Sky-Skan, Inc. recently installed a complete audio solution by HARMAN Professional Solutions at the newly opened Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. As the world’s leading designer and installer of fulldome planetariums and visualization theaters, Sky-Skan created a design that features an 8K 3D projection system with specialized Christie Digital projectors that deliver 30,000 lumens of brightness, making it one of the brightest projection systems on the planet.
To complement such a remarkable video system, Sky-Skan needed to design a high-fidelity audio solution capable of delivering crisp, powerful and natural-sounding audio.
After careful consideration, Sky-Skan designed and installed an integrated HARMAN solution made up of JBL Professional CSX F35 loudspeakers, Crown power amplifiers, BSS Soundweb London signal processors and AKG microphones. The design also features Martin wash lights and Martin system controllers that control both the audio and lighting systems.
The HARMAN audio solution includes 12 JBL CSX F35/90 loudspeakers, 4 JBL 5628 subwoofers, Crown DriveCore Install and I-Tech HD Series amplifiers, and BSS Soundweb London BLU-806, BLU-100, BLU-USB and BLU-120 signal processors. The system is controlled by Martin M-Play, M-Touch and M2PC control surfaces with Martin M-PC controller software. Sky-Skan also created a custom software interface that enables the Martin control surfaces to control audio from the BSS processors and the house Lutron lighting system. AKG WMS470 wireless microphone systems and presenter sets are used by special event hosts and projector operators.
While every component of the system is important, the JBL CSX F35 loudspeakers play a critical role in the planetarium. Before Sky-Skan signed on to the project, the museum’s technical team had initially spec’d another speaker brand for the design, but the cost was extremely prohibitive for the rest of the project. Barnett began looking for a speaker that could deliver the highest quality audio, while remaining within budget. Barnett travelled to JBL Professional’s headquarters in California to test the CSX F35 loudspeakers in person. At that point, he knew he had found the perfect speaker for the Frost Planetarium.
“At the time, there wasn’t much information available on the CSX F35 loudspeakers,” explained Barnett. “Once I stopped by JBL to hear the speakers, I fell in love immediately. There’s a significant improvement with the D2 Dual Driver technology. They’re smooth as silk all the way through the frequencies, including 4K and the high end. We didn’t have to compensate or use additional processing—the EQ curves were nearly flat. They’re pretty amazing.”
“We were confident that the HARMAN solution would cover the museum’s needs and exceed their expectations, without breaking the bank,” said George Barnett, Project Director at Sky-Skan, Inc. “The HARMAN teams have been so good to work with, and the integration between products is really smooth. Because of the communication between HARMAN brands like BSS and Martin, we were able to solve any issues quickly and efficiently. It makes life a lot easier when you have a one-stop shop that can pretty much cover all the bases—especially when you’re trying to integrate a system together with so many different components.”
“We’re trying to create an illusion in the theater—whether it’s taking you out to the edge of a galaxy or exploring the inside of a cell,” concluded Barnett. “A lot of times, the audio is overlooked in planetarium design—but it’s an important storytelling tool. For example, there’s obviously not any sound in space, but sound designers can use audio to create a feeling of moving through space. The HARMAN audio solution is able to reproduce those sounds as naturally as possible, which makes the audience feel like they’re on a real journey.”