Europe’s first museum dedicated to samurai history and culture, is home to more than more than 1,000 artefacts collected over 30 years by German entrepreneur Peter Janssen.
The Samurai Museum, situated in Berlin’s main gallery district, opened its doors in May and has already made an impression on visitors, with some calling it a must-visit for fans of Japanese culture. Featuring technology and multimedia installations that bring the exhibits to life, the audio experience is delivered by L-Acoustics Syva and X Series sound systems, designed by consulting firm MMT-Network and installed by system integrator PIK AG.
Composer, producer and music director Christian Steinhäuser asked Ralf Bauer-Diefenbach, managing director at MMT-Network, to help with the conceptual design of the audio system. “Artistic projects like the Samurai Museum require extensive knowledge in content interaction, architecture, room acoustics and audio,” says Bauer-Diefenbach. “The client and the architects are design-oriented, so one of the key challenges Christian and I faced was to design a sound system that would offer perfect directivity, level and frequency response, while also fitting in well with the architecture and design of the venue.”
Bauer-Diefenbach and Steinhäuser collaborated with the museum’s architects and Ars Electronica Linz GmbH – an Austrian cultural, educational and scientific institute active in the field of new media art – to plan the optimal components using a complex acoustics computer model.
Once the audio concept was complete, PIK AG was brought on board to perform the system installation and configuration work onsite. Silvia Weise, the company’s technical project manager, says: “As a system integrator in Berlin and other cities across Germany, we knew L-Acoustics would be perfect for a complex project like the Samurai Museum. The flexibility that L-Acoustics technology offers to sound designers, as well as its excellent transparency, were vital in creating sound experiences that immerse the visitor and maximise the visual impression of the exhibits.”
The museum covers 1,500 sq m, with L-Acoustics Syva and X Series products installed in five exhibit areas. A combination of room acoustics and cleverly designed audio systems were used to create discrete acoustical spaces for each exhibit.
“The Samurai Museum has a modern and open room architecture, with only a few doors and walls separating the exhibition areas and their glass display cases,” says Weise. “By using L-Acoustics Syva and X Series, we were able to create a unique and immersive atmosphere for each area within the exhibition, without spilling over into neighbouring exhibits. To achieve this, the sound pressure level can’t be too high, so the audio has to deliver impact with clarity and transparency.”
One of the museum’s unique features is the Nō Theatre – a classical, 14th-century wooded structure built by traditional carpenters in Japan, then shipped to Berlin. X4i coaxial speakers have been installed inside the theatre’s stage lip to provide powerful sound while remaining almost invisible. They are complemented by a Syva Sub.
The interactive multimedia installation in the cinema room features projections and touchscreens enhanced with audio, which is delivered through four compact X8 cabinets and another Syva Sub. In here, visitors get an insight into how the samurai have shaped the history of Japan, learn about the supernatural Yokai of Japanese folklore, and follow the labour-intensive process of Japanese sword making.
The Japanese Desk exhibit features two Syva cabinets, with their elegant form enhancing the exhibit while delivering clear vocals and smooth horizontal polar pattern. Four X4i cabinets and a Syva Sub complete the sound system in this area.
The Faces of Battle and Sword Production exhibits immerse visitors in the world of Japan’s legendary warriors, offering a closer look into the skill of traditional Japanese craftsmanship. They have each been equipped with two Syva cabinets, a Syva Sub and four X4is.
A single AVB network covers the entire space which, according to Weise, makes it easy to monitor the system. Content is played and distributed from two computers via an AVB interface. The system is controlled by LA12Xi amplified controllers, which are all handily located at the exhibition objects, meaning it was necessary to install only a single CAT7 cable between the server room and the exhibits.
The AVB network offers additional benefits for controlling the audio across the different areas. This came to the fore when the decision was made for two adjacent spaces, the Nō Theatre and Faces of Battle, to have sound effects playing at different times. “Having it all mapped on one AVB network makes it easy to accomplish this task,” says Weise.