Technomad recommends The Freesound Library to Schedulon users as a source for free audio downloads
Venue attached to worship facility injects excitement into live events with new advanced audio loudspeakers and subwoofers
BOSTON, April 22, 2013 — The Cowboy Fellowship Church in southern Texas is a unique worship facility that preaches evangelism, discipleship and service — with an adjoining 2800-seat live event venue on campus. The church hosts a variety of events in the venue, from all-day rodeos and bull-riding clinics to musical performances.
The venue opened in 2012 without a professional sound system, using standard stage equipment to produce and amplify audio. The church soon hired Buster Burch as facilities administrator, who specified and installed an advanced audio system to cover the entire arena in a more consistent manner. Burch researched various options and purchased a Technomad Turnkey PA System to ensure exceptional audio quality and long-term durability in the local environment. The complete system included four loudspeakers and four subwoofers along with a complete audio headend — an unusual combination.
“I wanted to put together a system that looked good, sounded good and would last,” said Burch. “Our philosophy is that it’s worth putting extra money into something that we know will last a long time. This system isn’t just for us; it’s for future generations.”
The system is unusual in that each Technomad Berlin loudspeaker, mounted 20 feet off the ground, is accompanied by a Technomad Oslo subwoofer mounted 10 feet directly below. The Berlin and the Oslo are the most powerful loudspeaker and subwoofer models in the company’s portfolio.
“I had a real desire for bass in this venue, as bass is what suffers the most when you work outside,” said Burch. “If I am showing a video of a fireworks display, I want everyone in the stands to hear and feel that boom. The Oslo gives me exactly what we needed out of the bass at the low end. I’m very pleased.”
Burch adds that the Berlins produce plenty of power, with intelligible voice and full-range musical reproduction. He notes that the wide dispersion ensures that he can walk the entire length and width of the arena without hitting a dull spot.
“We’ve had several events, and the audience feedback is that the audio is crisp and clear and not overly loud,” said Burch. “I’ve had people tell me that they don’t hear the normal delay and bounceback common in other arenas. The system works together as one giant loudspeaker to deliver audio across the entire bleachers. I have true high-end and plenty of low-end and mid response. And the sound envelope per speaker is incredibly large.”
Typical venue events include team ropings, steer ropings, bull riding clinics, and ranch rodeos featuring men and women. Birch adds that the church plans to hold more live concerts moving forward, as well as special events such as Christmas services.
This means that the church also needed a durable sound system to ensure longevity. Burch evaluated the entire facility upon joining the staff, and quickly realized that weatherproof equipment was required. A roof provided coverage overhead, but open air surrounding the venue raised concerns. The requisite combination of durability and high quality audio ultimately led him to Technomad.
“We’re about 30 miles south of San Antonio in the town of Jourdanton, and we get a lot of dust and wind as well as some cold and condensation,” said Burch. “I like how the drain holes at the bottom of the cabinets expel condensation to keep them dry. I also used Technomad’s new stainless steel mounts, which are very strong and sturdy in addition to being weatherproof. They lock in really well and give us flexibility to accurately adjust the angle and direction of each loudspeaker.”
Burch purchased the Turnkey PA System from ProAudio.com of Grand Prairie, Texas. The complete system included a pre-wired, protective equipment rack with an audio amplifier, six-channel mixer and three microphones; as well as all required cables and connectors to expedite installation. Burch added a Mackie wireless control board for remote audio adjustments, as well as Sennheiser wireless equipment.
Technomad LLC, founded in 1995, designs and manufactures loudspeaker systems for the professional audio and security/military technology industries. The company invented the first reliable full-range weatherproof loudspeaker and now offers nine models ranging in power from 60-watt loudspeakers to 1250-watt subwoofers — most available in Turnkey PA System packages featuring amplifiers, mixers and other signal processing equipment in pre-wired racks. The company also manufactures a variety of audio infrastructure and communications equipment including playback and recording systems, weatherproof power amplifiers and turnkey remote audio systems. Contact Technomad at 617-275-8898 or visit http://www.technomad.com for more information.
