For audio designer and consultant Dave Stearns, quality dialogue between a manufacturer and the people using their products in real world design and install applications is definitely a consideration when he’s working on a project. Historically that’s played into his use of Tannoy loudspeakers, both during his time at PMK Consultants in Dallas, and now as owner of Frisco, TX-based Sound Endeavors.
“We’re always kicking stuff back and forth. Those ‘what if?’ conversations happen pretty frequently — where you sit down with people and say, ‘hey, I need an in-ceiling sub and it’s got to configure like this and it’s got to be equal to that’.”
A healthy dialogue is always important and never more so than at times of substantial growth – particularly when that growth is happening at the pace Collin County and the institutions serving it have experienced over the past ten years. That was one of the reasons prompting the creation of the Jack Hatchell Collin County Administration Building, explains Collin County public information officer, Tim Wyatt. “This is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. It’s a phenomenal growth area, but before this, Collin County’s administration was in a thirty-year-old building near downtown McKinney. The county seat has been there since about 1848 and all the departments needed more room.”
Located on a sixty-acre campus in the northern section of McKinney, TX, the Jack Hatchell Collin County Administration Building is a central hub for county business. Dedicated in April 2009, the four-story complex was designed by Texas based architectural firm PGAL, and brings numerous county departments together under one roof including its busiest Justice of the Peace Court and the county Commissioners Court.
The primary need for the complex, explains Wyatt, was a matter of meeting the current needs of the county’s population and creating a space that could continue to grow right along with it. Already the county jail and juvenile detention centre were located on the campus. A new courthouse was also built there in 2007. “This was all part of a project to move the main county offices onto one main campus. We have a staff of 1800 people supporting thirty-five elected offices and there was no room for expansion downtown.”
Tannoy’s renowned focus on delivering superior intelligibility has often prompted Stearns to use their in-ceiling and in-wall loudspeaker lines in similar projects. But here, for the design of audio systems inhabiting the first floor Justice of the Peace courtroom and the third floor Commissioner’s Court, their compact footprint was also a consideration; “it was an issue of needing something small that fits in there,” he says. While he did the design for the project, the system was installed by Ford AV.
Although the function of the two courtrooms differs, both required Mix-minus and distributed audio systems. In both cases, the Tannoy speakers provide primarily general speech reinforcement, Stearns says. “They’re getting the combined feed of all the microphones in the room. They’re all individually zoned and there’s some delay added to them, as needed, depending how far away that loudspeaker is from the person who’s talking.”
The JP Court was a very minimalist design, he explains. In essence, a system designed to provide reinforcement of the conversations between participants within the room, that also incorporated the capability to broadcast the speech of those teleconferencing in from other locations, such as language translators. “We met with the judge and he was used to having almost nothing so he pretty much wanted nothing. He was fine with putting a speaker out on the bench and having the two lawyers huddle over it as they all talk to whoever is on the phone.”
It’s fair to say that Stearns and PMK bumped the technology up a notch or six beyond that with their design. “We were using roughly nine Tannoy CMS 8s in the ceilings; one over the judge, one over the witness and clerk, over the gallery in the back and over the lawyer’s tables, and then everybody had Shure MX418s.”
The Commissioners Court, on the other hand, required a more extensive system. In this space a five-person panel – comprised of an elected county judge and four commissioners representing the county’s main geographical precincts – deals with a variety of issues affecting the entire county. “Their main job is setting the tax rate and working the budget for the county that supports all the elected officials of the justice system,” Wyatt said. “We also tie into the audio system to do live streaming broadcasts of the meetings for the public to view.”
Here, approximately six Tannoy CMS 8s are mounted in the ceilings of the court to provide general reinforcement of speech and program playback from the room’s video sources for the public gallery. Additionally, seven Tannoy iW 4s as well as personal LCD screens are mounted facing the commissioners and the clerks. “There’s an upper wall on the dais table above the desktop and that’s where we inset an iW 4 in front of each person,” Stearns said.
Microphones are also provided on the right side of the dais for the county auditor and the county clerk. But the public has a voice here as well, says Wyatt, and additional microphones are mounted on a podium for public usage. A wireless mic was also provided as an alternate to the podium mics.
Other system elements, including Biamp Audia DSP and QSC CX series amplifiers, are shared by both the Commissioners Court and Justice of the Peace and are located in an equipment/control room in the hall outside of the Commissioner’s Court.
Unlike the Justice of the Peace court, where the judge operates the system from an AMX touch screen located on the bench, here a dedicated operator is helpful for both broadcast and live applications. “They actually do have to ride the gain because of the crowd noise, but that’s doable – it’s all right there in the control system,” Stearns said.
While the county commissioners only meet once a week, the room is in near constant use. “We also use that courtroom for training, briefings and orientation sessions. The taxpayers are paying for it, so we want to use it as much as possible,” Wyatt said. “It’s one of the few places the county government can offer that, so we make that available to people free of charge.”
Four Tannoy CMS 601s are also mounted in-ceiling in the hallway/lobby. “The capacity of room is only roughly sixty to seventy people, so we have sound and video monitors in the lobby area for when we have a larger crowd.” All the speakers are individually zoned for maximum control and can be muted when reinforcement outside the courtroom isn’t necessary.
Stearns’ familiarity with Tannoy and the benefits of their Dual Concentric design also played a role in the choice of product for this project, he said. “With the Dual Concentric drivers you get rid of the problems you’d have with other speakers right away, before you start. It makes it a whole lot easier when you know what the speaker’s going to do from a coverage standpoint.”