The New Cultural District in Porto, known as "World of Wine" (WOW), comprises a cluster of museums, restaurants, and bars that form an immersive journey through the region’s port production heritage. WOW’s management team decided they wanted to install a comprehensive, premium audio system to guide people through the various exhibits and deliver the immersive soundscapes that help make the venue unique. Genelec loudspeakers were a natural choice, providing their trademark combination of studio-quality sound, flexibility, and reliability.
Over 400 Genelec loudspeakers are utilized across all the spaces. The brief was simple; to build an interactive experience that would attract, entertain, and educate tourists on various aspects of Portugal’s cultural history. Local Genelec distributor Garrett Audiovisuais—experts in delivering complete AV systems—secured the contract and specified an extensive list of Genelec equipment, working in tandem with Gema Digital, the company responsible for the creation of most of the museum experiences, from inception to the global project management, including the storytelling, multimedia production, AV installation, execution, and maintenance. Gema Digital specializes in developing pioneering immersive and interactive experiences for events, brand activations and museums, with a portfolio that combines over 2000 projects in 14 different countries. At WOW, sound played an instrumental part in creating an engaging experience that propels the visitor forward.
"In each space, completely different environments are presented, and it was necessary that the sound design reflects this change in dynamic," explained Gema Digital’s Francisco Brandão, highlighting the importance of sound as an immersive component and its direct effect on the mood of a room. While walking through WOW, specifically designed soundscapes help immerse visitors in each part of the journey.
The site includes seven different museum experiences and numerous restaurants, bars, and shops. Gema Digital designed and developed four museum experiences: The Wine Experience, Planet Cork, Porto Region Across the Ages, and The Chocolate Story, all different in shape and size. Nine different loudspeaker models were used throughout the project, including all variations of the 4000 Series. The Genelec loudspeakers were chosen primarily for exhibits where their superior detail and intelligibility can shine. For example, the 7.1 surround sound systems located in "Porto Region Across the Ages" and "The Wine Experience" auditoriums consist of exclusively Genelec loudspeakers.
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"When we were consulted by Gema Digital about this project, they made it clear they required a speaker that would be adaptive to the different types of rooms and applications, but would look very discreet," Raul Fernandes, sales director at Garrett Audiovisuais, elaborated on the decision. "Genelec’s crystalline sound signature is ubiquitous across their models, but there are subtle differences in the choices for each room. It’s why we suggested a combination of Architectural and 4000 Series models, as they can be adjusted very easily to the acoustics of the space, bypassing difficulties usually present in older buildings or with materials that create too much reverberation."
It was also important that the loudspeakers blend seamlessly with the interior of their environment. Genelec’s ceiling-mounted AIC25 models predominate the installation; chosen for their subtlety and versatility, Gema Digital installed 192 of these across the site. Amplification for each AIC25 is supplied via a remote RAM2 amplifier module, which also allowed technicians to adjust the loudspeakers’ frequency response and help the AIC25s blend with their environment in every sense of the word.
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Some of the larger models required a little more creative thinking to ensure they remained hidden without compromising sonic quality. "In the Civil War section of ‘Porto Region Across the Ages’, we made the decision to hide the Genelec 5041A active in-wall subwoofer in the scenography, in the chimney," recalled Brandão, "Likewise, in the jungle of ‘The Chocolate Story’ we made a creative decision to position the loudspeakers behind the wall of vegetation to provide the feeling that there are animals hidden along the entire wall, simulating the thriving wildlife of an actual jungle, and conveying a sense of 360-degree immersion."
WOW serves as a shining example of how museums and other similar attractions can adopt AV technology to enhance the interactivity and immersive element of their exhibits.