Networked audio solution extends present-day media connectivity, future scalability options for Fred W. Smith National Library


The Fred W. Smith National Library bills itself as a center for “cutting-edge and compelling scholarship about George Washington, Colonial America and the Revolutionary Era.”  Located on the property of the first president’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, the privately-funded library is a 45,000-square foot, three-story building that houses thousands of books, newspapers, maps, photographs, microfilms, periodicals and electronic resources that pertain to the life of George Washington, as well more than 100 books from his personal library.

The “cutting-edge” research portfolio is accompanied by an innovative audio-visual system that enhances the overall educational environment.  In addition to a small production studio and video displays in the main Reception Hall, the large Leadership Hall room acts as a lively space for lectures from visiting authors and scholars.  The entire audio infrastructure, covering these spaces plus additional outlying rooms, is connected via a Dante network created by Audinate.


IES Communications of Roanoke, Virginia, was engaged to integrate the audio-visual systems.  Upon evaluation of the original specification, concerns quickly mounted that recent technological advances exposed limitations of the overall solution.  These concerns included present-day performance and flexibility, as well as future scalability.

“The original design phase concluded several years prior to the integration process, and there were major developments in digital technology during the ensuing time period,” said Jim Hogan, AV Project Manager, IES Communications.  “We made a number of suggestions across both video and audio transport that would both enhance their flexibility, extend connectivity and improve performance.  Simply put, the technology was evolving faster than the building was raised.”

Fred Smith Library at Mount Vernon with AV ComponentsA simpler approach to cabling and connectivity proved to be equally important on the audio side.  The previous specification was based on a complex architecture that required a labor-intensive integration process.  Additionally, there was little freedom to alter or expand the audio architecture based on the existing specification. 

Furthermore, lengthy distances between Leadership Hall, the production studio and three smaller conference rooms made connectivity between these five critical media-centric spaces impossible in the previous specification.  That lack of flexibility would prove especially problematic for larger lectures, where overflow audiences watch lecturers and listen to live audio feeds across the various conference rooms.


To accommodate more flexibility, Hogan and his team recommended switching to a Dante network, with Dante-enabled Symetrix SymNet EDGE gear to handle multichannel digital signal processing network-wide.  This opened up an entirely new universe of connectivity options that ultimately proved central to the entire solution’s architectural efficiency.

Symetrix SymNet EDGE system rack“The migration to a Dante network achieved seamless transport from space to space,” said Hogan.  “In correlation with the Symetrix Edge gear, Dante enabled us to tie everything together and create one big loop for signal transport.  The network was configured with plenty of horsepower to extend audio transport via Dante to the furthest reaches of the building.  And the simplicity of the Dante system made it so we could centralize all of the audio and video into a single rack, and then extend our reach to remote areas without struggle.”

Hogan adds that “Dante future proofs the sound reinforcement and expanding the system beyond Leadership Hall will be as simple as taking advantage of the existing IT network.”

“The video portion of this project is very impressive, especially the 19x 8-foot micro tile wall in Leadership Hall that serves as the primary display – not to mention the professional three-chip cameras that deliver ultra-high-definition content,” said Hogan.  “But I really think Dante is the sleeping lamb here.  I say that because the benefits it provides are not as obvious to the everyday visitor, but from a flexibility standpoint it opened up a tremendous number of doors for moving audio around the facility.  And beyond this project, I think we’re just getting started with what is possible using Dante.  Over the next few years, I think we’re all going to be blown away by its capabilities.”


  • Exceptional connectivity of Dante network extends audio transport to multiple, hard-to-reach rooms and spaces
  • Flexibility of Dante network with Symetrix processing gear simplifies installation, centralizing all key networking gear into a single rack
  • Infinite scalability establishes roadmap for future expansion, from additional network locations to higher channel counts