Martin Audio CDD for Highways England’s New VR Theatre

OBA undertakes ‘periphonic’ 3D audio fit-out of advanced immersive environment

Martin Audio Highway England

Martin Audio partner Old Barn Audio (OBA) has completed its second major VR installation, in which an immersive environment is created with stereoscopic 3D headsets coupled with a pioneering mixed-reality sound system. Designed by MagicBeans and commissioned by MXT Reality, it combines open-backed binaural headphones with a full procedural 3D speaker environment, fulfilled by a Martin Audio CDD system.

Two years after creating an immersive theatre for SOMNAI at Clerkenwell, in central London, OBA partnered with the same immersive audio production house, now known as MagicBeans Ltd, to deliver a similar environment for the simulation and training of Highways England personnel—in order to give them real-world exposure to motorway scenarios.

The installation was carried out in a repurposed 30m x 8m long rectangular office space in one of their warehouses, at a new distribution centre near Ilkeston in Derbyshire and will move to a much larger dedicated VR stage being built once testing is complete.

Explained OBA project manager, Neil Kavanagh, “The original installation, which also used Martin Audio speakers, was so successful that MagicBeans approached us again.”

Taking up the story, Kavanagh confirmed that OBA had responded to “an immense spec”. This includes two rings of 12 Martin Audio CDD6—using the manufacturer’s coaxial differential dispersion technology that OBA have called on time and time again. The lower ring is set at 0.9m off the ground and the upper ring 2.4m. Two Blackline X118 subs bring realism to the low frequencies, while six Martin Audio MA2.8Q amplifiers power the flown system, each speaker being assigned its own channel.

Explaining the selection of the CDD range, he added, “We chose CDD because it is incredibly linear, and you can object-base the audio without any hotspots. Biaxial speakers would not have offered the same linearity.”

Despite the lack of ceiling height Kavanagh says the effect of this 3D immersion for simulation training is perfect once personnel don the sensor-equipped VR headsets. “The MOTU 24AO 24-channel audio router sends out signals which can be placed anywhere in the sound field, in a mixed channel and object-based arrangement.”

Meanwhile, the bespoke computer-based software engine driving the system—‘Roundhead’—has been developed by MagicBeans. Explaining the brief, and the background to the project their MD, Gareth Llewellyn, confirmed: “For the Highways England installation we were asked to recreate the complex and dynamic sound of a real section of motorway for training purposes.

“It is important that this volumetric audio simulation has both the power and the subtlety to achieve the goal of a true-to-life reconstruction of this complex procedural sound field, as well as offering trainees a realistic visceral experience of working in these hazardous environments.

“We trust Martin Audio speakers to deliver the necessary punch and clarity to achieve these goals in this complex spatial audio environment. The Martin Audio installation offers the right combination of power, reliability, quality and price that makes this installation such an impressive and successful experience for client and end user."