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Safety First

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), the largest of its type in Canada, is located in Toronto's dynamic downtown core and hosts events for groups of 40 to 40,000. The hall is getting back to solid bookings after the extended effects of the SARS outbreak, and downtime now is rare.

Last fall, as a key element of ongoing upgrades to the facility's safety systems, the management decided to replace its aging voice evacuation and announcement PA systems with a contemporary solution. The installation is in three combinable halls each measuring 255 x 266 feet with a 50-foot-high ceiling.

The halls are cavernous enough, but the acoustical design challenges were increased by the north-wall entrance to the room-a glass-atrium design with a 45-degree sloping roof. Factor in cement walls and floors, and it became obvious that a system with very tight pattern control would be mandatory. The original installation-carried out 25 years ago-comprised a pair of custom 8-foot-high column loudspeakers in each room, and the design brief was to improve on their directivity, power and clarity. For a variety of reasons, the new system would also have to be up and running within a very short timeframe.

Enter integrators JSGS, out of Toronto, which has held the venue's facilities maintenance contract for around 12 years. JSGS director, Liz Woods, noted, "The capacity of the halls brings in the big shows, with one of the largest being the Canadian Auto Show. Toyota and the other exhibitors construct 3-story-high booths, so the location of any loudspeakers had to be high off the floor and out of the way so as not to create any obstructions for their clients. The system is part of an extensive security and EVAC network, so the switchover had to be invisible and quick."

JSGS then brought in Mike Davidson and Bill Coons of Contact Distribution to help devise the specifics of the new system. The chosen solution was to replace the old speaker columns with equally compact, but much higher-powered, medium-scale Renkus-Heinz line-array hangs, using a single 5-box array of the company's PNX102/LA in each room. This compact, full-range, 72-pound box delivers up to 133 dB program and comes with Renkus-Heinz's Aimware system setup program.
"The EASE analysis shows us that Renkus-Heinz line arrays work great in big, flat, acoustically hostile environments," Coons said. "Some audio companies supply line arrays because it's the mode du jour, but what this showed unquestionably was that we had a big rectangular footprint that needed consistent SPL, and in conjunction with the Aimware, we were able to get the right aiming angles, further optimizing performance."

Renkus-Heinz provided the cabinets in white finish in less than 10 days and Contact moved them from California to JSGS in Toronto in four days, fast-tracking the whole process. Coons noted, "The variance on the room when it was installed, compared to what I had seen on the model, was ±4 dB; it was incredibly consistent."

"The individual cabinets were assembled with great ease into complete hangs and went together extremely well," Woods said. "Another benefit of the design approach was that the acoustical benefits of line-array technology made it unnecessary to find the money for additional amplifiers, further saving the MTCC money and maximizing their funds. The configuration of the system also allowed us to free up an existing amplifier which provided an additional spare for the facility." Other new system components are a Rane DA216A distribution amplifier and Rane AC-22B crossovers.


"At the end of the day, three parties had to be served," recalled Bill Coons of Contact Distribution. "One is the MTCC, which has a huge variety of clients coming through the trade show floor with high expectations of quality. They expected value and long-term support and performance. Secondly, they have a long-term contract with AVW-TELAV, one of the largest audiovisual suppliers to convention centers in North America. The quality had to be of the same high standard that TELAV is noted for, yet not be over-designed and considered as an alternative to reinforcement systems designed specifically for events by TELAV's production services department. The new system's prime function was as a large-scale paging and background music system.