The Opportunity

Auckland International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand—and it has become bigger with several expansion projects over the last decade including baggage claim areas, passenger lounge, international terminal departure processing zone and retail hub areas. The massive transformational project has more than doubled the size of the international zone.

Bartons Sound Systems are a preferred contractor for the installation of PA equipment and maintenance of public address systems at the Airport and have utilised JBL Professional Intellivox adjustable self-powered column speakers in many of the expansion projects. Intellivox delivers highly intelligible announcements to large passenger numbers in difficult acoustic spaces.

Bartons originally deployed JBL Intellivox DC280 columns during the first phase of the new baggage claim area upgrades, the DC280 proven to deliver excellent speech intelligibility with constant sound pressure level up to 35 metres. Subsequent newer Intellivox models such as the DSX280HD and DSX180 have been deployed in various phases of the expansion.

JBL Intellivox for Auckland Airport

“Until the expansion project began, nearly all of the PA loudspeakers used at Auckland International Airport were ceiling speakers or old-style PA horns for exterior areas,” said Rob Waddell of Bartons Sound Systems. “Aside from the fact that we wanted to install something much better, the open-ceiling arrangement of the baggage area precluded the use of ceiling speakers. Further to this, installing a distributed system of conventional, cabinet-type loudspeakers and the cable to wire all of them up would not be cost effective.”

Additionally, before construction even started it was predicted, based on the architectural plans, that the space would be highly reverberant. A further complication: the degree of absorbency (alpha) of the horizontally mounted ceiling baffles that would be installed for reverberation control was unknown.

“Installing a distributed system of conventional, cabinet-type loudspeakers and the cable to wire all of them up would not be cost effective.”

JBL Intellivox Beam Shaping Loudspeakers enhance Auckland Airport sound system

Waddell realised that a beam shaping loudspeaker would provide the solution and determined the JBL Intellivox was the ideal choice for delivering intelligible sound at the volumes required to handle the ambient noise level of a baggage claim area. The loudspeakers also needed to overcome the high reverberation times created by the space’s open architecture, ceiling beams, walls and uncarpeted floors.

The JBL Intellivox digital beam steering enables its vertical dispersion to be precisely focused and shaped by controlling the relative phase and amplitude of its column of custom-designed drivers and optimising its volume, parametric EQ and delay using proprietary DSP techniques.

Waddell used EASE AURA acoustic modelling software to determine that only two JBL Intellivox DC280 loudspeakers would be needed to provide clear, intelligible coverage of the baggage claim area. The loudspeakers were installed vertically along the wall where the baggage belt is located. “Because it is only 5.3 inches wide, you really have to look hard to realise the speakers are even there,” Waddell noted.

“Management wanted the PA to deliver at least 0.6 minimum STIPA and JBL Intellivox easily achieves this.”

The loudspeakers had to deliver a STIPA (Speech Transmission Index Public Address) of at least 0.5 because the installation serves both as PA and as an EWIS Emergency Warning and Information System. “Management wanted the PA to deliver at least 0.6 minimum STIPA and JBL Intellivox easily achieves this,” Waddell pointed out. “The speaker’s ability to provide highly focused coverage, yet over a large distance, is key in achieving this level of power and intelligibility while overcoming such highly reverberant acoustics.”

Along with superior performance, JBL Intellivox beam shaping speakers have provided significant cost savings because they are self-powered, which eliminated the need for external amplifiers and reduced the amount and expense of cable and labour needed. In addition, the Intellivox built-in Ambient Noise Sensing System further reduced the need for external microphones and cabling that would otherwise be required.

The successful use of the original JBL DC280 has led Waddell to specify installing more JBL Intellivox beam-steerable array loudspeakers including DSX280HD and DSX180 for various stages of the remodelling and extension work. “On paper they’re a clever solution – but when you actually hear the speaker performing so brilliantly in this type of environment you really appreciate just how well-suited they are to this type of application.”

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