Schools require PA systems. However, there is one problem: budgets are often tight. Nevertheless, requirements for speech intelligibility and usability are high while the acoustic conditions are bad. For these projects, installers and planners usually cooperate with the school and often also with the District Office, district administration or building authorities. Therefore, installers and planners are required to plan thoroughly and to be able to justify their planning to third parties. In this article you will find out how to do this.
Naturally installers and planners talk with project partners beforehand. But regarding schools, we recommend to talk even more than usual with different employees and particularly subsequent users of the PA system. Explain clearly why they should not cut back on sound quality in an assembly hall. Offer to help the various parties with offers or cost calculations.
Tip: authorities distinguish whether a school has a branch focussing on music or not. The budget is often smaller without such a profile dedicated to music. If you support the school's project from start to finish, including concept and preparing an offer, you find that out beforehand.
The earlier you devise the speaker zones the better. PA technology with voice alarm for the whole school building has 2 main requirements:
- High speech intelligibility of the voice alarm system according to EN 54 and 24 V emergency power supply
- High cost efficiency
For most schools, 6 zones which can be alerted separately or collectively are sufficient. We recommend the tried and tested 100 V line technique because you have to cover large areas. Only if you plan to connect several buildings and already have network cabling a combination of 100 V and Dante® technology will be profitable.
Provide PA application for the 6 zones via mixing amplifier with integrated chime, which you can equip with a timer insertion for automatic evacuation announcements, timed bell for recess or other announcements. An example for a possible zone layout:
- Hallways:ball-proof, robust wall speakers with EN 54-24 certification
- Gym:ball-proof PA speaker systems
- Library, cafeteria, canteen, quieter areas:cost-efficient, reliable wall speakers
- Staff room, office or hospital room: you should find out if announcements from these rooms are desired.
- Assembly hall: a room, which is used as multi-purpose hall that requires a separate PA application for events and has to be integrated into the voice alarm system according to EN 54.
- Schoolyard: the outdoor area requires speakers that are weatherproof and powerful
Primary requirements for PA applications in class rooms are perfect speech intelligibility, maximum usability and multiple replay functions. Class rooms are the smallest challenge in a school. Usually, they have normal ceiling heights and are neither particularly small nor large. High speech intelligibility requires good 2-way speakers. Plan these speaker systems to the right and left from the blackboard on the long sides of the classroom. You position the wall speakers straight in direction of the students. It is important to use wall speakers of a certain quality standard because insufficient speech intelligibility tires the students and disturbs concentration. For this simple set-up, a compact 2-channel amplifier is sufficient. The amplifier just has to provide enough power and teachers as well as students have to be able to operate it via Bluetooth (smartphone), remote control or RCA plug.
Here, requirements usually include speech intelligibility from first to last row and also a PA system which provides high-quality music reproduction. Here, a thorough requirement analysis is particularly important. Start the project by checking requirements and expectations with the school, the contracting authority and the (music) teachers. Perhaps even ask the parents' council. Schools often use their PA systems in a surprisingly versatile way:
- Theatre and musical performances of the theatre club
- Film screenings Article
- Performances from solo artists to big bands
- Conferences, Presentations, discussion panels, lectures, readings
This could mean that in addition to a fixed PA system, powerful event technology also will be required. Even though the article is limited to fixed PA installations, we nevertheless advise you to find out beforehand whether ...
- ... it is worth considering a fixed PA installation for the school, i.e. if there are regular live performances. Find out whether there is a suitable utility room which can accommodate power amplifiers and further equipment. If not, a mobile rack is the only solution.
- ... only a PA system which is supposed to reproduce speech and a little music is required.
In the field of PA systems, 100 V line technique column speakers are often a good part of the solution. Their appearance is unobtrusive and they fit in well with almost every style of architecture for assembly halls. Additionally, column speakers impress with a precise radiation pattern. Therefore, they can be directed away from the stage at the audience and sound losses are rare. You can support such column speakers with 100 V PA speakers in the bass range. Is the budget bigger, are the demands even higher or is the school's assembly hall stage regularly used for semi-professional or professional musicians? Then a frontal support via 2 to 4 high-quality PA speakers which a layperson can control via laptop and software makes sense. For even higher sound quality which can reproduce speech just as well as the instruments of a big band you use professional PA speakers.
The big challenge in equipping an assembly hall is the multifunctionality required of the PA system. One thing, however, is clear: in an assembly hall people always speak. Therefore, you should use special speech microphones for different speech situations.
- For speakers, who should or want to move about, a headband microphone with wireless transmitter is suitable.
- For discussion panels or formats in which the microphone is often passed on, you should recommend a hand-held microphone with integrated multifrequency transmitter.
- For lectures, presentations or central PA systems in smaller assembly halls, a lectern with integrated amplifier and speaker system is a good option. A lectern is convenient and practical at the same time as it provides the user with a set of compatible technology: speaker system, class D mixing amplifier and further connections for integrating the lectern into a bigger audio installation.
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