls.

“The concepts were really thought through by Acentech, but the actual integration comes down to the integrator, no matter what’s decided on paper,” says Michael Frank, mid-Atlantic regional manager for Biamp Systems. “Having the background AVI-SPL has, this project was destined to succeed.”

Action: Create Networked Audio

By spring 2011, AVI-SPL had completed phase one of the project, implementing Biamp solutions in the convention center’s new addition. All inputs run through AudiaFLEX, Biamp’s digital audio platform, and feed into 30 of its AudiaFUSION networked amplified processors. Those are able to route any source to speakers in any area. Each AudiaFUSION has its own backup, so if one goes down, another takes over. For simplicity in distribution, CobraNet®, a networked audio system, routes multiple channels through a single CAT-5 Ethernet network. So that the failure of one zone wouldn’t prohibit the delivery of emergency messaging – delivered via Biamp’s Vocia — the overall solution was implemented with various controllable zones.

“The biggest challenge was the scheduling,” says AVI-SPL engineer Bill Thompson, who noted that AVI-SPL’s work had to be completed while the building was in use. “We did most of our work without interrupting them by working around their schedule.”

Eric Erle, project manager for the convention center, confirms that assessment. “AVI-SPL understands what we’re working with,” Erle says, “and it’s been open communication between our organizations.”

Impact: Centralized Management of an Impressive Sound System

The result of AVI-SPL’s integration is the largest AudiaFlex-feeding-AudiaFusion project in the world. That sounds impressive – but the test of quality is how well it does what PCC needs it to do.

“PCC is getting a more centralized management approach, which has a real ROI,” says Frank.

Phase two of the project, currently underway, entails upgrading the original convention space from analog to digital, which will allow the old and new spaces to talk to each other seamlessly, and save considerably in power and heat consumption. AudiaFUSION and AudiaFLEX will also be the backbone of that system.

“The magic of this is that they’re going to tie the two phases together,” notes Frank. “With AVI-SPL, you’re getting a future-oriented designed. It’s one step closer to where the Biamp world is going – a networked media system concept.”