Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center

independently controllable speakers in EMPAC’s wave field synthesis audio system.
between each speaker head
Pulitzer Prize nomination for an EMPAC-produced project (Kate Soper’s opera Ipsa Dixit)
media projects developed at the center over the past year


Where the Arts, Sciences, and Technology Meet Under One Roof.


Four exceptional venues enable audiences, artists, and researchers to inquire, experiment, develop, and experience the ever-changing relationship between our senses, technology, and the worlds we create around us.
Designed by London-based Grimshaw Architects, EMPAC opened in fall 2008. The 220,000-square-foot building includes many firsts in the fields of acoustics, performing arts infrastructure, and architectural engineering. The integration of these features with audio, video, lighting, computer, and stage rigging networks makes EMPAC an ideal environment for human interaction with digital media. In 2016, EMPAC debuted a unique new system that explores the relationship between sound and space.

“Think of it like a pebble dropping into a pond,” says EMPAC’s lead audio engineer Todd Vos, describing the way a sound wave emanates from one of the speaker heads in the system. Now picture 500 tiny speakers arranged in a continuous ring around the room. As every one of those speakers casts sound into the room, the waves overlap and intersect, creating a dense, three-dimensional, immersive sound environment for a listener to explore.

What is significant about EMPAC’s new system is the very small size of the speakers and their very close proximity (5 centimeters apart). This allows the system to integrate a higher frequency range into the wave field (up to 6 kilohertz). This high range is important because it is the higher frequencies of human hearing that allow us to spatially locate the source of sounds around us.


The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th Street Troy, NY 12180 USA
phone: 518-276-3921