After first installing, and then extending a BSS Audio digital Soundweb network at the Baitul Futuh mosque in South London around the mid-2000’s, RG Jones Sound Engineering recently streamlined the audio transport by fitting BSS Audio’s new generation Soundweb London processing.
Two new pairs of BLU-160 and BLU-120 DSP’s will provide the mosque with greater flexibility and redundancy, advanced functionality and substantially increased processing power — which is essential since this is the largest mosque in Western Europe.
Originally Inaugurated in October 2003, the giant complex in Morden, South London, provides the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with a focal point for meetings, social and religious events, which are broadcast worldwide on Sky Channel 787 by MTA — Muslim TV and translated simultaneously into eight different languages.
With the available processing power in the old system ‘maxed out’, the network upgrade was approved by Safdar Ali, Baitul Futuh’s Communities National Audio Visual supervisor. In addition to improving coverage and distribution particularly in the Men’s and Ladies’ Prayer Halls, the mosque also required the safeguard of redundancy, enabling each room in the 12-zone complex (including Disabled Gallery, Entrances etc), to operate as a stand-alone area or receive feeds from the prayer halls themselves.
RG Jones fielded an experienced installation team under the project management of Tim Speight. Jamie Short undertook the advanced system programming using London Architect, while the rack installation was carried out by Jake Miller. Although the digital architecture remains the same as before, the increased sampling rate and processing power have moved the venue’s signal transport forward considerably.
According to the mosque’s onsite audio technician Tariq Safir, “The new installation has not only given us a more resilient system, with flexible range of I/O’s, but has handed us back a lot of rack space and provided headroom for further expansion.”
For simplicity, Tim Speight had been keen for the I/O configuration to remain the same. With a call to prayer five times a day the switchover had to be seamless and Jake Miller set the new Soundweb London BLU’s between the existing DSP’s and wired them in parallel to maintain continuity during the swap-over.
In addition to the BLU-160 and BLU-120 devices, two local BLU-8 remotes, for level and source select, are now located in the mahrabs (niches) of the Men’s and Ladies Prayer Rooms, with Netgear PoE 2GB switching enabling Power over Ethernet. The Imam or Prayer Leader simply switches the BLU-8 to auto mode, to access the new EQ structure.
In providing even coverage, the challenge was to tame the high reverberation time in the large circular space of the Men’s Prayer Room — this was exacerbated by the domed ceiling (causing further cancellation). “Careful balance of the auto mixing was required and phase reversal across the pair of mahrab mics also improved the performance, with multi-band parametric EQ used to great effect,” Speight confirmed.
The installation has been wired by Miller so that the various mic and tie lines come into the patch, and via a second patch the mic inputs can be split identically across DSP’s. Redundancy has been created in the system’s Logic function, so that should one DSP device fail, the second would be able to trigger the presets, while simple control port outputs on Soundweb mute the amps.
For further flexibility, BSS’s proprietary BLU-Link system provides a cost-effective alternative to Cobranet. Based on Gigabit Ethernet technology this carries 256 channels of fault-tolerant, low-latency audio at 48kHz/24bit, or 128 channels at 96kHz/24bit across a standard CAT5e connection.
“This was particularly useful when creating redundancy,” continues Speight, “as you can bus channels of audio between boxes easily and quickly. We also use ‘test tones’ across the output boxes to determine if the DSP’s are still online.” BLU-Link will be especially useful when other areas are introduced to the system, he says.
Finally, improved technology within the new system (particularly regarding the algorithms and automixer) has allowed the installers to reintroduce a lot of mid frequency warmth that was previously removed, with better gain before feedback and an all round better sound, according to Speight. In summary he says, “We now carry a lot more DSP processing and have plenty of headroom for future changes. There is now far better redundancy and the main system should seamlessly continue in the event of failure.” Tariq Safir agrees, “The sound has unquestionably improved, and thanks to the high level of EQing that has taken place we have much greater consistency in a highly reverberant room with a lot of delay.”
All the BSS Soundweb London components were supplied by Sound Technology Ltd, the UK and Eire distributors.