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Iconyx Gives Initiatives of Change a Clear Hearing

Caux, Switzerland – June 2012… Above the clear waters of Lake Geneva, in the small village resort of Caux overlooking Montreux, the locally-nicknamed ‘Cinderella’s Castle’ hosts an annual series of conferences hosted by CAUX-Initiatives of Change.

An independent officially recognized Swiss foundation, the body works to promote peace, prevent conflicts, build trust and encourage intercultural dialogue and ethical conduct in business. CAUX-Initiatives of Change is a member of Initiatives of Change International, an NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and participatory status at the Council of Europe.

Their summer seminars in Caux draw people from all over the world, in what was until 1946 the grand Caux-Palace Hotel. A magnificent and peaceful setting, but one whose acoustic legacy has proved a major downside for its current use.

British sound designer Terry Nelson, whose Switzerland-based company Studio Equipment was hired to improve speech intelligibility in the main conference area, explains: “The main salon of the hotel, where the conferences are held, has high ceilings and a wonderful cupola in the centre, with pseudo-art deco plasterwork. The effect of all this is almost infinite flutter echoes, and the area under the cupola works like a whispering gallery. It’s basically a very difficult environment to deliver clear speech to up to 450 people.”

To make the acoustics more complex still, the central area and stage are flanked by a glass conservatory-style wing overlooking the gardens to stage right, and a corridor to stage left.

In a classic scenario, he says, “They’d had a PA installed, with perfectly good quality loudspeakers that were unfortunately totally the wrong choice for the highly reflective environment. People despaired about understanding conversations and presentations. They’d also installed an 8-channel multiple translation system, and many people turned to using that system’s headphones in an effort to understand what was being said.”

The conference’s British technical director Brian Thirlaway initially contacted an audio company in Zurich, which in turn recommended Studio Equipment. Says Nelson: “We did a site visit and from the outset it was obvious that we needed a highly directional system to tame the multiple reflections.” Further discussions revealed that while speech would be the primary use, subtle sound reinforcement for small groups or solo instruments was also required.

Nelson recommended Renkus-Heinz Iconyx’s digital beam steering capabilities to direct sound away from the walls and cupola. The main system consists of two IC16-R arrays, controlled by RHAON software over CobraNet via a remote Ethernet port, along with two CF Series subwoofers.

The slim arrays fit perfectly either side of a mock proscenium arch and are run via analogue audio lines from an existing DDA Q Series console, with control via Ethernet from a Renkus-Heinz IC-RC1 RHAON remote preset control that allows simple user switching between preset modes. The console also feeds two Iconyx IC7 arrays (via groups), which cover the conservatory and corridor areas.

Says Nelson: “Having looked at the room, I did an initial set-up with Renkus-Heinz’s BeamWare II beam alignment software. With the rear wall around 30 metres from the stage, I set up the IC16s so that five separate horizontal beams covered the audience area evenly from front to back.”

“One of the best comments we had,” says Nelson, “was that the general secretary of the organisation was very pleased, saying that for the first time you could understand every word without using the interpreter system headphones, even right at the back or under the cupola.

“From our point of view, when we were doing the first commissioning, one of my colleagues stood right under the cupola, where the sound comes at you from all directions.

“It takes a lot to impress him and he said he couldn’t hear a single echo, just some natural room reverb.

“The whole team was there at the time and it was a case of ‘problem solved’. As a final touch, Renkus-Heinz delivered the Iconyx arrays in a finish that precisely matches the white decor.”

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Headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, Renkus-Heinz, Inc. is the worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of audio operations networks, digitally steerable arrays, powered and non-powered loudspeakers, system specific electronics and fully integrated Reference Point Array systems.

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