LAKELAND, FLORIDA: Known as one of Central Florida’s most venerable entertainment complexes, The Lakeland Center challenges the notion that a facility can’t be all things to all people. The sprawling complex includes venues for sports, entertainment, events, meetings and hospitality and despite the breadth of offerings The Lakeland Center consistently exceeds the expectations of its clients, attendees and guests. Creating such a professional atmosphere requires tremendous flexibility on the part of The Lakeland Center’s facilities and staff, a fact underscored by its recent upgrade to a Symetrix Room Combine 788 processor in one of its three modular meeting/event spaces. The Symetrix Room Combine 788 allows The Lakeland Center’s technical staff to merge or split any combination of rooms using an intuitive interface, with comprehensive, high-fidelity signal processing as a bonus!
Using air walls, the 25,000 square-foot facility divides into as many as eight separate spaces of varying size. The old room combiner was installed in the mid-1990s and operated on outdated mechanical relays. “It worked okay,” said Joseph Havens, the technical director at The Lakeland Center. “We installed it and used its limited flexibility to create a few common configurations. It had no DSP and no analog processing of any kind. Recently, the unit gave up the ghost.” Havens removed its carcass and committed to finding a modern replacement.
Based on its flexibility and power, he chose the purpose-built Symetrix Room Combine 788, which takes up to twelve inputs and matrix mixes them into eight outputs. “As many of the technicians on my staff do not have expertise in the arena of installed sound, I had to have a combiner that was intuitive to operate,” said Havens. “The user interface on the 788 is second to none. The new system is very friendly and not at all intimidating.” Indeed, Symetrix’ simple-to-use software allowed Havens to draw a schematic of the event space on the user interface with each of the eight smaller sections outlined. To combine or un-combine sections, his technicians simply highlight the relevant sections on the schematic.
To allow clients a measure of control, Havens positioned a Symetrix ARC-K1 rotary encoder in each of the eight sections to control volume. Because each ARC-K1 receives its power and communicates with the Room Combine 788 via a single Cat5 cable, the installation was painless. “At each position, we used the cable from the old system to pull a fresh Cat5 into place,” said Havens.” That allowed us to keep the power supply in the main rack with the 788. The ARC-K1s communicate with the processor and, ultimately, each other (their controls become redundant when sections are combined) via a star topology. It couldn’t have been easier.”
Although The Lakeland Center was, first and foremost, installing a new room combiner, it received a hi-fi bump as a bonus. “The existing loudspeakers and amps were in good shape, so we left them alone,” said Havens. “Nevertheless, just hooking up the Symetrix Room Combine 788, without turning any processing on, significantly improved the system’s fidelity. Before, it had always had that ‘ceiling speaker’ sound, with an emphasis on the midrange. Now it was fuller and richer.” Havens didn’t stop there however, he used the Room Combine 788’s collection of filters, equalizers, and dynamics processors to dial in an even finer sound.
Havens’ experience installing the Symetrix Room Combine 788 was so pleasant, and the functionality it affords The Lakeland Center is so substantial, he now plans to preempt failures in the center’s two other large, combinable event/meeting spaces by installing 788s there as well. “In those spaces, we’ll definitely take advantage of the unit’s ability to combine non-adjacent rooms,” he said.
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