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Wednesday 13 February 2019

The Audio Engineering Society and Institute of Acoustics held a joint meeting at Solent tonight to listen to renowned acoustic designer Rob Harris on the subject of ‘Developments in Auditorium Acoustic Design’. Rob has over 35 years’ experience and kindly shared some of his experiences from designing performing arts facilities around the world. He provided us with an overview of how design theories and methodologies have evolved, including the socio-political influences, and identified good practice, limitations and further work.

The event was well attended by around 80 AES and IoA members, including graduates and students from the Media Technology Programme. Rob provided us with a great introduction to room acoustics and showed examples of good and bad spaces with a fascinating commentary on the design processes behind them. It was great to put some of the theory into context. Rob was able to combine his experience from his time as a lighting and sound engineer within West End theatre with his extensive knowledge of acoustics. We discussed the evolution from empirical studies to modelling and ray-tracing computer simulations. Rob identified wave-based simulation as being a core area to be developed.

Having just developed an ambisonic lab, the course team were particularly pleased to hear Rob describe the use of ambisonic auralisations as ‘revolutionary’. These labs are used to playback an anechoic recording with the convolved response of the room added using ambisonic surround sound. These allow stakeholders to hear the response of different spaces with excellent spatial resolution – either based on existing spaces or computer simulations of design proposals.

The staff and students really benefit from the insights discussed at such professional meetings as well as the networking opportunity they provide. We’re grateful to Rob for joining us on this occasion. It’s great that Solent has become a hub for several professional societies and we look forward to hosting a joint meeting between the AES and SMPTE on Audio Definition Modelling in March.