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Dry Gulch USA in Oklahoma Makes Audio Part of the Visitor Experience
The effective use of outdoor audio can put a stamp on the personality of the venue. A combination of high-quality sound, creative programming, and innovative system design and technology helps to create an atmosphere that will stick with visitors long after they depart.
Dry Gulch USA is one venue that has put a great deal of thought into employing an intelligent audio strategy, helping to create a unique and memorable atmosphere. The year-round non-profit campground and retreat center is located one hour northeast of Tulsa, Oklahoma on the shores of Lake Hudson, and owned by Church on the Move of Tulsa.
Established in 1986 as a Christian summer camp for children, Dry Gulch USA is now a multi-purpose facility also offering corporate and marriage retreats as well as Christmas holiday events. The grounds span several hundred acres and include a lake, a 700-seat performance hall, a mini-amusement park, overnight quarters and a Town Square area that is a replica of an old west town.
Audio is essential to communication and entertainment across the grounds. The facility recently initiated a multi-stage project to overhaul its existing outdoor audio systems, which had fallen into severe disrepair over the years.
“The older audio systems were long neglected and in very poor shape,” said Audio Visual Coordinator Stephen Arruda, who was hired last year to improve AV systems across the board. “The loudspeakers were completely unprotected from the elements. It sounded as if the horns were blown, but instead they were clogged with mud. The magnets were filled with hornet nests and the paper cones were deteriorated. Everything was rendered useless.”
Arruda worked with Ford Audio-Video, a regional design-build contractor, to demonstrate a range of Technomad products to improve the audio presence. The upgrades include a multi-zone networked audio system to deliver voice and music to four distinct areas of the campground, as well as a mix of new loudspeakers from Technomad and JBL that are used both within the multi-zone system and in standalone systems elsewhere on the campground.
“The staff was forced to continually replace drivers and cabinets as the older system gradually deteriorated over the years,” said James Mitchell, Account Manager for Ford Audio-Video. “What they needed was sturdy equipment that could reliably reproduce voice and audio with good quality, yet still handle the volatile Oklahoma weather. The Lake Hudson area weather is especially varied: rain, snow, heat — everything under the sun. The older weather-treated systems failed continually because they couldn’t tolerate the rough weather seasons of northeast Oklahoma.”
“There is a philosophy here to not continue to use equipment if it needs to be constantly repaired,” added Arruda. “We’re spread very thin, and this is a very large campground. A quarter-mile between loudspeaker points is not unusual here, and it’s a waste of time to drive around the grounds constantly repairing equipment. Ford Audio-Video was a big help in demonstrating products that fit within our budget but would produce good audio and be consistently reliable.”
Among Arruda’s chief initiatives was to design a multi-zone system capable of distributing audio over separate channels. The five well-defined zones comprise the “Park System,” and it is intended to produce a unique thematic experience for each zone — noticeable to guests as they move from one zone to the next. The Park System, powered by Furman power conditioning and sequencing products, employs a DBX ZonePro 640 for audio processing and Crown amplifiers to power the audio output.
The DBX ZonePro 640 is fundamental to creating the theme for each zone, entertaining guests with audio customized specifically to match the environment. Arruda assigns CDs, an iPod, and a Sonos wireless music system to deliver music, following a seven-day schedule. The iPod feeds into a Raxxess IRD-1 unit, essentially a docking station that protects the player and interfaces with the ZonePro 640 through a line output.
The Sonos system is more complex, featuring 13 audio players and 10 wireless bridges to extend the reach of the system to certain zones, including the main entrance. The Sonos systems’ Zone Player also provides a single line input to one player, which can be distributed to all locations that contain another Zone Player.
Arruda designed the system so that the ZonePro 640 reduces the main audio when a page or announcement is made over the system. While the audio program is different within each zone, live announcements are distributed to all five zones for the purpose of reaching the majority of visitors and staff.
“There is great significance in being able to communicate important messages to the entire park, whether it’s a simple informative announcement related to a visitor attraction or a true weather-related or other emergency situation,” said Arruda. “The fact that we can do this from a central point and have the messages take priority over the five-channel music output is very valuable. Visitors can hear the important messages across all zones, and then the assigned music for each zone returns immediately following the announcement.”
