Auckland’s Stardome enhances immersion with Harman

The Stardome Observatory and Planetarium in Auckland, New Zealand has upgraded its cinema and live performance venue with a Harman Professional networked surround sound system comprising JBL Professional, Crown, BSS and Soundcraft solutions.

The Stardome’s observatory features a panoramic theatre with a full-dome concave screen, laser projectors and Imax angled seating for an immersive 360-degree viewing experience. Doubling as both a cinema and live performance venue, the Stardome needed a versatile sound system to support a wide range of events. Additionally, since a range of staff members and volunteers operate the facility, ease of use was a top priority.

Stardome organisers hired AV Integration company Avid Automation and Harman distributor JPRO to equip the planetarium with JBL loudspeaker systems, network-connected Crown amplifiers, BSS signal processors and a Soundcraft digital mixing console.

Darian Sundar, director, Avid Automation, said: “The primary use of the system is to provide an immersive 5.1 cinema experience, but the theatre also doubles as a live performance venue for small bands and events—everything from strings to electronica. So, in addition to offering an accurate cinematic experience, the system needed to be capable of handling larger SPL to accommodate live performances.”

Avid Automation and JPRO selected a range of JBL AE series loudspeakers for the theatre’s surround sound system. JBL AM7215/95 high-power two-way loudspeakers provide sound for left and right channels, while a single AM7215/26 loudspeaker with a 120-degree by 60-degree rotatable waveguide provides coverage for the centre channel.

JPRO and Avid Automation selected JBL AC18/95 compact two-way loudspeakers for the surround channels, as their enclosure design allowed for installation close to the ceiling. Additionally, three JBL VTX B18 18-inch subwoofers provide bass.

Paul Edlin, sales director, JPRO, said: “JBL have an extensive range of purpose-built products that are manufactured in-house. The AE series speakers are specifically manufactured for theatrical sound design and performing arts facilities, so we knew that they would suit the scope of this project perfectly.”

Sundar added: “The cardioid sub-array configuration is simply magic and is an integral part of the system design. It allows the performance volume of the bass to be focused in the room without spilling into the foyer and office areas.”

Two Crown DriveCore CDi 4|1200BL power amplifiers power the system, with pre-loaded JBL speaker tunings that allow the amplifiers and speakers to work in harmony. The amplifiers interface with a BSS BLU-806 signal processor via the Dante networked audio protocol, including the ability to interface with the venue’s fire evacuation system.

To provide operators with hands-on control over the sound in the theatre, Avid Automation and JPRO provided the venue with a Soundcraft Si Performer digital mixer. A Dante interface card allows the mixer to send output signals to the BSS and Crown backend, while a Soundcraft Mini Stagebox 16 provides additional inputs onstage for larger performances. Avid Automation collaborated with Stardome organisers to design a custom user interface to make the system easy and intuitive for staff and volunteers to use.

Sundar concluded: “A system of this nature is a significant investment. The venue is open to the public with performances six days a week, requiring the system to work day-in and day-out. Localised support, reliability and versatility were key in our decision-making.”

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