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Utrecht University goes digital with Shure audio installation

The network change to the frequencies of Europe’s 4G network has driven Utrecht University, one of the oldest and most respected in the Netherlands, to upgrade its sound systems to digital ones

Utrecht University, one of the oldest and most respected universities in the Netherlands, has implemented a three-year audio installation of Shure equipment, with ULX-D Digital Wireless systems being deployed across three main areas: Utrecht Science Park/De Uithof, the University Quarter in the city centre of Utrecht and the International Campus Utrecht (ICU).

With more than 29,000 students, 5,500 faculty and staff and 100 buildings – including 45 buildings used for educational purposes and lecture halls – updating the audio equipment to a digital system was essential after changes to the frequencies of Europe’s 4G network.

Award-winning integrator JNV, with support from AV specialist distribution company Output, managed the installation of the Shure equipment.

Discussing the initial decision for the audio upgrade, Peter Janssen, AV domain specialist at Utrecht University, explained why a requirement for a digital system was needed: “There was a change of frequencies to the 4G Network in Europe, which led us to upgrade our previous system to a digital system. The new system offers us greater performance in terms of the number of microphones in use under the new bandwidth restrictions brought in by the recent changes.”

Jan Zwanenberg, digital architect, JNV, added: “Utrecht University has around 90 microphone systems in use across the campus; that is a mixture of handheld, lapel, podium, headset and radio mics. Because of the number of microphones, we needed a system that could provide a lot of channels into the restricted bandwidth available. Peter and I spent a long time discussing what kind of solutions were needed to provide the perfect learning environment for all of the students and lecturers.”

Actual numbers of equipment used across the campus revealed the true challenge of managing channels within a restricted bandwidth, 86 ULXD4 receivers, 103 ULXD1 bodypacks, and 14 ULXD2 handhelds.

“Output provided great support throughout the project, allowing us to test systems and ensure they would perform on-site within the University,” offered Zwanenberg. “We quickly realised that the old system in place would not be sufficient with the network change, and conversations with Output led us to look at the Shure system, which was of immediate interest to us as being a totally digital solution.”

Janssen continued: “Shure has a reputation for being a market-leading audio brand, so we felt that the decision for us to change to a Shure ULX-D digital system wasn’t high risk at all, and in fact, provided much greater benefits than the existing system.”

With distance learning and lecture capture a basic requirement in the modern educational environment, clear sound reinforcement, and speech intelligibility have become increasingly more important. Janssen said: “Good sound comes from the source, which means having the best microphones in place to capture audio. The Shure system provides us with a flexible, stable solution to continue to offer the best possible learning experience to all our students across the university. Our academics also appreciate the ease of use when switching systems, from lapel to headset microphone.”

Having had the Shure systems in place for 12 months, both Janssen and Zwanenberg are pleased with the decision to upgrade.

“ULX-D is now the new standard at the university,” concluded Zwanenberg. “Each microphone system is totally reliable and works perfectly depending on the needs of the room.”