Several buildings and attractions signify the area around the Park System. This includes The Western Bunkhouse, which serves as the “Main Zone” in the audio distribution system. The “brains” of the Park System is also housed in this zone.
Two Technomad Berlin weatherproof loudspeakers reproduce high-quality audio within the Main Zone. The Berlin model is among the largest and most powerful loudspeakers built by Technomad, and were installed here to cover a very large area both within the park area and its outskirts. Music emanates from the Berlins in between announcements to entertain visitors. The Berlins are installed on the building rooftop for the best possible directivity and projection.
“The Technomad Berlins supply a rich and reliable sound throughout the park area, and are in a perfect location for visitors to hear pages and special announcements,” said Mitchell. “The design was also helpful as it allows for simple rooftop installation without awkward positioning.”
Arruda added that the Technomad design enabled him to mount the loudspeakers in unusual positions without modifications. He installed Berlins on top of two other downtown buildings — Town Hall and the Dining Hall — as standalone systems, using the same unusual mounting techniques.
“The Berlins have fly points everywhere, and that really helped in these unique rooftop installations where I had to anchor the loudspeakers from below,” he said. “There is no possible way this could have been done with other loudspeakers without drilling into the cabinet and adversely affecting sound quality.”
The second zone is comprised of multiple Technomad Vernal loudspeakers under several building eves in the park area, including bunkhouses for summer camp and retreat guests. The Vernals are the smallest model in the Technomad fleet, but retain the same traits of the Berlin: high audio quality, broad dispersion, weatherproof design and durable construction.
The music in this zone changes to match specific themes, such as during the Christmas Train event. The Silver Dollar Saloon, located in the Town Square of Dry Gulch USA, hosts a live bluegrass band during these events. The music is extended outdoors to the Vernals so visitors can hear the live performance. The usual soundtrack for the entire campground, distributed through the Sonos system, kicks in again once the performance has ended.
The Vernals also provide background music at a third zone by the main entrance, where visitors hear music as they wait in line and enter the park. During events such as the Christmas Train and the annual 4th of July picnic, patrons will hear music themes from the old west before segueing into seasonal or patriotic music. In this case, an iPod distributes separate content while the Sonos system extends the system’s reach up to 1000 feet, linking the entrance music with the rest of the grounds.
Arruda expects to install as many as 40 Vernals throughout Dry Gulch once completed, citing the broad audio coverage as essential to reaching visitors throughout the area. He deployed the Vernals in a 70-volt configuration to effectively reproduce audio across the entire zone, instead of the traditional 8-Ohm configuration. The 70-volt configuration daisy-chains multiple loudspeakers over longer distances than what is possible within 8-Ohm configurations. This will allow Arruda to more easily expand his distributed audio network over time.
“I learned about the benefits of the 70-volt configuration through Andrew Stone, the front of house engineer at Church on The Move,” said Arruda. “The Vernals include multi-tap connections to chain loudspeakers together, enabling distributed audio over longer distances. We can also set different wattages for better audio control in different areas. It’s a lot easier to modify 70-volt systems and manipulate the sound in different areas, even if the loudspeakers are on the same line. It’s also less labor intensive. You don’t need to provide a home run from every single loudspeaker or pair of loudspeakers back to the signal processing rack.”
The two final zones in the Park System are targeted for completion by the spring of 2009. The fourth zone will feature nine landscaped loudspeakers from Outdoor Speaker Depot in a series of planters outside of Town Square. Each planter includes three OS650 HD True Omni Ground loudspeakers installed in 70-volt configurations. The fifth zone will distribute theme park-style music to up to 12 JBL Control 25T loudspeakers. Many of the loudspeakers are being installed under the bumper car pavilion, and others will be hung near inflatable games and other theme park-style attractions.
“The whole idea of this multi-zone system is to distribute separate styles of music to create a different atmosphere in each zone,” said Arruda. “We didn’t want music floating through the air from a single location. The point is to create an environment that stays with you the entire visit but changes as you enter a different section of Dry Gulch.”
Several standalone audio systems complete the campground-wide audio presence. The Town Hall is a 700-person capacity auditorium with two Berlin outdoor loudspeakers tied to the indoor PA system. The music inside is synchronized to the Berlins to signal the beginning of daily chapel services or other gatherings and events. The signal is produced using a 32-Channel Midas Venice console, processed through a DBX DriveRack 260 and driven by a Crown Com Tech 800 to the two Berlins.
