“David Bowie is”: Sennheiser Ensures Great Sound at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario, Grange Park Exterior

After an extremely successful run at the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, the “David Bowie is” exhibition is now touring other leading venues of art and design around the globe. The next stop is the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Canada, one of the most important art museums in North America. “David Bowie is” will be on view in Toronto from 25 September to 27 November 2013. As at the V&A, which curated this unique exhibition, audio specialist Sennheiser is working hand in hand with the AGO to ensure an immersive sound experience for visitors. Sennheiser’s guidePORT audio guide system and an elaborate 3D sound installation will again be an integral part of the exhibition.

During its 5-month run in London, the “David Bowie is” multimedia exhibition broke all V&A records: the museum sold more than 67,000 tickets prior to the opening, over three times the advance sales of any other exhibition at the museum before. In total, more than 300,000 people visited the first international retrospective of David Bowie’s amazing work in  music, fashion, art, theatre and film.

The feel of a live concert – 3D sound simulation
Integrating more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive, including original stage costumes, handwritten lyrics, album covers and photos, the exhibition celebrates Bowie’s incredible 50-year career.


A highlight of the visitor experience is the two 3D surround simulations that evoke the sound and feel of a live concert. Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti commented on the unique audio experience, “I swear I don’t know how they do it. This is magic to me. Things were coming from over my head, down by my feet, over my right shoulder, over my left shoulder, in front of me, to the sides of me.”

Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973 Design by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo, make up by Pierre La Roche


Gregor Zielinsky, International Recording Applications Manager at Sennheiser, made this exceptional sound experience possible by upmixing old mono and stereo material using a special algorithm. Currently on site at AGO to fine-tune the experience for visitors to the venue, Zielinsky explained the setup, “There are two multi-channel music experiences at the exhibition. No. 1 is a huge screen installation with live concert material by Bowie, and we also have a fantastic collage of Bowie songs arranged by Tony Visconti. The audio is played through hidden Neumann and K+H speakers.”

Audio guide for inspired, individual tours
In addition to the 3D installations, Sennheiser also equipped the AGO with an audio guide system. A guidePORT system will provide visitors with all soundtracks, music and video sound throughout the tour, taking them on an unforgettable journey through Bowie’s music, art, and fashion. The system automatically plays the audio when the visitor approaches an exhibit, thus enabling the guests to enjoy an individual tour and to explore the exhibition in whatever order and at any pace. Sennheiser’s guidePORT expert Robert Généreux is on site to install and configure the system at the AGO.


“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a living artist whose radical artfulness of identity has had an enormous influence on art, design and contemporary culture as we know it,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO. “We are thrilled to have the assistance of Sennheiser in creating a truly immersive experience, allowing our visitors to delve into the provocative genius and vision of David Bowie.”

The guidePORT audio guide ensures an immersive audio experience for visitors and Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour, 1973


Daniel Sennheiser, CEO of the Sennheiser Group, commented, “The exceptional ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition recreates the unique ‘universe’ of music, fashion and art that this extraordinary performer created. It has rightly been an unparalleled success in London, and I’m delighted that the Art Gallery of Ontario is now bringing this exhibition to North America. With its innovative architecture, the AGO is a perfect venue for ‘David Bowie is’, providing an ideal setting for this captivating multi-media retrospective, where everybody can relive or discover their very own personal Bowie experience.”

After its run in Toronto, the following museums and dates have been confirmed for “David Bowie is”:
·    Museum of Image and Sound, Sao Paulo, Brazil from 28 January to 21 April 2014
·    Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA from September 2014 to January 2015
·    Philharmonie de Paris/ Cité de la Musique, Paris, France from 2 March to 31 May 2015
·    Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands from 15 December 2015 to 15 March 2016


The equipment used at the Art Gallery of Ontario includes…
…for the tourguide system:
·    550 guidePORT bodypack receivers for visitors (GP EK 3202-5-1)
·    1,000 dynamic stereo headphones (PX 100 II) with hygiene pads
·    11 cell transmitters for transmitting music and soundtrack to visitors (GP SR 3200-2)
·    34 active antenna modules (GP AM 3000) for the cell transmitters
·    48 indoor identifiers (GP ID 3200-IN) to trigger the audio
·    55 charging units (GP L 3202-10)
·    1 bodypack transmitter with headset mic for a tour-guide (GP SK 3202-0-1 and HS 2)
·    guidePORT installation and statistics software

…for the 3D simulation
·    10 Neumann O 410 three-way loudspeakers
·    4 Neumann KH 870 sub-woofers
·    2 Klein+Hummel IS 153 three-way loudspeakers
·    8 Klein+Hummel IS 123 three-way loudspeakers
·    2 Klein+Hummel IS Sub 215 subwoofers


The Sennheiser Group, with its headquarters in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. In 2012 the family company, which was founded in 1945, achieved a turnover of around 584 million euros. Sennheiser employs more than 2,300 people worldwide, and has manufacturing plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company is represented worldwide by subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, the USA and now Australia and New Zealand, as well as by long-term trading partners in many other countries. Also part of the Sennheiser Group are Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin (studio microphones and monitor loudspeakers) and the joint venture Sennheiser Communications A/S (headsets for PCs, offices and call centres).