You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but there are no dogs in the zoo, so that idiom doesn’t apply to Zoological Society of London (ZSL) London Zoo, which got a massive audio upgrade in the past year to improve the experience for 1.2 million annual visitors.
The ZSL London Zoo opened in 1847 and has been home to some of the world’s best known animals, including Guy the Gorilla, and a certain bear named Winnie – the inspiration for A. A. Milne’s tale about a bear who loved honey.
Wimbledon-based RG Jones Sound Engineering Limited worked across the historic property to improve the audio experience at four animal exhibits this year, with products from Tannoy and Lab Gruppen at the heart of the overhaul.
This year’s upgrades have been part of a four-year plan that’s created new exhibits at the zoo and refurbished established ones.
“The original systems were well-used and had become tired, so the plan was to move towards more robust equipment with better audio quality and functionality,” says project engineer Jake Miller. “The type of installation that we offer is focused on the evolution of audio at ZSL. Usually we will start with the perfect solution, and then work with the Zoo to bring the project within budget.”
“Nothing stays the same for very long here. There are always new ideas coming which we need to react to.”
Jake Miller, project engineer
“We may be able to implement a DSP amplifier solution later on to provide further flexibility as the zoo’s needs evolve over time. Nothing stays the same for very long here. There are always new ideas coming which we need to react to,” he says.
Miller’s team used DI Series weather-resistant speakers extensively throughout the zoo.
The DI6T model is equipped with an internal 100 volt line transformer with accessible tapping switch, which makes them more suitable for another exhibit at London Zoo with longer cable runs: the Bird Display Lawn.
Twelve TANNOY DI6T speakers, mounted on wooden posts and connected with steel wire armoured cabling run underground, cover the area.
“They’re wired to separate outputs on the Lab Gruppen E series amplifiers,” says Miller. “We have four zones in this system so that they can cue separate sound effects to different speakers.”
Engaging the Audience with Unique Sound
Zookeeper Helen Crookes is excited about the new system’s capabilities.
“We used to run our talk from PowerPoint, but now that we are able to put auto fades on clips, we don’t have to manually turn it down and it enables the talk to run smoothly and professionally,” she says.
“We like to distract the audience when our tawny owl makes her entrance – so we play a recording of an owl call on multiple speakers, ensuring the audience turns in the direction of each call and then we have their complete focus when she appears – it’s a fantastic way to engage with our visitors.”
DSP amplifiers such as Lab Gruppen’s IPD series have transformed RG Jones’ approach to the design of audio systems at ZSL London Zoo.