“These Berlins are used solely for the purpose of our Summer Camp sessions,” said Arruda. “The music notifies campers and their counselors when morning or evening chapel services are beginning. The loudspeakers are then muted once everyone is inside the building so other visitors and personnel are not disturbed.”
Two Berlin loudspeakers are also installed on the roof of the Dining Hall. The long-distance audio projection allows staff to project audio down the Main Street area.
“The Dining Hall loudspeakers set the atmosphere for the entire downtown area, which includes Main Street and the Town Square,” said Arruda. “We play old western music throughout the day, like the theme from Silverado. We expect to add Vernals to this building’s lakeside outdoor eating area down the road.”
Dry Gulch USA also just completed construction of the Palace Hotel in Town Square. The hotel is an ideal companion for the Christmas Train event; children have their pictures taken with Santa Claus on the main floor, and the hotel offers rooms for overnight guests. Arruda and his team from Church on the Move installed four Vernal loudspeakers at the Palace Hotel for audio entertainment and announcements.
Although the Dining Hall and the Palace Hotel systems remain standalone for the time being, Arruda envisions eventually tying both sites into the multi-zone system. He has already tied the Sonos equipment to the Palace Hotel system, although the system is processed by a dedicated Zone Pro 640 and driven by a Crown CT 1200 amplifier. Considerations for tying in the Dining Hall system will be made once Vernals are added to the building.
“Before we established the multi-zone audio system, the Dining Hall was the only building where it was possible to hear music from a distance,” he said. “Our strategy is changing now that we have established multiple loudspeaker points with better audio in various areas. We are gradually moving away from standalone systems and toward distributed audio everywhere.”
A similar version of this story appeared in the January 2009 issue of Technologies for Worship.
by Devy Breda
We must thank the consumer electronics (PCs included) people who have developed cost-effective technologies that us pro audio folks can benefit from. Case in point is the advent of portable digital audio players (MP3 players). In the pro audio world, there is a number of manufactures that have developed and bring to market cost-effective digital or solid state audio recorders/players which have gained acceptance in many applications for field recording broadcast, sound reinforcement, and public address systems. It is not unusual now to hear these devices in use in many public spaces such as department stores, where a customer can press a call button on a pillar, which triggers a pre-produced announcement over the PA system alerting staff that “a customer requires service in the sports department,” or an announcement at the airport reminding us that the airport is a non- smoking environment.
There are many environments where a message has to be communicated to the masses either by immediate command through the push of a button, or triggered by a third-party control or by some internal scheduler. There is a number of fruitful choices from a number of manufacturers (TOA, Nel-Tech Labs, Raicom, TASCAM, Stop & Listen, etc.) that have developed products for common commercial audio applications. A recent addition to this arena of digital audio players is the Schedulon from Technomad (check out http://www.technomad. com). Yes, the folks who bring us military/ weatherproof-grade loudspeakers.
The Schedulon is a rackmount (1U) MP3 player/recorder with a built-in scheduler. With the use of a web browser or by navigating via a front panel knob and display, the Schedulon offers the ability to upload audio files, schedule playback of audio files, and automate playback of audio files. The unit utilizes flash-RAM memory, which makes this unit more dependable than a PC-based solution. Although the unit has an onboard clock, audio files can also be triggered by an external clock server.
The Schedulon can record audio from its stereo line-in jacks Â audio is encoded as high-quality (192 kbps) MP3 sound files and assigned to any desired knob location for playback. The better option is to upload the audio file using the browser application or to upload files to Schedulon’s USB memory drive from your computer.
The applications for the Schedulon and many similar units are numerous: repeat messaging at airports, department stores, malls, training facility scheduling (schools, airports, hospitals), corporate audio (no CDs to misplace), training, sports facilities (load team music or special effects for instant playback), automatic safety announcements, theme park audio, sound effects, pool-side music or DJ applications, and much more. Upon evaluation, it did not take much time to connect the unit and navigate through the browser.
