Dante Connects Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

Sep 2016

Communications Design Associates cites audio routing flexibility and cost efficiencies 

PORTLAND, OR, September 7, 2016 – Communications Design Associates, a Massachusetts-based consulting, design and integration firm, recently completed a major upgrade to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) in Boston, Massachusetts.  The BCEC is the largest exhibition center in New England, with over a half million square feet of exhibit space. The Communications Design Associates team quickly built out the 6,144-channel Audinate Dante network for the BCEC, to route voice and background music across 45 locations – significantly cutting cable and labor costs over the course of the project. 

Communications Design Associates has transitioned to Audinate’s Dante audio networking for the bulk of its AV integration projects, citing its tremendous scalability and low cost of ownership over analog and early-generation networking systems. “Every project I manage today is Dante,” said Joe Patten, Project Design Manager, Communications Design Associates. “The benefits over other networking technologies are clear, starting with manufacturer adoption. There are more vendors and products that support Dante today than any other system. The beauty about Dante is that I don’t need to use a special switch – any off-the-shelf switch works.”

The BCEC had been using a different system to distribute audio since 2001, but there were serious limitations in penetrating the entire building. Communications Design Associates was asked to develop a “faster, better, easier and more efficient solution,” according to Patten. The pre-requisite was a digital audio network that could support 45 specific locations, which totaled nearly 6,000 audio inputs and outputs. 

The design strategy brought together 47 Dante-enabled Harman BSS Blu 806 digital signal processors, each acting as a routing hub. The 806 units are programmed with BSS BLU link software to communicate across each Blu 806 and Crown amplifiers distributed throughout the facility. Each Blu 806 hub includes a minimum of 10 busses to bring in zoned or all-call paging, music and voice evacuation information. The network is strategically partitioned, allowing the convention center to light up certain zones of the network depending on the size of the event.

“The nuts and bolts of this network is the ability to route audio from anywhere to anywhere without re-engineering the network, which Dante lends itself to very well due to its flexibility,” said Patten. “The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is moving low-latency, high-quality audio to places they couldn’t reach easily before. We ripped out 17 bundles with split-distance limitations, and replaced that with a single Cat6A cable for each link that can support 128 channels with the bandwidth efficiency they required. Channel capacity has been vastly increased, with the ability to hit 97 distinct spaces across the convention center.”

That vast reduction in cable and flexibility in switch choices equated to a significant cost savings for both the integrator and the end user. Patten estimates they would have required, at minimum, approximately five times the real estate to support this architecture using a different audio technology.

“When you look at the total cost of installing an audio system, the cost savings with Dante was obvious. Take the cost of a Cat6A cable to run 128 channels of audio, versus twisted pair with a shield cable times 128 for 6000 end points,” said Patten. “We also reduced the size of our conduit by more than 75 percent, and then slash the time to pull cables – one link versus 128. That’s a very significant cost savings from start to finish on the integration side. And our long-term costs are minimized when we inevitably expand the network, which could potentially extend to hotels and other venues near the site. The possibilities are endless now that we have Dante as our foundation.”