Glasgow Central welcomes Europe?s largest Tannoy QFlex install

Scotland’s busiest railway station has welcomed Europe’s largest Tannoy QFlex installation, with Glasgow Central taking delivery of the company’s digital beam steering loudspeaker range.

Following a major investment from Network Rail, it was decided that an extensive audio upgrade was required. Network Rail and main contractor Babcock subsequently sought the services of UK-based sound and communications company TG Baker, having developed a strong working relationship with them over previous rail network projects. After careful consideration and design testing, TG Baker opted for a solution comprised of Tannoy’s QFlex system.

Brian Andrew, who heads up the Railway Division for TG Baker, said: “Glasgow Central is a famous Victorian structure that is protected by The National Trust for Scotland, which in itself presented a whole set of architectural limitations. As well as that, the station had a problem with intelligibility of announcements, as the reverberation time was in the region of six seconds. Deploying conventional speakers would have meant a low direct to reverberant ratio, adversely impacting on intelligibility. With such a harsh acoustic environment and protected architecture, acoustic treatment of the space would have proven to be prohibitively expensive, so in the end the whole project required a cutting-edge technology solution, and digital beam steering was the perfect answer. In most cases digital beam steering technology is the only effective way of achieving the required levels of speech intelligibility in large reverberant spaces.”

One of the key factors in the specification of the QFlex system was its unique full range steering capability. In order to achieve effective steering and avoid aliasing at higher frequencies, users often need densely spaced transducers. However, Qflex is able to steer highly focused beams of acoustic energy to beyond 12 kHz, with SPL coverage also maintained across the entire listening plane due to its ability to create an asymmetrical pattern as a result of its patented steering algorithm.

Aside from these aspects, there were other reasons why QFlex was specified for the, as Andrew noted: “Apart from a significant cost saving to the customer, another good reason for using QFlex over some of the alternative steerable options on the market is that most other products have a fixed mounting height. But in Glasgow Central, the National Trust for Scotland dictated the height of the speakers, where they were to be positioned, and also the colours of them. Tannoy was able to offer combinations of different custom colours in order to blend with the surroundings and mimic what was there before, and the adaptability of QFlex meant they could be mounted where required, without compromising on coverage.”

The installation includes 29 QFlex 48s, eight QFlex 32s and ten QFlex 16s, all in varying customised colours to match the existing architectural scheme. Comprehensive system overview and diagnostics is provided by six Sentinel SM1 system monitors, which sit on the VNET network and are designed to deliver system-wide integrity and provide alerts in the event of any fault condition, eliminating the need for a PC to be constantly connected to the network.

“The biggest benefit to the end user is that people can actually hear what is being said,” commented Andrew. “As soon as we switched it on, everyone involved remarked on the notable difference in terms of intelligibility. Also, another aspect is that the announcements are now automatic; mirroring what is on the information screens in the station. That is all done by a PC that we have networked into the system. Network Rail can override it in case of emergency, and QFlex is able to step up and cope with all of the eventualities.

“As with any project of this scale, there were a lot of challenges to be faced and overcome. It has been an accelerated process to get it to where it is now. We worked with Tannoy and really pushed the boundaries of the VNet network, and throughout the project we have had hands on support from Tannoy engineers and staff in order to make the project such a resounding success.”

Summing up the project, Graham Hendry, head of Tannoy’s new Applications Engineering and Training (AET) group, stated: “The new system at Glasgow Central underline’s Tannoy’s agility as a manufacturer and supplier. As a company, we had to work closely alongside TG Baker to make sure that QFlex was able to do all that was asked of it, and in some cases adding some job specific features along the way. We also had to deliver a product that was fully capable of integrating with the existing infrastructure with ease, not to mention stand up to the environmental challenges of a busy rail terminal.”

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