Once connected and logged to the unit, you will discover six tabs (Status, Settings, Control, MP3 Upload, Knob Set, Scheduler) allowing you to view and enter values via drop-down selection. All but the Status tabs permit entering and adjustments to the unit. Without the use of a computer, you can navigate through the functions with the front knob and display, but this makes it taxing.
Different play modes can be assigned to each knob position: play forever/unit stopped by user (for sirens); play once, then stop automatically (for songs like the national anthem); and play while button held in (for sound effects). The fact that each knob position can store a different audio file AND play behavior is unique in the marketplace, I believe. The evaluation unit had 50 or so preloaded audio files, most of which, to no surprise, had military applications. One surprise that happened when I logged on was that the unit announced its IP address, which could inadvertently be announced over the PA system for all to hear.
Generally, the unit worked to expectation, and can be recommended for applications as previously noted.
The unit we evaluated did not offer any contact closure or RS232 port for interconnectivity to other control systems. The audio outputs are unbalanced (not-so-pro audio), and the device’s “current time” is found at the Status tab; however, the current time should also be at the Scheduler tab for ease of reference during programming. Additionally, the unit data port is found in the front panel, something I would not expect if this unit is to be driven by external IP-based timer or clock. Projects or systems requiring additional features may not find this unit appropriate, but overall, the Schedulon is a good performer and is basic in operation and functionality.
Devy Breda, CET, CTS, is an Audio Visual Systems Designer at Mulvey & Banani A/V, a division of Mulvey & Banani International Inc. ( http://www.mbii.com ).
The announcement of IP address can be turned off as an option. The unit can have sounds triggered by CGI commands via Ethernet/LAN, and the unit can automatically synch itself to an external time server
These are two different things. Both use the network. The time-server synch is critical if you need things to happen exactly on time, for years at a time. The Data Port (Ethernet port) can be located on the rear if requested at time of order. – Technomad LLP
This review appeared in the December 2008 issue of Professional Sound.
Solid scheduling-enabled audio player and recorder that fits the simplicity bill.
By John McJunkin
Technomad, manufacturer of military-oriented audio equipment (particularly PA systems) has introduced its Schedulon scheduling-enabled audio player/recorder. This device is nearly identical to Technomad’s SuperConductor, which is the purely military version of the device. As a manufacturer of military-grade technology, Technomad is known to make its products figuratively bulletproof, and the Schedulon was developed with this notion in mind. It records to and plays back from RAM, so there are no moving hard-disk parts to cause problems. It’s distinguished from similar computer-based solutions by the fact that it is a standalone device, immune to viruses or operating system crashes or hang-ups. I’ve always been a great believer in over-engineering, which helps avoid embarrassment and, more importantly, the potential loss of clients that can be caused by equipment failures. The Schedulon very much appeals to my sensibilities in this regard.
The military recognizes that much of its equipment is destined to be operated by 18-year-olds who have little experience with technology, so simplicity is the key word. The Schedulon’s 1RU front and rear panels very clearly fit that bill. There are just five features on the front panel: From left to right, there’s an LCD display, a data-input knob, a removable thumb-drive access panel, an RJ-45 Ethernet port, and a large bat-handle power switch. The LCD displays 32 characters on two lines, and it is very reminiscent of the old-school Yamaha processors and synthesizers. The data-entry knob is of the large variety colloquially described as “chicken-head”; it spins continuously for data input and can also be depressed as a pushbutton switch. It doesn’t get much simpler than a single knob and a basic LCD display for control and feedback.
The rear panel is also simple. From left to right, you’ll find a fuse holder, the unit’s integrated AC power cord, a Neutrik 1/4in. TRS output jack, a second RJ-45 Ethernet port, and two stereo RCA pairs representing audio in and rec in. Again, the Schedulon sports a very straightforward, no-nonsense design, which is right in line with the requirements you’d expect from the military.
