AV Award Winner: Winspear Opera House

Classic European opera house meets modern architectural innovation

The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House has been awarded a 2010 ARCHI-TECH AV Award for the integration of an innovative hidden voice-lift system and retractable music system that make the Winspear a perfect recipient. 

The particular AV and acoustical requirements that go into any opera house are intimidating architectural challenges, but the Winspear Opera house is an example of peerless innovation.

The major design issues addressed by the team were:

  • Maintaining low latency among all devices in the digital audio network
  • Concealing system components mounted permanently in the hall
  • Large line arrays designed to be retracted into the ceiling

Digitally steerable Renkus-Heinz Iconyx loudspeakers allow for the delivery of imperceptible voice lift at controlled volumes to every seat in the house.  Programmable with Beamware software to aim sound in precise directions with a tightly controlled angular dispersion pattern, Iconyx speakers allow for sound control.

A state-of-the-art acoustics system utilizing ten Iconyx loudspeaker arrays concealed into the walls of the proscenium arch allows for invisible coverage of all pertinent areas of the Winspear Opera House.

These hidden speakers allow for crystal-clear communication integrated into the top level architecture of the Winspear, allowing the audience and speaker to have an interactive viewing experience. The line arrays of the music system are retractable through doors into the ceiling and the house mix sound cockpit is retractable into the floor.

The dual network configuration of CobraNet and Rhaon are a first for a fixed installation. Designed by Engineering Harmonics’ Martin van Dijk, the system transports audio from the house console to all of the loudspeaker systems.

Digital audio is transported over CobraNet from the console on CAT6 network cable to the sound rack room in the lower basement, and then transported over fiber-optic cable to the equipment rack above the stage. 

There the fiber is converted back to CAT6 and interlaced with the Rhaon network, and then distributed to the voice-life Iconyx arrays and the rest of the sound system.

According to Engineering Harmonics, issues arose with latency times and negotiation between the different components of the digital network, and problems could have been avoided in hindsight through use of a mock up.

The Winspear Opera House features an all-star AV architectural cast involved in inception and creation. Jules Lauve, project manager on the Winspear Opera House, puts it best “First we build the team, then we build the building.” 

Located in the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, TX, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House is a definitive example of the innovative technology associated with the AV Awards program.  An upcoming ARCHI-TECH webinar features the Winspear Opera House.


  • 24 Renkus-Heinz STLA-9 line array elements configured into two line arrays of 12 elements each.
  •   8 Renkus-Heinz DCF215F flying subwoofers
  •   4 Renkus-Heinz DR-18-1  onstage subwoofers
  • 13 Meyer Sound MM-4s for front fill
  • 70 Tannoy CMS501DC loudspeakers for under-balcony fill
  •   8 Renkus-Heinz PN82/9 loudspeakers for over-balcony coverage
  •   2 Renkus-Heinz PN-15/4-3 ceiling loudspeakers
  •   2 Renkus-Heinz PN-15/4-2, 4 PN-151-9, and 6 PN-81-12 loudspeakers for stage sound effects
  •   8 Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC8 digitally steerable loudspeaker arrays
  •   2 Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC16 digitally steerable loudspeaker arrays
  •   1 Yamaha PM5D digital console

Design Consultant: Engineering Harmonics, Inc.

System Integrator: Clair Brothers Systems

Architect: Foster + Partners

Theatre Consultant: Theatre Project Consultants