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National Automobile Museum Upgrades Exhibit Audio

Reno museum gets audio/video makeover

In June 2014, the museum upgraded its audio system with Powersoft amplification to complement the state-of-the-art HD video system that had recently been installed in its theater.

RENO, Nev. — Since 1989, The National Automobile Museum has been educating and entertaining the millions of international visitors who pass through its doors. The extensive exhibit consists of four galleries and more than 200 faithfully restored and preserved vehicles, the vast majority of which were once part of the late Bill Harrah’s legendary automobile collection.

Last June, the museum called on Sparks, Nev.-based Pro AV & Electronics to upgrade its audio system with Powersoft amplification to complement the state-of-the-art HD video system that had recently been installed in its theater.

The museum, which was named one of America’s Five Greatest Automobile Museums by AutoWeek in 2012, includes an assemblage of spectacular cars within its four galleries — each representing a different epoch in the history of the automobile. The collection consists of turn-of-the-century carriages, vintage roadsters, classic sports cars, dynamic racecars and many others. Before embarking on their museum tour, visitors are invited to experience a professionally produced 30-minute movie presentation of The Bill Harrah Story and the Magic Carriage, covering a brief history of the museum and Harrah himself — who posessed one of the finest horseless carriage collections in the world.

After completing an HD video system upgrade, engineers from Pro AV & Electronics competed an evaluation of the theater’s audio system, and determined that the existing amplifier system was failing.

“During our testing, we found that some of the theater’s power amplifiers were deteriorating and not performing to specification,” said Nathan Barlow, system designer at Pro AV & Electronics. “We had assumed from the distortion we were hearing that there were several blown speakers in the theater, but this turned out not to be the case.”

“During our evaluation, we found that the primary reason for the distorted audio was the result of several failing amplifiers and a mixer that was operating intermittently,” Barlow said. “Until now, the theater had been relying on the original amplifiers that were installed in the 1980s. Even though these had been serviced and maintained properly, they were at end of life.”

Barlow and company set out to install a solution that would not only be a reliable and future-proof, but one that would also help the museum realize the full, immersive HD capabilities it was seeking to deliver to its patrons.

The Powersoft M28Q is can deliver up to 700 watts per channel at 4 ohms.

During the audio installation and upgrade, the priority for Pro AV & Electronics was to deliver a DSP system that would give the museum control over its audio, including the ability to turn the system on and off via automation and remote control. In addition, Pro AV sought an amplifier that would deliver both “bang for the buck” and plenty of wattage to power the 7.1 surround-sound system. The chosen amp also needed to have low power consumption and generate minimal heat. The answer was the Powersoft M28Q with DSP — a 1U rackspace amplifier able to deliver up to 700 Watts per channel at 4 Ohms. The two units delivered were both plugged into a single 20-Amp circuit, which was more than sufficient.

“We needed an amplifier that was both low-maintenance and reliable,” said Barlow. It also had to pack a punch in terms of performance: “The theater is small, but it does have a full 7.1 surround system.”

At the end of the day, the decision came down to audio quality.

“We demoed several amplifiers and the Powersoft handled the low-end much better. The audio was also cleaner in the higher frequencies,” said Barlow. “The energy efficiency was the icing on the cake, as was the fact that we only needed to occupy one rack space instead of three. Finally, there was virtually no heat dispersion. It was the combination of these elements that made us choose the Powersoft M28Q.”

Once Barlow and his crew completed the installation, they couldn’t believe their ears: “The entire system sounded amazing, and the old German speakers that were originally installed still sounded great. They just needed the right power, and the Powersoft delivered this in spades,” he said. “When we powered everything with the M28Qs, everything sounded very sharp and crisp, with great attack. We saved a ton of money by not swapping out the speakers, which we originally thought was the root of the problem.”

The National Automobile Museum attracts visitors from all over the world.

Pro AV & Electronics used the DSP settings to ensure “hands-off” performance and system longevity.

“We wanted to automate the turning on and off of the amplifiers, so the A/V people don’t have to worry about this. This means that the amplifiers are not running all day, and nobody can forget to turn them off — this is a power saver, but will also extend the life of the amplifier,” Barlow said.

Barlow and team also used the Powersoft DSP to tune the system, ensuring EQ curves and other settings are not changed by accident.

The result of the system installation was more than satisfying.

“The comment the staff made to us was that the theater has never sounded this good,” Barlow said.

Now that the low-end response is tight and intact, museum visitors can experience the immersive effect of the theater’s new HD system. Although they may not know the technology or the science behind this, they can certainly hear the low end rumble of a classic motorcar in crisp, convincing detail.

“Patrons get to feel the roar of the engine, and race track scenes are brought to life with unmatched clarity. You now get that full, immersive experience and it really helps build memories for anyone who comes through,” Barlow said.