The Schedulon is essentially designed to do one thing: automatically play audio at prescheduled times or immediately under human control if desired. There are obviously numerous applications for such a device. In an educational setting, specifically a school, the Schedulon can be used to play tones or recorded speech intended to alert students that class begins in 10 minutes, again 5 minutes later, and then a final alert 1 minute prior to the start of each class hour. The minimum time resolution of the scheduling is 1 minute, so countdowns that update every minute are possible. Additionally, emergency messages can be delivered, alerting students of a fire or other dangers. For numerous applications, the ability to play hourly chimes to indicate the time is nice, particularly since a specific number of chime strokes can be played or even a pleasant voice can announce that it’s 10 o’clock, for example. Up to 100 scheduled playback events can be programmed into the system. In military settings, the device can be used to play Reveille in the morning, Taps at dusk, and other military-oriented sounds. As a matter of fact, the device ships from Technomad with quite a number of military sounds, including alarm sirens and bugle calls. Among other applications, the Schedulon would also be useful in subways, airports, hospitals, or other public buildings, even to provide BGM. For that matter, this system would be useful for any application in which you would otherwise use a flash-drive-based recording/playback system.
In addition to scheduled automatic playback, immediate manual playback is easily accomplished by the Schedulon, which would be useful in the case of an emergency or other situation that necessitates immediate, spontaneous playback of certain messages or alerts. The unit allows a maximum of 99 slots for audio. The maximum length of the audio is determined by the size of the removable flash thumb drive. The unit ships from the factory with a 1GB drive, but larger drives can be installed. The unit compresses audio into .mp3 files, with resolution ranging from 32kbps to 320kbps. Audio is recorded by the unit at 192kbps, which is difficult to distinguish from CD quality by most listeners without the benefit of an A-B comparison. At the nominally standard rate of 128kbps, hundreds of songs could be stored on a system with a 1GB thumb drive. Technomad says that a future version of the system will support the recording and playback of uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV audio. The unit’s thumb drive is upgraded very easily by removing the front access panel, pulling the original drive out, and replacing it with the new one. Also, all system parameters, scheduling, and audio are stored on the thumb drive, so it can be transferred into another Schedulon unit — in effect cloning the original.
In line with the military aversion to computer viruses, complete control of all system parameters can be accomplished from the front panel, but computer control via Ethernet is indeed an option; this is the only way that externally recorded .mp3 files can be introduced to the Schedulon. It’s possible that the system would be loaded with all desired audio files and then installed with the intention of only front-panel control. On the other hand, since the system can be controlled remotely via IP, it is beneficial to maintain a network connection — particularly if you’re practicing good network security. Password protection prevents a malicious user from making changes, both from the front panel and via the network. Another major benefit to maintaining a network connection to the unit is that it can connect to a time server, keeping its internal clock precisely correct at all times. On a related note, the Schedulon has an optional backup battery available, which is again in line with the military notion of ongoing technology performance regardless of external circumstances. I discovered this battery feature when I jokingly flipped on the power switch before the unit was plugged in. Imagine my surprise when it fired up.
Among other advantages over similar audio-streaming-over-IP solutions is a network interruption that will not halt playback of critical audio from the Schedulon, since all the audio is stored internally. Additionally, IP bandwidth is not expended by audio streaming. I was prepared to announce that my only criticism of the unit was the somewhat unorthodox 1/4in. TRS audio output. I would normally expect Euro-style or barrier strips or a stereo pair of 1/4in. TRS jacks. As it transpires, however, I was shipped a beta unit. The production version will actually have stereo RCA pairs for input and output, which is a little more orthodox.
In spite of these minor inconveniences, this unit is very solid and would be a great choice for any application in which good-quality scheduled audio playback is necessary. I’d recommend taking a look at it.
John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations, and he provides high-quality podcast-production services.
- Company: Technomad
- Product: Schedulon
- Pros: Very tough and bulletproof.
- Cons: Network implementation requires pretty solid IT skills.
- Applications: Military, educational, and public-building scheduled announcements.
- Price: $1,879
- Audio playback: MP3-format audio, 32kbps to 320kbps, stereo or mono, fixed or variable bit rate.
- Audio recording: MP3-format audio, 192kbps, fixed bit rate, stereo.
- Dimensions: 19″×1.75″×10″ (W×H×D)
- Weight: 4lbs.
- Data input: RJ-45 Ethernet jack
- Audio input: 1×1/4in. TRS (stereo)
- Audio output: 1×1/4in. TRS (stereo)
This review initially appeared in the December 2008 issue of Sound & Video Contractor.