Culture Lab-Newcastle in the U.K. is described as a flagship for the University of Newcastle’s interdisciplinary research grounded in digital technologies.
The result of a significant investment by the university and the British government’s Science Research Investment Fund, Culture Lab is a multi-application, multi-user digital media facility whose aim is to enable the development of new digital technologies for solutions to arts, humanities and social science research problems. The facility boasts a live event space for performances, lectures and interactive displays, and state-of-the-art workshops where people can customize hardware and software.
All of Culture Lab’s spaces are networked using EtherSound over standard CAT6 cable and, as a result, all enjoy excellent computer resources. Specific facilities include a testing and recording studio for digital sound and labs for multimedia audiovisual projects.
Digital Village, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of professional recording equipment, and now boasting a blossoming install division (Digital Village Installations), has been one of the key suppliers for this project. In addition to supplying and installing a full professional post-production and recording facility, DVI also provided a comprehensive EAW NT Series self-powered loudspeaker system, along with a Mackie TT24 digital mixing console. for the new live performance space.
The system includes six NT26 two-way cabinets with a 12-inch driver and 60° x 45° dispersion pattern; six NT59 cabinets with a 15-inch driver and dispersion pattern of 90° x 45°; and six NTS22 dual 12-inch subwoofers. All NT Series loudspeakers offer extremely high output-to-weight ratios and unparalleled sonic performance and accuracy thanks to their revolutionary onboard DSP technology known as Gunness Focusing.
Newcastle University’s John Ayers was responsible for specifying the system. “We were looking for a system that could provide as close as possible to studio monitor-like sound quality but with the output of a PA speaker,” he recalled. “We tested a number of different systems from several manufacturers and the EAW NT solution was the only one that came close to satisfying our wide range of needs, even when we A/B’d it against Genelec studio monitors. While other systems had the output, none could combine it with the audio quality of the NT Series. Furthermore, NT is lightweight, compact and portable, and the flexible design of the mid-hi cabinets means that they can easily serve as handed pairs of floor monitors if required.”
Ayers explained that given the huge diversity of applications for which the system would be used, flexibility and superlative audio quality were the main focus points throughout. “We required something that could go from being a classic sound reinforcement system to being a creative part of a complex electro-acoustic production. That meant that each component had to sound as good individually as the sum of the parts.”
He also noted that the Mackie TT24 digital mixing console was selected using much the same criteria of flexibility, sonic excellence and also, in this case, ease of use. “We needed a console that visiting researchers would be able to get to grips with relatively quickly. The TT24 suited us very well in that it is flexible enough to handle everything from traditional FOH PA configurations to surround sound diffusion for electro-acoustic music, yet remains simple enough to configure and set up that first-time users can be productive very quickly.”
Ayers added that by connecting to the network (“which is very simple as we use EtherSound over standard CAT6 cabling, so one cable does all”), the audio can be routed anywhere, be it to the recording and post-production facility or elsewhere.
Ayers concluded, “Culture Lab is a truly unique facility and a very exiting project to be involved in. It was enlightening to work on such a high-spec facility as we had the opportunity to look at the best the industry has to over before making our choices. EAW’s NT Series loudspeaker and the Mackie TT24 console fitted the bill perfectly.”