In May of 2018, the sound system upgrade went out for tender at the Saanich Commonwealth Pool in Saanich BC. A site meeting was held so that bidding contractors could familiarize themselves with the building and the sound system installation.
The Saanich Commonwealth pool is a large facility consisting of two lap pools side by side, as well as a leisure and wave pool – all contained within the same building envelope. The natatorium has a significant amount of spectator seating, as well as a gymnasium, with several meeting and workout rooms. A number of the sound system zones are original, and are aging at the 25 year point. The tender documents however, indicated that only the pool and the main gymnasium were to have sound system upgrades in 2018, and that the other areas would be upgraded in 2019. Consideration was given to ensure that the sound system installed into the pool and gym would be compatible with the additional zones. In addition, the existing sound system paging mics had to connect to the new sound system portion.
Our understanding is that the system was donated back in 1994 by JBL, so almost all of the original equipment consisted of JBL mixers, amplifiers and speakers. A local Victoria contracting company was hired to install the complex sound system.
In 1994, the entire system consisted of analog switches and signal routing. As a result, the sound system took up three entire 6’ racks.
Over time, some of the original equipment and amplifiers had failed (which is to be expected after 15-20 years of continuous operation), and was replaced and patched together until the system was upgraded.
Sound Solutions presented a comprehensive proposal, consisting of a QSC Core 110f digital signal processor to handle all of the inputs and outputs along with signal processing and routing, in addition to the QSC PLD series amplifiers and Community R series speakers. We proposed to control the entire sound system via a 7” touch screen located under a protective cover at the guard station, and to also offer the staff control of the sound system via a Wifi router. This would allow an IPhone or IPad to be used anywhere in the pool area to control the functions of the sound system. In July of 2018, our proposal was accepted. The time frame was such that the entire sound system had to be replaced within a 2 week window from September 1 to 15th, while the pool was in the annual shutdown period.
The original sound system consisted of a large central cluster, with dual 15” woofer cabinets and large high frequency horns located at the top of a steel tower, which also held the roof and steel girders in place. After careful consideration, we elected to maintain the central cluster design, but added two speakers closer to the pool deck for aquacize classes. We also added an additional speaker for the leisure/lap pool, as that area had no speakers installed. The lack of speakers in that area resulted in pages that were difficult to hear.
The staff indicated that most of the music and microphone use was done around the central tower area. Additional music and microphone plugins located in the scorekeeper’s booth and at the guard tower were used for large swim meets. A general paging mic that would override the aquacize music and mic, as well as background music was installed at the guard station.
We used a series of Factor RVC lockable microphone and music input plates throughout the building, for convenient access for staff use. Since the Factor plates have integral volume controls in them, local level control was realized without needing to access the touch screen at the guard station.
An intuitive set of touch screen pages were used to control the master level controls of the sound system, along with the ability to turn speakers on and off as required. While the Saanich pool has numerous sound absorbing panels installed in the natatorium, it is still a highly reverberant building. Thus, using less speakers ends up with better sound quality than if all the speakers were active.
For general pages from the guard station and the other paging mics in the building, only the four main Community R1 speakers are used to cover the entire pool area. When swim meets are held that include many spectators, the staff can turn on the smaller R.5 speakers aimed at the seating areas. For aquatic classes, only the two aquacize speakers are used as needed. Unless a general page is done, the speaker over the leisure pool is shut off.
The installation presented a number of challenges, ranging from corroded 25 year old hardware holding old speakers in place, to a very long 225’ conduit run from the amplifier rack to the base of the tower. Fortunately, the wires were able to be replaced without serious problems, and new load rated stainless steel hardware was used to hang the new speakers. New wiring was installed for the Factor plates, and a custom rack was built at the tower to house the wireless mic and the CD player.
Two Bluetooth receivers were installed at the tower as well as the guard station, to allow staff to wirelessly connect their phones and tablets to the sound system. Backup wired connections were also installed at each location.
We found that one Wifi router located at the guard station covered the entire pool exceptionally well, with the only dead spots being right at the exit doors where an IPad or IPhone would normally not be used. While we did host a training session for the employees, most of the staff were already comfortable using the sound system due to their interest during our installation. All staff commented on how user friendly the sound system was. A significant increase in sound quality was also noted by the aerobics staff, as well as the manager and maintenance crew.
The existing 12” 2 way JBL speakers in the gym were in reasonable condition, but were replaced with larger Community 15” 2 way speakers for more bass for their aerobics classes. We installed two Factor plates along with a new CD player and Bluetooth receiver, to provide staff easy and simple control of the sound system sources. We also replaced the four battered mic jacks around the gym, so that additional wired mics could be plugged in for meetings and other activities.
The gym sound system was installed in a single day with a manlift, and the system was calibrated and tested the following day.
Tying the new QSC sound system controller to the existing amplifiers and paging mics went smoothly. We did find that one of the remaining existing paging amplifiers was defective (with 219,000 hours of run time on it!), so we replaced it with another working amplifier to get the facility by for the next year until the second upgrade of the system was done.
All told, the pool and gymnasium sound equipment took up less than one half of one rack, leaving one rack that powered the gym entirely empty. We anticipate that with the secondary upgrade of the balance of the facility, we can fit the additional new equipment into the rest of the one rack, leaving two complete 6’ racks empty.
A final test was done with the QSC system so that we could access the sound system remotely via the TeamViewer software in case of future system adjustments and troubleshooting. The remote connection works flawlessly.
Despite the challenged faced with this large installation, we completed the work in 4 days which was under the allocated two week time schedule!
If you have a project that you need ON TIME and ON BUDGET, whether it is a relatively simple job or a more complex installation like this one…give Sound Solutions a call and leave everything to us!