SSE Audio Group has installed a JBL Intellivox audio system in the nationally renowned art gallery, the Bowes Museum.

Pierre Berge 665

Photo above: Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Berge opens the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum is situated in a magnificent French château, in the town of Barnard Castle, County Durham. It first opened as a purpose-built public art gallery in 1892 and now plays host to collections designated as internationally important presented through a variety of events and exhibitions annually.

The Trustees at the Bowes decided to install a permanent audio system in the gallery to cater for the large number of speeches and presentations that take place as part of the museum's work. For many years staff have struggled to find an audio system capable of delivering clear and intelligible speech in the gallery's very lively acoustic environment.

Pre install render 300

Pre-install render of the Intellivox in situ…

Finished Install 300

...and the finished project

The initial inquiry came through to SSE Audio’s Bradford Office and was assigned to Project Manager Mark Hatfield. Following a site visit the SSE team drew up a design for the proposed installation. Mark Hatfield commented, “The room has an arched ceiling and hard reflective surfaces throughout contributing to it having a long reverberation time. We specified a pair of JBL Intellivox DSX280 column speakers with active beam shaping technology to combat this. The DSX280s have an unobtrusive design with minimal visual impact on the Grade 2 listed building. The beam shaping technology enabled us to focus the audio towards the listener, cutting down reflections on walls and up into the ceiling”

As part of the design submission SSE Audio's technical support specialist Paul Todd drew up some visual simulations of the room with the JBL Intellivox units in situ. This demonstrated to the client just how unobtrusive the solution would be and aided the Bowes management team in their decision making process.

With the design approved SSE were awarded the contract, with just one proviso. The work had to be completed in an extremely short time frame, to be in place for the first ever British exhibition dedicated to designer Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal, hosted by the Bowes Museum over Summer 2015.

The Installations team completed the on site work in three days. All of the artwork had to remain in-situ throughout the work, so extreme care was taken that no damage was done to the collection or the fabric of the listed building.

Exceedingly tight product lead times meant SSE had to complete much of the system setup and configuration off-site in a virtual model. Paul Todd generated a three dimensional model of the room and created the system configuration for the beam shaping JBL Intellivox units.

With the units in place Paul was able to turn up on site and upload the settings, confident that the system would work as per design with minimal software adjustments required to correctly tune the system to the dynamics of the room.

On completion, the system had its first test at the opening of the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition on 9th July. YSL co founder Pierre Berge and Bowes Museum Director Adrian Jenkins both made speeches marking the start of this key exhibition at the gallery.

Mark Hatfield commented, “ We received some great feedback from the museum and they were delighted with the results. It was another good all round team effort coupled with the JBL Intellivox solution that has given the Bowes Museum the system they have been lacking for a number of years”

With the YSL exhibition up and running, there is now time to complete the final part of the project. SSE will remove the Intellivox units so they can be RAL colour matched to the wall decor, further reducing their visual impact.

The Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition at the Bowes Museum runs from 11 July - 25 October.

Full details can be found on The Bowes Museum Website

JBL Intellivox, as part of the HARMAN Professional range, is distributed in the UK/ROI by Sound Technology Ltd.  For more information please call +44 (0) 1462 480000 or visit

Contact SSE Audio at or +44 (0)1527 528822.