Allen & Heath’s AHM-64 at the Heart of Revitalised Rotorua City Centre

Over the last 5 years, the lakeside city of Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island has been reaping the benefits of a decade long regeneration project known as Te Manawa - Māori for ‘The Heart’ - which came to completion in 2017.

The renewed focus brought to the historic city centre has inevitably made it an attractive site for events throughout the year, many celebrating the region’s rich Māori heritage and customs, so the Rotorua council recognised an opportunity to put audio at the heart of the bustling downtown area, approaching local AV installation firm Manaia Digital Media Ltd to specify and install an outdoor sound system capable of managing a variety of use cases with simplified control options for non-technical operators and comprehensive playback scheduling options with onboard storage for audio files.

“The request was to provide a system that could be heard from as far as 300 metres away in both directions down Tutanekai Street” explains Norman Mann owner of Manaia Digital Media Ltd. “The system would primarily be used to play spoken word indicating the different Māori seasons of the year, and to play Māori music. Being that there are constant events held at Te Manawa, we also suggested that we provide a pair of XLR inputs where a live sound mixer could be plugged into the system to utilize the set up.”

Once Mann had agreed on the specification for the system with the client, he approached Auckland based distributor Jansen Pro Audio who suggested that an audio matrix processor from the Allen & Heath AHM family would make the perfect partner to his preferred combination of Martin Audio MA2.0 amplification and One Systems loudspeakers.

“We ended up choosing the Allen and Heath AHM-64, slight overkill one might say, but we were keen to ensure the system was future proof” says Mann. “This processor would allow my client to adapt and grow accordingly with whatever idea they would throw at me."

The AHM-64 deploys next-generation FPGA technology and a 96kHz sample rate, bringing acclaimed Allen & Heath sound quality and sub-millisecond latency to installations of all types. The audio engine has the power to deliver far more processing than the usual open architecture platforms, including 8-band PEQ, gate, compressor and delay on all input channels, and 8-band PEQ / 30-band GEQ, compressor, ANC, source selector, limiter and delay on all zone outputs. 3GB of internal storage is provided which can be populated with WAV, MP3 and FLAC files for hassle-free audio playback with comprehensive scheduling options for unattended operation. Additionally, a range of control options are available including the Custom Control app where the installer can easily create custom GUIs for users of all capabilities via a drag-and-drop editor.

With the AHM-64 and amplification needing to be permanently installed outdoors, Mann had to come up with a solution to keep the elements, and stray fingers, at bay. “I had an engineer fabricate a rack system for the equipment to sit inside a weatherproof steel casing that is normally used to house power distribution to homes” laughs Mann. “This was done for two reasons; the case is sitting out in the open weather, and nobody would realize that there is audio gear sitting inside this case. It looks like a normal power box!”

“The client is extremely happy with the result” concludes Mann. “They love the fact that they can easily upload their music and program it to play whenever they want, and with the Custom Control app on their mobile phone they can turn down or mute the signal source at their choice. At the end of the day, their smile says it all. And of course, thank you to the amazing team at Jansen Pro-Audio.”