So, you’ve decided that your old school PA system isn’t cutting it. What’s next?
If you aren’t sure you need a brand new system but are experiencing problems, here are 10 common school PA system mistakes and how to overcome them.
1. Figure out your needs
The first step in any progress is to figure out what your school needs. Do you need to be able to simply address the entire school, or do you need to be able to communicate with each room individually? These questions can determine what you will need to buy, and how complex or simple your school’s PA system will need to be. Likely, you will want a professional consultation to determine what will best suit your needs.
Typically during a consultation, a trained professional will be able to evaluate your school’s specific needs. They will have knowledge of existing school PA platforms and should be able to make recommendations based on your school’s needs.
After the initial call, a professional will typically do a site inspection to get a better idea of the school’s needs and how to improve their school PA system. These inspections typically take into account building/room size, accessibility, acoustic properties of a room, and what the client’s desires are regarding how they want their school PA system to operate. After viewing the building’s setup, we will have the ability to determine how many speaker zones you will need to achieve the desired results. From this, we will be able to tell how many trunk wires will be necessary.
Specking and planning
Many options exist for School PA systems. A certified professional will have knowledge of these products and will be able to guide you through the process of determining the best product to suit your needs. This may include amplifiers, speakers, and microphones. They will also help plan how you will control the system. Whether that be via computer, touchscreen interface, or a soundboard mixer, a certified technician will help discern what best suits your school’s needs. During the inspection and planning process, it may be possible to reuse the existing infrastructure of your school PA system. However, this is not always the case and some instances may call for the installation of a brand new system.
After your new school PA system has been designed and approved, it’s time for the physical installation. This can be one of the more stressful parts of the job, however, it can also be the most rewarding. This process may take several steps – let’s take a look at them below.
Installing the Rack
One of the first pieces installed in your new school PA system will be the rack. This is similar to a server rack, except it will be holding audio equipment. Typically, this includes an amplifier, a controller of some kind, and a power supply unit. The size and complexity of the unit can vary greatly depending on the features of your school’s PA system.
Running and installing cables can be either very simple or an immensely complex operation depending on your school’s PA system layout, building size, and building construction. For instance, running wires through a drop ceiling is fairly easy, however, running them down through walls and conduits can become problematic quickly, especially if you don’t have the proper tools and experience. Additionally, finding a path through floors and ceilings can also be a tedious process. Further, another issue that most often complicates this process is the age of the building being worked on. Older buildings were typically not designed with this kind of infrastructure in mind. Despite these drawbacks, a good technician will have the tools and expertise to make this part of the job go by relatively quickly.
Speaker installation can vary greatly depending on the type of speaker being installed and the surface it is being installed upon. Speakers can vary greatly in power, size, and ability. They can also differ depending on the room they are installed in. Positioning of the speakers is also an important factor in maximizing the sound coming from them. Additionally, speakers work to minimize sound reflections, ensuring the audio can be heard crisply and is free from any distortion. However, it is important to note that sometimes the best location is not always the most convenient. For instance, it may be difficult to mount a 40lb speaker 30 feet up on a wall, or ceiling, even.
Program the controller
After completing the installation of the physical components, the time has come to program the controller and install any required software. Similarly, this can vary greatly depending on what the needs of your specific school PA system are. This can include programming, allowing features such as an easy-to-use touch screen to allow a speaker to select zones they wish to address, give the speaker the ability to mute themselves or to adjust their speaking volume, or even select which microphone they wish to use.
3. Testing and calibration
After the physical installation, we can now move on to the tweaking. Sometimes, certain speakers will require modifications. Other times, moving speakers may be necessary if they do not hit the correct perceived acoustic properties. All good school PA systems will allow the speaker to be understood without having to drastically change the tone or volume of their voice. To do this, the levels will likely require adjustments through the amplifier and microphone.
The design and installation of a new school PA system is no easy undertaking. There are many facets that must undergo consideration when installing a new PA system. From design to installation and calibration, the team at Hugh’s Innovative AV Solutions has the knowledge and experience to make the installation of your new system a breeze. Set up your consultation today!