The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) – renowned for its ground-breaking scientific research into molecular biology – recently commissioned an innovative audio installation undertaken by D J Willrich, which installed K-array Tornado speakers throughout the facility, delivering highly intelligible narration to accompany the informative exhibits.

Created in 1974 and funded by public research money from its 28 member states, EMBL’s Heidelberg headquarters now houses the new permanent exhibition “World of Molecular Biology”. It offers a vibrant, interactive exhibition celebrating the work, people, and technologies at EMBL and in molecular biology.

“We were brought on board by the designers, Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, to consult on the AV perspective, and we worked with the fit-out company, the Hub, who are based in Redditch,” said D J Willrich project manager John Doe.

The exhibition includes several informational kiosks, each one focusing on different aspects of science and scientists. These are mostly based around a large touch screen with a PC or media server providing the video content, and each one includes either one or a pair of K-array Tornado-KT2C flush mount point source speakers featuring a 2” high efficiency neodymium cone driver, powered by a dedicated KA1-T2H amplifier module and accompanying KA-L15 power supply. 

This amplifier and speaker combination is essentially self-contained, eliminating the need to run speaker cables back to a central rack room, and is effectively duplicated in multiple exhibits around the facility.

The most critical part of the technical brief was to achieve good intelligibility at a decent level so that the narration can be clearly heard, without overspill into adjacent or neighbouring exhibits.

“The source material is mostly spoken word with some background music, and because the content is essentially medical and scientific in nature with a lot of technical explanation, it was important that the narration was articulated with a high degree of clarity,” said John.

“In addition, we needed to mix the level down a little and focus the sound at the listener in order for the message to be clearly understood.”

The small size (5” diameter) of the Tornado speakers made them an ideal choice for this project as they could be easily and discreetly flush-mounted into the displays, while their conical 90° dispersion pattern keeps sound coverage well controlled in the near field. 

The Tornado-dedicated plug-in micro amplifier modules are a neat and efficient solution for keeping everything compact and easy to manage from a speaker cabling perspective. With as many as 15 or 16 PCs in the facility putting all those together with multiple rack-mounted amplifiers to power the speakers would have generated a lot of heat, which the DJW team were keen to avoid.

“The quality of audio coming from a speaker of such a small size, and being so well integrated into the exhibits, is what made K-array so well suited to this project,” said John. We are delighted with the performance of the sound systems, the clarity, the articulation, and the discreet appearance of the speakers, which have helped to deliver a really engaging visitor experience.”

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