A stone’s throw from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, Number One Birdcage Walk
is a storied piece of London history. Regarded as one of the city’s architectural
gems, the building has been home to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers since
opening its doors in 1899. With more than 111,000 members in 140 countries, the
Institution connects companies, universities, and think tanks, sharing knowledge
and information with government, industry, and the public.

With its central location and picturesque surroundings, Number One is a magnet for
meetings, hosting an ongoing program of events for engineers, including technical
conferences, seminars, workshops and social functions in its sixteen meeting halls.
To meet the demands of the venue’s busy calendar, the Institute’s main lecture
theater was recently treated to a major upgrade of its audio systems.

As with many majestic older spaces, the hall boasts stunning classic architectural
touches including high domed ceilings and soaring hardwood paneled walls. While
visually impressive, the resulting acoustics play havoc with intelligibility – not a
welcome circumstance for a space devoted largely to spoken word presentations.

Systems Integrator Insight Visual Systems worked together with in-house AV
technician Pete Coleman and UK suppliers POLARaudio to create a system that could
address the venue’s acoustical issues while having minimal impact on its historical
aesthetics. POLARaudio Head of Installation Stuart Leader recommended a pair of
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC16-R-II digitally steered array loudspeakers.

“The existing audio system was operating at its limits,” observes Insight Visual
Systems Business Development Manager Steve McNally. “Moreover, the system
could only be controlled from a balcony at the rear of the hall, making meaningful
adjustments virtually impossible. I’d had experience with installing Iconyx speakers
during a previous project in a similar environment and was confident that they
offered the ideal solution.”

“Our existing system was approaching 20 years old, and we endured a constant
battle with feedback when trying to achieve usable volume levels,” explains Pete
Coleman, AV Technician at the Institution. “The old system required constant
adjustment throughout an event. The Iconyx system is a lot easier to work with.
Once the levels are set and everything’s in place that’s it, we’re free to concentrate
on all the other demands of the event.”

Iconyx digitally steered arrays enable system designers to create highly directional
beams of audio that can be aimed with precision to focus sound directly on the
audience and away from walls, ceilings, and other hard, reflective surfaces. The
result is a dramatic improvement in clarity and intelligibility that is all but
impossible to achieve with conventional point source loudspeakers.

At Number One Birdcage Walk, Leader reports the results have been equally
satisfying. “The system has met with high praise from the client, noting a level of
clarity and facility that far exceeded their expectations.”