When visiting an old school or university years after graduating, one can find that a lot has changed. This was precisely the feeling CIE’s web editor had when visiting the University of Kent’s leafy campus this month: were there really this many bars here in 2006? It turns out there weren’t.

The result of a lot of hard work – rather than a long-forgotten fresher haunt – the newest bar on campus takes the form of the multipurpose student bar, bistro and live venue, Cargo. In keeping with its name, the university has gone to great lengths to ensure that the venue’s wooden interior takes on an industrial theme.

Fully satisfied with the aesthetics the head of hospitality for the university, Keith Williams then turned his attention to the all-important sound system. Key to the criteria was a system that offered quality, reliability and above all, versatility. A complex noise management study had been undertaken, so strict guidelines had to be adhered to from the initial design through to final delivery.

Transmission of frequencies through the fabric of the building had to be reduced as much as possible

Enter Brighton-based pro audio, video and lighting integrator, Penguin Media Solutions, which was keen to take on the project. Having recently been introduced to Keith, Dylan Thompson, director of operations at Penguin Media Solutions was keen to put his ideas for the venue into practice.

“The university had a couple of projects in the early design stages and it seemed the right time to have a chat and see if we could provide a fresh set of eyes and some alternative input,” Dylan reflects while welcoming CIE into one of Cargo’s cosy booths. “A few ideas were shared and the project grew from there.”

And grow it did. The multi-purpose nature of the venue required inputs in various locations for DJ, live and daytime background music playback, as well as microphone inputs for use on quiz nights and for quick announcements, without having to connect to the DJ mixer or live desk.

Penguin enjoys a close relationship with Sound Technology, Harman’s UK distributor, leading to a BSS Audio Soundweb London Blu-100, utilising Harman’s Motion Control iOS software being specified.

Coupled with Audio Architect programming software, the system offers the required flexibility and ease of operation, along with logic programming and audio processing to meet the uni’s specified noise management plan. A custom control panel on an iPad allows for background and stage level control whilst roaming the room. The signal is powered by Crown XLS2500 Drivecore power amplifiers.

Meanwhile, a Soundcraft Expression 1 console was specified for live use, while stage speakers comprise a pair of Ohm Total Clarity CT12s, flown either side of the raised stage using Mason anti-vibration couplers. A single Ohm Total Clarity CS218 subwoofer is concealed beneath the stage, again on anti-vibration mounts. The remainder of the room is covered by Ohm Total Clarity CW28 cabinets.

“We knew from past projects that Soundweb offers us more than basic DSP – with the flexibility in its control (BSS wall plates and controllers, third party system integration and their own iOS software) to the powerful logic programming, everything we wanted to do with the system was possible – as well as providing a clear and simple upgrade path should the system grow or the venue’s needs change,” Dylan explains.

“As for the speakers, the new Total Clarity range from Ohm offer us exactly that,” Dylan enthuses. “The guys at Ohm really know their stuff and the build quality is second to none – because the system was to be used for so many uses (daytime background, weekend DJ, presentations and live performances of all genres) the system we designed had to be capable of all of these things – without compromise.”

Noise Management

Challenging the stereotypical noise levels one would expect of a university bar, Keith was instead keen to adhere to strict noise management rules.

“The first challenge we were faced with was noise,’ nods Dylan. “The bar was to be built in an existing block with residents above, as well as in the neighbouring blocks. Great consideration had to be made as to the type of speakers specified as well as their method of installation – transmission of frequencies through the fabric of the building had to be reduced as much as possible.”

The install team worked with Ohm to create a ‘Penguin Edition’ of the CW28 which, amongst other small differences, gave the team the ability to rear mount the cabinet with a Powerdrive anti-vibration bracket, offering an aesthetically pleasing solution that was in keeping with the noise management plan.

However, the challenges didn’t end there. Once the team had resolved the physical challenges and provided a tailored solution, the next step was to keep the signal under control.

“We tackled this as the Soundweb London family offers us powerful limiting,” Dylan explains. “Using the logic programming we can ensure that different limits are adhered to depending on time of day, or day of the week if necessary. We then had to make sure that the system is instantly intuitive for any member of staff, or any student using the space.”

Student bars have a high turnover of staff, so simplicity in terms of use was crucial. “As it’s a student space, we had to make sure anybody using the venue for performances and practice could pick up the controls and achieve their goal,” Dylan clarifies.

“We created a custom control panel on an iPad Mini which meant that levels could be adjusted and sources changed without having to go behind the bar to do so. The beauty about the portable control is that you can be standing in the middle of the zone you’re controlling – meaning you can get that level just right – no popping back to the wall plate or shouting across the room for a bit more or a bit less!”

The video system is equally simple and uses a mixture of eight 40 and 50 inch Panasonic Professional LCD panels located around the room, controlled via a CYP 8×8 HDBaseT matrix.

“The ability to mix live inputs with marketing messages and advertising from the university’s own digital signage box, along with Sky satellite, was important to keep the system totally flexible,” Dylan adds. “Chris and Stuart from AC-Video were particularly helpful in meeting the tight deadlines.”

When asked by CIE what his favourite part of the install was, Dylan can’t help but grin. “This is going to sound slightly conceited, but I’m going to say all of it! I’ll explain why however. The idea of the install was that everything had to work together really well. If I were to say that one aspect stood out, it would almost imply that something else wasn’t up to scratch.

“The sound works really well in the venue; the architect worked to use materials in such a way that we weren’t left with lots of reflective surfaces, so we were given the best chance to make the most of it. Our slight adaptations to the venue were met and dealt with at the design stage which made the install itself so much more straightforward and enabled us to position speakers exactly where we wanted – without compromise.”

The Soundweb solution meant that the team could control and shape the sound as desired, but in reality there is very little EQ applied to the system at Cargo. “The screens we used from Panasonic came in nicely on budget, but look great. The 8×8 HD matrix from CYP is simple to use and does what it says on the tin; you can’t ask for more!”

Crucially, the client was a satisfied customer. Keith is keen to reiterate to CIE that: “Penguin Media exceeded our expectations in every way – the audio and visual systems they installed are of superb quality – crystal clear sound that brings the room to life.”

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