Pool environments can present a challenge for integrators looking to create intelligible, high quality sound in acoustically difficult environments, however Technical Arts went above and beyond to provide a fully automated audio system that conquered the reverberant acoustics of the new wave pool at seaside resort Butlin’s in Bognor Regis, UK.
Martin Tarpy, senior project manager, Technical Arts explained: “The technical manager from the entertainment side of Butlin’s, Andrew Sugg, is a long-standing customer of mine and he gave me a call when they needed some assistance in developing the design route of the scheme.
“The client desired to have a fully capable system for not only the day to day operations, but also for their more specialist pool parties and adult weekenders which are so fundamental to the turnover of the business.”
Butlin’s required a fully automated system that would run from the site’s opening times until close of play throughout the building. A multi-zone audio system was required that involved a variety of specific audio profiles for each public area.
The Splash experience at Butlin’s incorporates separate zones: a reception area, café, changing village, flume tower, main wave pool area and sun lounge area, each with a distinctive theme that required their own individual music profiles to create distinctively different atmospheres.
Tarpy: “In the changing village they wanted a specific music profile, in the flume tower they wanted a different music profile and, in the café and reception area they wanted something different again. We needed multiple audio streams that would run automatically in all areas.”
Pool environments are known for their reverberant acoustics and combination of heat and humidity, proving to be difficult areas in which to create intelligible audio due to their large spaces and reflective surfaces. In looking for a speaker system with specifications to match the brief, Technical Arts enlisted the help of Dave Wooster, director of K-array’s UK distributor 2B Heard, who utilised EASE Focus software as an acoustic simulation tool, as Tarpy explained: “It’s visual technology for sound. It’s modelling and mapping: it allows you to illustrate to the client that what we’re proposing would have the desired capabilities for all of the pool’s activities. That level of pre-planning, that level of visualisation, was fundamental to giving the client confidence in our proposal.”
“EASE Focus gives you a two-dimensional heat mapping representation of SPL and frequency response across the venue,” said Wooster. “You can overlay the mapping over images of the space, so that people get a better idea of what they’re looking at and understand it in a visual way. We can give them basic frequency responses based on position.”
From the EASE Focus simulation Technical Arts was able to gain a detailed understanding of the acoustics of the space before installation work began. Tarpy said: “Having already modelled the space, when we went to the next phase we had a good understanding of how the speaker system would perform in the highly reverberant environment.”
Tarpy had worked with K-array on projects in the past: “It had to be discreet, and it had to be highly intelligible. That was the driving factor, especially as the loudspeakers run continuously throughout the day to attract families into the pool when the wave pool activates, and to give people already there a chance to move to quieter areas. It also had to deliver enough level for the pool parties and the adult weekenders – in fact it had to please all the people all the time.”
Technical Arts selected a K-array line array system, consisting of Kobra-KK102i 100cm-long Pure Array Technology Elements and Kobra-KK52i 50cm-long Pure Array Technology Elements in the main pool area, mounted on the lamp posts that flank the wave pool.
Wooster explained the acoustic challenges facing Tarpy and his team: “The floor is mostly tile, the water is reflective, the general space is cavernous, and the system has to get over high ambient noise levels with kids screaming and shouting. It has its intricacies but that’s really what K-array’s characteristics are designed for.”
On each of the lamp posts a pair of Kobra-KK102 passive line arrays form a two metre vertical column. The inner two columns were horizontally rotated inwards to focus on the pool, with additional rear firing Kobra-KK52 passive line arrays covering the small stepped areas either side of the wave pool, whilst the outer two positions were rotated slightly outwards to improve coverage across the wide beach area. All the Kobras are of stainless steel construction to combat the high humidity, and custom finished to match the décor.
“Using a sensible amount of vertical tilt, we aimed a precise beam of audio towards the main areas requiring coverage, and away from areas that don’t,” he said. “The Kobra’s dispersion characteristic of 120 degrees horizontal and 7 degrees vertical made this accuracy very easy to achieve.”
The line arrays are supplemented by four Thunder-KMT18P passive 18-inch subwoofers located in the front wall above the wave machine, giving three sources to align into one wavefront and providing solid low end and a full frequency response. The complete speaker system is powered by two Kommander-KA84 four-channel amplifiers housed in a central equipment rack.
“We designed and developed custom stainless brackets to mount the speakers on to the lamp posts. These not only had to be totally corrosion-proof, but also provide the right range of angle adjustment to match the EASE Focus model.”
After starting work on the design elements in February 2018, Technical Arts initially had project management overview of the first fixed installation works and came on site during the second fix, which saw the loudspeakers and amplification installed with testing and commissioning to follow, running over a period of four to five months.
Tarpy concluded: “The inherent challenges were there, but the Kobras’ ability to cover the required areas with controlled and even dispersion provided surgically precise coverage. The client is delighted with the outcome, as a result of tight integration between Dave’s creative design and our project team’s implementation of the K-array speaker system.
“Dave did some fine tuning towards the end of the project, which always brings another 10% out of what you think already sounds great. He’s supported us all along the way from the early audio predictions through to product selection and on-going technical advice, and I’m very pleased with the result.”