By Mike McCarther, Business Development – Integrated Communications Solutions  | VistaCare Communications

Distributed Audio Systems – Sound for All

Hotels, community centres, schools, malls and stores have always used audio as a key communication method. Now that audio has gone digital, the users are all connected with various smart phones and tablets, and the ProAudio market has had to adapt to become more accessible. This month I sat down with QSC and SFM to explore the advancements in digital, distributed audio systems and the considerations that go into a design.

Picking the Sweet Spot

Depending on the size and purpose of your facility, the type and quality of audio required will range. For instance, in a school, mall or recreation facility the primary function of audio is to make public announcements for targeted messaging or emergency alerts. In a hotel, convention centre, sports stadium or restaurant, the primary function of audio is to set the mood and deliver quality sound to create a desired atmosphere. While both scenarios involve spreading an audio message, your criteria for choosing a system could vary greatly.

Based on your facility and the role audio is designed to play, it is important to break down the solution design into four areas:

  1. Speakers & Amplification
  2. Wiring & Network Infrastructure
  3. Media Streaming & Accessibility
  4. System Control

A well thought out plan is just as important in this part of your planning process as at any other time. Pick your goals and design a system that meets both the goals and your budget.

Quality Sound – Speakers & Amplifiers

Speakers and amplifiers all operate on the same basic principles. However, just like everything else, different brands and budget levels are going to deliver vastly different results.

If the primary function of the audio system is to deliver audible alerts of voice messaging, a paging speaker may do the trick. If the system is designed to deliver background music, live music or quality sound for atmosphere influence, a higher quality speaker will be required. In both cases selecting the right tool for the job and pairing it to the right amplification and processing system is critical to achieve the planned outcome.

Media Streaming & Accessibility

  • When designing a distributed audio solution, you must consider the audience and the users who will be interacting with it.
  • What audio source needs to be played through the system?
  • How do the users connect and control the sources, playlists, volume and overall functionality of the system?
  • Will users be using personal devices or facility provided devices?

With advancements in home audio and mobile technology, many users are looking for a more personal experience and, depending on your goals, integrating this kind of interactivity from the onset will result in a more flexible and accessible system and a better long term return on investment.

System & Zone Control

One of the most recent advancements in distributed audio solutions is the ability to leverage existing IT infrastructure to deploy sound throughout an organization or facility. Imagine connecting any audio source within the network to any group of speakers. When designing your system, decide early how many zones are required, what type of audio will be played in each zone, and how users will interface with the control of the zone.

Wiring & Network Infrastructure

One of the major costs and considerations in deploying a distributed audio system is the physical installation, wiring and network infrastructure required to make it all work. Make sure when undergoing a new build or extensive renovation to consider your sound system. There will never be a better time to make investments than at this point.

VistaCare Communications is a full service commercial communications and security solutions integrator based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.