Toronto, Canada (June 14, 2005)–The Docks, a 12,000-capacity indoor/outdoor facility in Toronto, recently underwent expansion to its attractions and audio networking capabilities, in part using Symetrix SymNet. The buildout at the Docks presented an opportunity to push the envelope of digital signal processing, as system designer PA Plus and contractor Sound Dymax paired new rooms with a facility-wide audio system retrofit.
“The Docks is the poster child for audio transport and external control for DSPs,” said Peter Lima, senior systems integrator, install division for PA Plus. “This is a facility where size really does matter. Because of its size and technical demands, the limits of external control and distance of audio transport truly test the CAT5’s infrastructure.”
With 12 external and 16 internal zones, the Docks project was a web of audio connectivity. It was made even more complex for PA Plus by the fact that six of the audio zones were brand new, owing to a new second floor with clubs like the glass-encased Solarium and the Vibe Lounge, and capped off by the dance-music-paradise Main Room, featuring one of the largest EV Alpha systems in North America. Ease of control, flexibility and future expandability were the priorities for Lima, who also executed the original DSP programming and system design.
“The number of remotes that were required for installation in the facility was a tremendous challenge,” Lima reported. “During the course of a day, the individual rooms will change over, so a place could host a corporate function, and then after 9:00pm, it changes into a nightclub, and the music is changed accordingly. The vastness of the facility allows each room to have up to seven different sources, including satellite, microphone, band/DJ, and PowerPoint.”
Lima set up a system with three separate SymNet head ends in different locations that transported audio throughout the Docks. “The SymNet units are in the main rack, collecting all analog audio throughout the facility in the first level and via CobraNet from anything outside of the main floor. I knew this was going to grow, so I had to choose a very large matrix system to handle the routing. Everything is routed in stereo-balanced inputs and outputs.
“External–or in other words web-enabled–control was a priority, allowing the manager to dial in and see what any room in the facility was playing. All of the SymNet ARC (Adaptive Remote Controls) have LCD displays that actually display what zones they are affecting. That’s very important, because it’s a confirmation for the operator. The volume is displayed and acknowledged back from the unit, so they know what preset to put it at. Because every room has one, it allows for consistency, and the managers can override the DJs if they deem it too loud, for example.”
System expandability was a must for the Docks, made easier by the SymNet DSP engine. “SymNet was chosen not only for the network considerations, but also the centralization of audio,” Lima continued. “Because the system has a proprietary audio network in it, it could do 32 x 32 alone, in addition to CobraNet. That meant that if they said, ‘I want to be able to connect to the golf range and select any audio source,’ I could implement a growth design where I simply connect another CAT5 cable into the SymNet.
“The SymNet also has external controls with unique I/O capability, and is going to be utilized to perform all the mutes for the amplifiers, so that one interface can handle the entire facility. As a result, SymNet is the single user interface for public announcements, entertainment, and life safety.
“The network has very good signal-to-noise ratios,” said Lima. “The Docks has one of the largest EV Alpha systems in North America, and the fidelity is quite extraordinary. They have 16 twin 18-inch Planar Wave Guide subwoofers in there. That pounds.” EV SmartAmps receive their feed from EV DX38 speaker managers, while Midas XL88 preamps sweeten the DJ system’s front end. “The Midas is one of the finest analog matrixers,” Lima stated. “Sometimes, there will be three DJs collectively in one evening that get matrixed down to the two stereo lines of the system. The facility technicians do the seamless routing themselves, bouncing back and forth like dueling DJs.”
Lima’s deep planning and programming skills went even deeper for the Docks, thanks to the larger-than-life scope of one of Toronto’s trademark destinations. “I really do enjoy the challenges and complexities of a design like this, and I think that’s how everybody learns,” he concluded. “The Docks was a very good example of foresight, and a good sign of where we are going to be five years from now.”