Royal Albert Hall

Voice Alarm Project

Voice Alarm Specialists t. 01440 730948
Built in 1867 the Royal Albert Hall is a world famous venue for live music and events.  Located on the south side of Kensington Gardens in London, it has a seating capacity  of almost 6,000 and plays host to a vast array of events including Cirque du Soleil,  Jools Holland and the annual BBC Proms. Forming part of the essential life safety system, the primary role of a voice alarm  system is to broadcast pre-recorded messages to ensure everyone in the building is  quickly and efficiently evacuated in the event of an emergency. The system is also  important for paging announcements, routine messages, distribution of background  music and show relay audio.   The original system was modified and expanded in 2001, with the installation of  Baldwin Boxall microphones and amplification equipment. However, equipment  obsolescence was identified in 2012 as a potential risk to its operation with failure of  key elements of rack equipment resulting in system down time and potential  cancellation of events and performances. Ceiling, wall mounted cabinets and horn  type loudspeakers are installed throughout the building and connected to a central  suite of equipment racks using over 50 fire rated circuits configured into 30  addressable zones. Professional Sound Consultancy's proud association with the Royal Albert Hall began  in May 2012 following the award of a 5-year voice alarm system service and  maintenance contract.  Having completed a number of minor alterations to the voice  alarm system, associated with various refurbishment projects within the Hall,  Professional Sound Consultancy were invited by the Royal Albert Hall to develop  plans and proposals to upgrade the installation. Key issues and requirements for the upgrade were identified and agreed by  Professional Sound Consultancy and the Royal Albert Hall covering -  Removal of equipment obsolescence Increased system resilience Increase system capacity  Enhanced user controls The two existing control racks, containing the obsolete BVR20 audio routers, were to  be completely removed; new EVAS DSP audio processors and associated equipment  were to be installed within a spare amplifier rack in the adjoining rack room and  interfaced with the existing, maintainable, audio amplifiers and battery backup system;  system capacity was to be increased with the addition of slave routers to increase the  total audio input/output count, along with rack mounted input sockets for connection of  future audio sources; four new microphones would replace the existing units and  include a BVRD16M desk mounted emergency microphone and three touch screen  PC controlled microphones. To provide a more intuitive user experience each of the  touch screen controlled PC’s would be provided with a custom created graphical user  interface.  Features such as user login, recording and playback of non-emergency messages,  scheduled broadcast of pre-recorded messages, routing of audio sources and volume controls for each zone were all to be included.  In July 2013 the Royal Albert Hall instructed Professional Sound Consultancy to  undertake the work. The biggest challenge for the Royal Albert Hall voice alarm  upgrade was the requirement for the system to be fully operational throughout the  duration of the project, to avoid interference with the packed calendar of events and  performances. A single maintenance week in September 2013 was identified during  which the system functionality could be reduced. Detailed planning for development of  a robust schedule of work allowing for no overruns, ensuring planned events directly  after the maintenance week went ahead on time.  Site activities were divided into three sections: work to be completed prior to  maintenance week, during and after the week.  Prior to work commencing on site the new audio matrices and control equipment were  manufactured, assembled and tested in conjunction with the newly written touch  screen microphone PC software at Baldwin Boxall’s factory in Crowborough, before  
undergoing a formal factory acceptance test.  On site, all the new cable infrastructure was installed prior to the  installation of microphones; the new audio matrices and control  equipment were installed into an equipment rack and tested  locally with the new microphones, whilst the original system  continued to provide coverage to the building. Cable looms were  assembled and installed between the new audio matrices and  existing amplifiers in readiness for their connection during  maintenance week. During this period a touch screen  microphone test rig was set up within the Royal Albert Hall to give  future users of the system time to familiarise themselves with the  operation of the new graphical user interface and control  facilities. This included how paging routes were made and new  non-emergency messages were recorded and broadcast. During the maintenance week each voice alarm zone was  migrated from the existing control hardware to the new audio  matrices, enabling the new microphones and audio matrices to  provide voice alarm coverage throughout the building. An  intensive series of testing, measurements and adjustments were  carried out to ensure all system cause and effects and volume  levels were correct.  After maintenance week redundant audio matrices, control  equipment, racks, microphones and cabling were removed, as  well as training sessions for the venues’ staff by Professional  Sound Consultancy. They also provided engineer attendance at  the Royal Albert Hall for a number of days after the upgrade to  allow for any last minute adjustments or to answer any questions  the staff may have.  Thanks to the technical input from Baldwin Boxall, a close  working relationship with the Hall’s management team and a  detailed project plan and concise working structure, Professional  Sound Consultancy were able to deliver a very complex and  technically difficult upgrade within the limited time scale, all with  no adverse affects to the events and performance at the Royal  Albert Hall.  Professional Sound Consultancy continue to provide service and   maintenance and further enhancements to the voice alarm  system and look forward to a long working relationship with the  Royal Albert Hall.  Tony Gale, Facilities Manager Royal Albert Hall, says Professional Sound Consultancy have been a joy to work with. Their analysis of our system and of our business need, matched by superb technical solutions in partnership with Baldwin Boxall, have been outstanding and extremely professional at every stage since we have been working with them. The main upgrade of the system, carried out within the constraints of the limited downtime we could provide, was little short of miraculous! And the resulting system met every single one of our objectives.”
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