This specially constructed pitch-black exhibition aims to give sighted people the chance to experience life as someone who is visually impaired, thus ‘seeing’ the world in a unique and inspirational way.

In everyday life, vision accounts for over 70% of the information our brain receives. Loss of vision puts sighted people outside their comfort zones and creates an opportunity for reflection. With this experience, visitors take an unforgettable journey that combines fun and excitement with the opportunity to challenge perceptions towards visual impairment. Whether your eyes are open or closed, you will see the same thing: nothing.

J-reamy Sound was asked to design an immersive surround sound system that would allow visitors to experience everything going on around them, from a car approaching or a wind storm, to buying fruit from a market stall. The company was chosen for this project because it had the experience and know how to specify the right equipment for the installation and record and mix the sounds for the experience. Authenticity was key to this project’s success, therefore 80% of the soundtrack was recorded locally in Hong Kong using surround recording techniques. A team of 10 sound designers and engineers, led by J-reamy Sound director Jaycee Kwok, worked hard to ensure that every sound was in the right place and correctly balanced to create a realistic effect.

As the experience covers 5,000 square feet, a large number of loudspeakers were needed to deliver the sound. Equipson WORKPRO loudspeakers and amplifiers were chosen because they have a strong reputation for stability and reliability. They also offer additional useful features such as Power over Ethernet connectivity. Jaycee Kwok, of J-reamy Sound, ran extensive tests in the company’s demo room to prove to the customer that These loudspeakers and amplifiers could run non-stop for more than two months without any performance issues.

Over the course on an hour, visitors are led through five different, authentic settings that are totally dark but have their own textures, sounds, smells and even tastes. These include a rural area with different types of terrain; a transport room, complete with a pool and boat to replicate Hong Kong harbour; an urban area with a market, traffic and streets that visitors can cross; a sports area where visitors can try their hand at blind football using sounds to find the goal, and a dialogue area that is set up as a restaurant.

The tour through the experience is led by visually impaired guides who encourage visitors to appreciate each environment without light and learn that, even without vision, the world is still a beautiful place.

A total of 200 loudspeakers were installed throughout the experience, including WORKPRO Z15 sub woofers and 160 WORKPRO MINO 6 and Neo 3 speakers, each with an individual processing channel (WPE44) and amplifier. To ensure extremely detailed sound that is as close to a real world experience as possible, all of the loudspeakers operate at the same time with sounds coming from all directions to create a feeling of full immersion. Some of the speakers are installed in the ceiling, while others are positioned in a ring around each area at a height of approximately two meters. A number of smaller Neo 3 loudspeakers are placed inside different objects to convey any sounds that are not covered by the main rig.

The main environmental sound, which is delivered in the form of background noise, is not interactive but is highly layered so that the sounds overlap in a very sophisticated way. Each MINO 6 speakers has its own processing, signal feed and audio source to give the impression of sound overlap. The experience is enhanced by the use of specific sounds that are triggered at key moments when the tour guides physically press a button. The final part of the soundscape is created by sounds that are auto triggered as visitors pass various objects or interact with specific props.

The biggest challenge was ensuring that this exhibition has sufficient computer processing power to run such a complex soundscape. The system needed to be very powerful to cope with the large number of sounds being fed to each individual loudspeaker. A separate server room is used to house the computers, the WORKPRO PA 8150 8-channel class D amplifiers and the WORKPRO WPE44 DSP Audio processors that control the entire system.

Another challenge was positioning the loudspeakers so that they delivered the right immersive sound sensation. In Hong Kong space is always at a premium and this attraction is housed in a relatively small space. This resulted in some compromises as there wasn’t always room to create a fully immersive effect. However, the clarity of the WORKPRO loudspeakers helped overcome these shortfalls by giving visitors such a realistic aural experience that it was possible to feel surrounded by sound.

Dialogue Experience Dark deserves to win because it is such an unusual concept and such a great experience. Removing sight heightens one’s other senses, in particularly one’s hearing, therefore it is imperative that the sound system used for this experience conveys real audio clarity and reproduces sounds as naturally as possible. The ability to create a truly immersive surround sound experience is only possible because of recent advances in recording and playback technology. Equipson’s WORKPRO products are an important part of the equation and have helped make it a very popular attraction in Hong Kong.