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DISCRETE AUDIO - University of Minnesota Academic Health Center
By Mike Lethby


Nowhere is the demand for clarity and articulacy more acute than in a leading seat of learning, and one of the most comprehensive educationand research facilities for health professionals in the nation has chosen a Renkus-Heinz Iconyx system for its central teaching forum.

The six schools and colleges that make up the University of Minnesota’s state of the art Academic Health Center (AHC) include the disciplines of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and veterinary medicine.

Located on Delaware Street between Washington Avenue and the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota campus, the AHC’s Mayo Memorial Auditorium is used primarily as a lecture hall, but also serves many other functions.

The Auditorium is used for computer-based testing, continuing and distance education for large group seminars, and for grand rounds presentations. Other typical uses include Medical School White Coat ceremonies, graduation ceremonies and celebrations, Mini Medical School programs, the Academic Health Center Lecture series, community and alumni events, and cultural events and exhibits.

Built in 1951 and renovated in 2006, the 18, 200 sq. ft. building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, which required that its overall character and detailing had to be retained and preserved in line with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties, 1995.

Architects SmithGroup, based out of Minneapolis, with principal architect Ted Davis and project architect Nick Woodard, were awarded the task of renovation, while technology consultants Elert & Associates of Stillwater, MN were engaged to analyze the auditorium and design a system capable of delivering seamless, first class speech quality.

In effect, the audio system – covering the eggshaped 549-seat auditorium and balcony from just two 9” wide openings – was required to ‘disappear’ into the architectural renovation. Sound sources would include wired and wireless microphones, DVD, VCR and computers.

Elert & Associates’ team, led by principal consultant Will Craig and associate Ron Puncsak, set to work on the challenge and Ron Puncsak developed an EASE model of the room in conjunction with Nick Woodard at SmithGroup.

Different digitally-steerable line arrays were carefully modeled, and a pair of Iconyx IC8 loudspeakers, flanking a 16’ x 9’ rear-projection screen, became the device of choice after verification with Renkus-Heinz’s BeamWare. Jim Mobley, senior applications engineer at Renkus-Heinz, carried out verification on the EASE model to guarantee the system’s eventual performance, with each IC8 tuned to deliver three sound ‘beams’ to evenly cover the seating.

Audio integration was the work of Tierney Brothers, Inc.; Jeff Blexrud performed the technical configuration with Jiggs Lee from Elert & Associates.

After the renovated building’s official reopening ceremony, Will Craig commented:

“It was essential that the acoustical performance be balanced with the aesthetics of this historic building. We evaluated several possible options, ultimately settling on Renkus-Heinz. Iconyx proved to be a great solution, meeting or exceeding everyone’s expectations and satisfying the most critical eyes and ears simultaneously.”
University of Minnesota Academic Health Center

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