Berkeley Preparatory School

ProjectBerkeley Preparatory SchoolLocationTampa, FloridaManufacturersSennheiserArchitectBehar Peteranecz ArchitectureInstallerBeamworks, Inc.Submitted bySennheiser

Founded in 1960, Berkeley Preparatory School, a highly ranked Pre-K to Grade 12 day school in Tampa, Florida, has a jam-packed schedule of activities for its 1,400+ students, as well as its faculty and staff, from theatre productions to chapel services, daily staff meetings in the auditorium and more, all of which require wireless audio solutions.

The school has long used Sennheiser G3 wireless for its audio needs, but last year the team, headed by Productions Technical Director, Christopher Cook, started looking for a new solution to meet RF challenges, while enabling a fully networked solution across the campus. With support from Beamworks, Inc., Berkeley Prep has rolled out 40 channels of Sennheiser’s EW-DX wireless system, the newest and most robust offering from the Evolution Wireless Digital family of products.

As a long-time Sennheiser user and an AV team of one, Christopher’s early adoption of the new EW-DX system was a natural progression. He needed a fully networked solution that could be managed offsite. He explains, “our campus is 80 acres, so I’m not able to walk from room to room – I have to hop on the golf cart. Now I just go on the computer, pop on Control Cockpit and make sure everything is good. We are networking all audio consoles.” EW-DX can be managed via Sennheiser’s Control Cockpit that allows for digital workflows so Christopher can oversee, coordinate and troubleshoot wireless operations from his laptop.

As Berkeley Prep’s wireless setup spans three black box theatres across the elementary, middle and upper school divisions, a main stage 820 seat theatre, a recital space and a brand-new chapel, being able to manage all these multipurpose spaces and more from a centralised hub was a key consideration in their wireless audio decision.

With its industry-leading low latency of 1.9 milliseconds and equidistant frequency spacing, EW-DX ensures optimal performance without interference or frequency calculation challenges. The system’s superior sound quality and stability have enhanced performances and reduced technical issues, earning praise from staff and students alike.

The challenge that the Berkeley Preparatory School faced was the need for a fully networked solution that could be managed offsite for their 80 acres campus. Being able to manage all the spaces from a centralised hub was a key consideration in their wireless audio decision. As Berkeley Prep is situated near Tampa International Airport and a dozen digital TV transmitters in the surrounding area, frequency coordination for wireless mics can be particularly challenging. That’s why the school needed a wireless system that could handle the crowded RF spectrum while minimising the legwork for Christopher and other users.

Christopher worked closely with Berkeley Prep’s trusted partners at Beamworks to plan, purchase and rollout the EW-DX system across campus. Drew McMullian, Operations Manager at Beamworks brought hands-on support to the installation process and found Control Cockpit’s networked approach to be a comprehensive solution for the school’s needs. He provided the example of the campus chapel: “Getting everything connected and networked has been incredible.

They built a beautiful new chapel recently, and the AV room is up a spiral staircase, so it is not accessible if you need to get there quickly. Being able to control the wireless from the Control Cockpit software is a necessity for Christopher. All of this, with the flexibility to use any Neumann or Sennheiser capsules to outfit the church choir, made this a spot-on setup for Berkeley Prep.”

EW-DX offers the lowest latency on the market and eliminates the need for frequency calculation thanks to its equidistant frequency spacing which does not pollute available spectrum with intermodulation.

In Christopher’s words, “with the EW-DX units I don’t have these [frequency coordination] issues. They don’t get stomped on by anything.”

Drew underscored the challenge that Christopher was facing, “In this area, anything from 500-540MHz band completely disappeared.” Beamworks have been equipping the local Tampa market with wireless solutions since the late 1990s, and Drew has almost two decades of first-hand experience with the crowded RF environment and how to best navigate it, “EW-DX can find nooks and crannies that work whereas regular bands don’t even function.”

Berkeley Preparatory School’s upgrade to Sennheiser’s EW-DX System, supported by Beamworks, has had a significant impact on campus events, future scalability, ease of management, and tangible return on investment, which make it a deserving candidate for recognition in the Multipurpose Venue category.

The installation of EW-DX across Berkeley Prep’s campus was completed at a crucial make-or-break-it point. The rollout was right in time for technical week, or tech week, for the school’s highly anticipated production of Mean Girls. They were the first school in Tampa to adapt the popular musical, and the wireless system rose to the challenge, “I used 24 channels of EW-DX, and it was immediately night and day [from our previous system]. The sound quality was more natural, the intelligibility was better – they were just so clean,” says Christopher, “I didn’t change my mic technique, it was just the units. I got a lot of great comments about how natural the production sounds.”

Christopher sees that the future is bright for EW-DX on campus with opportunities to improve audio in more places, “I’m really excited to eventually merge out into the athletic fields. For now, whenever someone sings the national anthem, we bring out the EW-DX. Eventually I want each venue to have EW-DX managed through Control Cockpit. I look forward to expanding with the EW-DX line and growing with it.”

Beyond the sound quality, ease of use and centrally networked setup, the EW-DX upgrade at Berkeley Prep has given Christopher a distinct return on investment that most education industry AV and IT professionals could benefit from. 

He explains, “Anything that takes away stress or provides you with more time back in your workday is huge. All we have as people is our time so anything to give you more of it is worth the investment.”