Colchester Zoo has taken immersion to a whole new level thanks to a recent installation of a Bose Panaray audio system.

Voted one of the top two zoos in the UK, Colchester Zoo has a reputation for entertaining hundreds of thousands of guests each year, but its latest acquisition has been specifically designed to add atmosphere, as well as offering a new thrilling experience.

The Bose system was installed during recent pre-Christmas events, which included a light show. Local audio integrator, Marks Tey Radio, decided that a Bose audio system could offer added depth to the pre-Christmas festivities and specced up a system which included eight Bose Panaray 402 IV loudspeakers configured as 100v line and powered by a Bose PowerMatch 8500N amplifier. Additional bass support is also available through four Bose 302 bass arrays.

As a relatively new Bose Pro Partner, Marks Tey Radio has only recently been able to offer Bose products to its customers. Despite that, the company has worked with Colchester Zoo for many years, so knew exactly what it was looking for.

Marks Tey Radio was briefed on the project, with the Zoo requesting high quality coverage for the top of the park and the entrance area for paging and to create an atmosphere. Colchester Zoo also needed the added ability to have a high volume level for special events to create a bigger impact.

The Panaray 402 speakers are installed at high level, tilted forward to cover an area of around 3,000sqm including the main entrance, Safari play area and two terraces where the light show takes place. As well as being used to enhance the light show extravaganza, the speakers were also brought into play during the arrival of Santa Claus, and at the Christmas party. The speakers can also be used as a vocal PA system for events and general announcements at the entrance to the park. The new Bose speakers replaced a much smaller system that was simply used as a localised paging system.

Marks Tey Radio has also supplied two Bose F1 Model 812 flexible array speakers for the theatre, installed in time for the 2016 Christmas pantomime, Puss in Boots.

There were a number of requirements and challenges associated with this particular installation, including the need for a system designed for outdoor use. That means it not only needed to be waterproof, but it also needed to blend into its surroundings, as not to take visitors away from the immersion of the wildlife. Marks Tey Radio also discovered that it needed a 100v line due to long cable runs, and that due to the wide coverage area required, the speakers couldn’t be hidden.

“The Bose Powermatch PM8500N was a perfect choice of amplifier for the 402’s. At 100v line level the amplifier is able to power up to 40 x 402 Panaray speakers. Giving the ability to expand the system in the future,” notes Ben Fitch of Marks Tey Radio.

“Regarding the theatre the F1 812 system was chosen as the directivity of the speaker has a changeable coverage pattern. With the seating being tiered and the speakers mounted high on the side of the stage we could configure the Bose F1 in the J shape. Directing the sound at the whole audience and creating a dead spot on stage to minimise feedback from radio microphones. We chose the active F1 as it was easier for the end user taking away the extra controls of a power amplifier.”

Installing a speaker system in a popular zoo may seem like a bit of a hassle, but Marks Tey Radio is well versed in this type of environment. That’s why when Commercial Integrator Europe asked Ben whether there were any particular challenges, he noted that there was nothing particularly unusual about this installation. In fact, the only thing he could think of was some challenges involved with cabling. “Getting cables to the speaker positions wasn’t as straight forward as it usually is,” Ben says. “Working with groundsmen from Colchester Zoo we ran cables under brick paving, through gardens in 2in ducting, and over enclosures.”

According to Ben, the Bose speakers offer a high quality solution for a wide range of events. “We worked hard with the zoo to ensure that the speakers are installed discreetly but positioned to give the best coverage, some on existing walls and others on custom built posts. The result is good even sound coverage over the entire area, and the additional bass support is only really required for events that attract a mass audience. The Bose PowerMatch amplifier that we have chosen also allows us to expand the system in the future, as we have so far only utilised four of the eight available channels.”

Jez Smith of Colchester Zoo is also very happy with the solution. “We are delighted with the result.  The sound quality is excellent and really delivers to totally enhance our visitors’ experience.”

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