Iconyx Tames Virginia’s Science Museum

Richmond, VA | August, 2010 - Richmond, Virginia is a city steeped in history. The state capitol is home to some of America’s most legendary architecture, including the majestic building that now houses the Science Museum of Virginia. Built in 1917 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the former Broad Street Railway Station is a grand and vast space replete with massive rotunda, soaring domed roof, granite floors and marble walls.

It’s also an unintentional case study for how not to design an acoustical space. "I’ve worked in professional sound for over 30 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more acoustically challenging room," says Nelson Hoyt of Virginia-based Onyx Engineering. "I think of it as the Taj Mahal’s evil twin." Indeed, Hoyt reports that sound in the venue has been an ongoing problem for many years. "If you get 30 or 40 people talking in there, the sound just reverberates and the volume just keeps ramping up as people try and talk over it."

In today’s budget-conscious world, the income stream from hosting events can make a tremendous difference to a publicly funded institution. And as Hoyt explains, the hall’s problematic acoustics have resulted in a number of missed opportunities. "It’s a shame, because a gorgeous facility, but it’s been pretty much impossible to set up any kind of sound system in there that doesn’t simply add to the din. They’ve tried literally every type of sound system there is, and nothing’s ever worked."

The solution arrived in the form of Renkus-Heinz’s IC Live digital steerable line array systems. A pair of IC215S-R dual 15-inch subwoofers, each topped with two ICL-R columns, was all it took to provide focused coverage within the venue.

"We’d had good results with the Iconyx series of steerable line-arrays in some previous installations, but no one had ever found a system that could work in this particular space," says Hoyt. "I was pretty confident that it would work, but I needed to hear it myself to be sure, and I just told them ‘let us bring it down and set it up, and you decide."

The Museum’s interactive, hands-on environment offers plenty of open areas, creating a varied range of spaces for different sized events. The IC-Live’s portability and flexibility offers a marked advantage. "One guy can take the system and set it up in different areas of the building for different events," says Hoyt.

"Using the built-in presets, he can hit a button and dial it in for that location. If it’s a spoken presentation he can raise the intelligibility range, if it’s a high school prom he can pump up the bass."

For the Museum, the IC Live system has opened up new possibilities. "Being able to finally offer the rotunda for events has made a big difference for them," says Hoyt. "They’ve been able to book many more events,, and that’s a wonderful thing."