The Merchant Adventurers Hall, York

When modern audio technology is installed into a 650 year old timber building, it might be fairly assumed that some degree of aesthetic compromise is inevitable in order to achieve a successful sonic outcome. When POLAR was approached to provide a new speech and background music system in conjunction with installers Saville Audio Visual for just such a building, the brief did not allow for such luxury.

Merchant Adventurers Hall intro
Merchant Adventurers Hall block quote

"Naturally, English Heritage were adamant that the fabric and appearance of one of England's finest medieval buildings should remain as undisturbed as possible."

1. The Objective

The installation was to cover two separate rooms, having the capacity to operate independently in each, or across the venue as a whole. The interior of the entire building comprises a timber framework of pillars and beams, wooden floors and very little in the way of soft furnishings or surfaces. Three systems were installed across the two rooms to best serve the requirements of the brief. The large room was equipped with a speech and background music system as well as a conferencing system, whilst the small room had its own speech-only system. Audio from each of these systems could be fed across all or part of the venue to retain maximum flexibility. 

Merchant Adventurers Hall objective
Merchant Adventurers Hall approach

2. Our Approach

Central to achieving the aims set out in the brief was to replace the main room's 16 existing speakers by utilising 2 colour-matched Renkus Heinz ICONYX IC 16 speakers. These architecturally transparent speakers are designed to be heard but not seen and in this case the two speakers blended almost invisibly on timber pillars. The speaker technology enables sound designers to cover almost any audience area perfectly. Multiple sonic beams can be individually shaped and aimed from a single ICONYX array with great precision.  In the main hall this precision was fundamental not only to ensure accurate, natural sound across the required area but also to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with the interior's many hard surfaces and vaulted ceilings.

3. Outcomes

Captain Stephen Upright RN, Clerk to the Company:

"The quirks of the Hall were accommodated seamlessly and the appearance of the new equipment does not diminish the beauty of the space – in fact it is barely visible! Members of the Company who have for years struggled to hear speeches and presentations in the Hall are unreservedly happy at the transformation and commercial customers have been absolutely delighted by the performance."

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The Merchant Adventurer's Hall in York illustrates that 21st Century cutting edge sophistication can not only sit comfortably amongst the timbers of a 14th Century meeting house, but do so quite invisibly and in such a way as to actually better support the original purpose of the building.

Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you accommodate traditional aesthetics and innovative technology in the same space.


Truly the most flexible, powerful and architecturally seamless, Digitally Steerable Column Array on the market Iconyx brings intelligible sound to even the most demanding acoustic environments.

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