The New York State Assembly recently saw the completion of a major effort to modernize its chamber and improve efficiency. In addition to replacing antiquated voting machines and telephone equipment, there were dramatic improvements to the audio capabilities to enhance speech intelligibility and facilitate better control. At the core of the audio enhancements are new multi-function voting consoles-each equipped with a custom designed microphone from Audix Corporation.
International Roll-Call Corporation (IRC) of Mechanicsville VA, which designs, fabricates, and installs legislative voting systems at the federal, state, and local level, was contracted to handle the modernization of the New York State Assembly. IRC subcontracted the project's audio system design and implementation to Code3AV, Inc. of Richmond VA, a full service AV integrator.
One of the greatest challenges of the New York State Assembly project was implementing the new technology without disturbing the facility's aesthetics. The solution was to design new voting consoles that adorn each desk. As IRC President William C. Schaeffer described, "These consoles pack a great deal of functionality into a single area on the desktop while keeping a low profile."
According to Patrick Hearring, Code3AV's President, "Our firm was tasked with designing a new audio system for the Assembly's chamber. This included covering over 170 delegate desks, dais, a rear gallery (the public seating area at the back of chamber), as well as a wrap-around balcony. We coordinated the microphones, loudspeakers, amplifiers, and DSP mixing."
Central to each voting console is the custom-designed Audix microphone, as Hearring described, "We discovered each desk had floor boxes under them and there was an accessible basement / crawl space under the main chamber for pulling cable. We worked with IRC to integrate a 3-inch Fostex FE83En loudspeaker and a microphone into each voting console. The delegates stand when they speak, so a pull-up style mic on a retractor was considered. However, management preferred a stationary mic, as they had experienced cable tangles and retractor failures in the past. We looked at many stock versions of gooseneck microphones, but due to the nature of the use, the goosenecks would fail over time - creating a continual maintenance issue."
Hearring continued, "We wanted a mic designed for speech intelligibility that offered a durable rigid tube design-allowing the delegate to pull the mic up when they stand to speak, then lay the mic down-minimizing visual distractions- when seated. This arrangement necessitated a mic with good pickup range to acquire the voice of a standing delegate. We had used many Audix mics in the past, so I called Gene Houck, Director of Sales at Audix, thinking he would be open to the idea."
According to Houck, "Although we did not have this style of microphone, we were drawn to the challenge of producing our own design for this application. This resulted in our M65 rigid tube desk microphone, which offers the durability of solid brass for both the rigid tube component and the mounting mechanism. We also designed a proprietary shock resistant mounting flange that minimizes table sound transference. The aesthetics are enhanced by its unique black nickel plating and the use of our high output MicrosTM series condenser element ensures pristine sound quality."
Summing up the project's audio challenges, Hearring reports, "The Audix mics made a world of difference on this project. The hypercardioid capsule offers 130dB maximum SPL plus plenty of headroom without distortion while the swivel mount with shock protection provides quiet movement and isolation. IRC's Schaeffer echoed Hearring's enthusiasm, "These mics were the perfect solution for the new voting consoles. They provide a wealth of functionality in a compact form factor that doesn't detract from the beauty of the chamber. The New York State Assembly is very happy with the new equipment and say it has greatly increased the quality of their session proceedings-especially where audio is concerned."