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Allen & Heath AHM-64 at the Heart of New Audio-Visual Experience at McConnell’s Distillery

McConnell’s Irish Whisky Distillery is nestled in the heart of North Belfast and housed within a meticulously restored listed building. Now open to the public, the business offers guided tours that explore the stories of Belfast’s illustrious distilling past and uncover the unique history of the brand, which boasts a rich heritage dating back to 1776.

Located in the historic A-wing of Crumlin Road Gaol, the integration of state-of-the-art audio-visual technology at the distillery means guests can embark on a journey through time, delving into the stories past of the city’s iconic whisky brand like never before. 

Professional audio-visual distribution, installation and design company Rea Sound were given the opportunity to design and implement a unique solution for the tourist attraction. They primarily focused on the public tour elements throughout the building, including the café, bar, meeting rooms, and the main wing of the gaol. Guests also get to experience a Pepper’s ghost (an illusion technique where the image of an object off-stage is projected and appears to be in front of the audience) designed and implemented by Rea Sound, which is a highlight at the heart of each tour.

Oran McGuckin, Technician at Rea Sound, ensured the effective installation of Martin Audio Ltd speakers and amplifiers. Ayla interactive touch screens were also seamlessly integrated into the meeting rooms and tour elements. 

Central to the enhanced audio experience is the Allen & Heath AHM-64 matrix processor, which sits at the heart of the AV system for the distillery. This facilitates the management of audio across multiple zones throughout the building, operating different sounds as required for the tourist attraction. 

AHM processors deploy next-generation FPGA technology and 96kHz sample rate, bringing acclaimed Allen & Heath sound quality and sub-millisecond latency to installation. With 64 zone outputs, echo cancelling and audio networking options, AHM-64 is ideal for multi-room installations in hospitality, corporate and education environments.

For additional system I/O, including feeds into the assistive listening systems in every room, REA Sound integrated a DX88-P, comprising 8inputs and 8 outputs on Euroblock connectors, and a DX012, which can be configured to provide a combination of analogue and AES outputs. Both units connect to the AHM via a 128×128 SLink option card. 

Within each of the eight zones an Allen & Heath IP1 – a simple yet powerful programmable wallplate controller designed to give the non-technical user control via a single push-and-turn rotary – allows the tour guide to recall a preset with their name as they enter the room, automatically assigning their head microphone to the correct speakers while feeding the induction loop for that area. Additionally, an Allen & Heath CC-7 control touch panel is located in reception with a custom-designed GUI – created using Allen & Heath’s Custom Controller software – allowing paging and simple playback control.

Graeme Millar, Head of Supply and Operations at McConnell’s Irish Whisky Distillery, expressed his delight at the collaboration with Rea Sound, stating, “Working with Rea Sound has made this install so easy. The depth of knowledge and experience has brought together a great overall system for us. The ease of use for us has been important, with adaptability and reliability surpassing everything we asked for. The custom paging system also makes it easy for our staff to announce easily to the required areas.”

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