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New Audio System Dramatically Improves Messaging Intelligibility

ST. GALLEN, SWITZERLAND: The St. Gallen train station hall is an architectural icon constructed in an impressive steel-glass structure which dates back to 1915. Upgraded intermittently since its original opening, most recently in the 1970’s, the visitor-related infrastructure – lighting, signage and audio systems, were in need of a substantial upgrade to 21st Century standards.

The goal of project architect Ernst Basler + Partner (www.ebp.ch), was to replace all the existing individual systems with one unified system, and integrate the lighting, signage and audio needs into the same joint mechanical structure. The Walters-Storyk Design Group (www.wsdg.com) was chosen as acoustical consultant mandated to collaborate with the architect to design and specify a new electro acoustical system. Because it had to provide travelers with critical scheduling information, track changes, updates and other vital announcements, high quality speech intelligibility was a paramount concern.

Radiating Electro Acoustics

WSDG European GM Dirk Noy reports that because the St. Gallens station hall has a typical longitudinally stretched extrusion geometry, the use of a repetitive pattern for the technical installations presented the optimal installation configuration.

Extensive electro acoustical simulations and calculations were performed by WSDG to study various installation and equipment options and determine whether the specified systems would meet the stringent performance requirements for coverage, level and speech intelligibility. Three sound system options – complete with an auralization for a virtual listening experience – were presented to the architect and their client – the Swiss National Railroad Corporation SBB (www.sbb.ch). The selected installation method is a distributed loudspeaker system comprised of approximately 100 identical Bosch LPC3432 point sources (www.bosch.com). The speakers were installed at a height of 4.5m (about 14 feet) over the tracks. Research confirmed that this positioning significantly reduces undesired acoustic excitation of reverberation in the hall, and contributes to greatly enhanced intelligibility.

Two weatherproof broadband loudspeakers were mounted at each installation point in parallel to the direction of the tracks, and tilted slightly downwards. The speakers and the requisite wiring are integrated at specific locations within the same steel structure used for the lighting fixtures and SBB signage systems. To achieve a redundancy, the speakers are wired in parallel, insuring uninterrupted audio messaging in case of a failure of one or several loudspeakers in a particular zone.

Input Stage Electro Acoustics / DSP

The audio signals are routed through a BSS Soundweb digital signal processor (www.bssaudio.com/). This device delivers the incoming announcements to the installed loudspeakers in a proper dynamic and frequency range, and also provides an automatic volume adjustment. The announcement sound level is adjusted in real time by an ambient noise compensation algorithm (integrated in the DSP software, and driven by specifically hung Sennheiser listening microphones (www.sennheiser.com). The system constantly monitors sound levels on the tracks and automatically adjusts signal volume. Announcements made during the passing of a train are automatically increased in volume, and lowered when the trains are not moving. A special timing option abates the volume correction at night in consideration of the quality of life of the local residents.

The digital signal processor is controlled by a wireless network (WLAN), enabling
laptop computer control for maintenance and re-setting DSP parameters directly from the tracks. When no maintenance work is taking place this functionality is disabled.

“The Train Station at St. Gallen was a challenging but ultimately gratifying project which
took full advantage of the Walters-Storyk Design Group acoustic simulation, measurement and design skills,? Dirk Noy concludes. “Concerns about environmental sound levels and clear speech intelligibility have grown in importance in recent years, and affordable, effective solutions are available. We are pleased to have made a meaningful, visually unobtrusive contribution to the improved functionality of this iconic hub of transportation.?


Train Station St. Gallen – Full View – Loudspeaker Marked.jpg
Photo by Ernst-Basler + Partner

Train Station St. Gallen – Full View.jpg
Photo by Ernst-Basler + Partner

Train Station St. Gallen – Lights + Loudspeaker.jpg
Photo by Michael Chollet, WSDG

Train Station St. Gallen – Rack.jpg*
Photo by Michael Chollet, WSDG

Train Station St. Gallen – Acoustical Model.jpg
CATT Acoustics Acoustical Model

Train Station St. Gallen – STI Graph.jpg
Speech Intelligibility Index; shown for two tracks only; noise = 64dB(A);
dark blue = 0.40 (poor), purple = 0.50 (fair), red = 0.60 (good), yellow
= 0.70 (good)

*Equipment rack from top:
• Managed Switch for IT network
• 2x Proco 8 Channel Isolation Transformer
• 2x BSS Soundweb Green DSP
• 5x Custom Amplification Units (run with Swiss Train System Emergency
Electrical Voltage of 48V) (first unit with front panel removed)


The Walters-Storyk Design Group www.wsdg.com has designed over 3000 media production facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Far East and Latin America. WSDG credits range from the original Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village to NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center performance complex, broadcast facilities for The Food Network, Interlochen Public Radio, CBS and WNET, and corporate clients such as Hoffman La Roche. Recent credits include private studios for the Goo Goo Dolls, Jay-Z, Timbaland’s Tim Mosley, Tracy Chapman, film composer Carter Burwell, Aerosmith; Green Day and Alicia Keys. WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, and Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG is a six-time winner of the prestigious TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design. The firm maintains offices in NY, SF, Argentina, Brazil, Beijing, Mexico City and Switzerland.


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