Although the universe of institutions that require professional sound reinforcement includes churches, schools, and other places that can make a sound integrator feel warm and fuzzy at the end of the day, it is also populated by places like the Yaphank Correctional Facility (YCF) on Long Island, New York. The new $133-million building will house 650 inmates when it is finally commissioned for operation in the spring of 2012.
To deliver both routine and safety-related information, Pro Sound Alliance (Troy, New York) a division of Live Sound, Inc., provided a three-tiered redundant paging system centered on the (figuratively) bulletproof Ashly Pema™ powered processor.
The new YCF is designed around six “pods,” each of which will house one-hundred, or so, inmates in a way that maximizes the efficiency with which they can be guarded. Beyond the pods, common areas, food preparation quarters, medical facilities, etc. require dedicated paging zones as well.
Pro Sound Alliance general manager Dominick Campana served as project engineer at YCF. “It was a little bit complicated, as we were a subcontractor to a subcontractor to a subcontractor to a prime contractor for the owner, Suffolk County Department of Public Works,” he laughed.
“They were counting on our expertise to design and install a system that would deliver the functionality and performance required by the Sheriff's department together with the architect and engineer's specifications and concept drawing.”
“Acoustics are seldom addressed in such facilities. There are little or no absorptive surface materials. All of the speakers are hindered by heavy-duty vandal-proof hardware. The potential background noise is extremely loud. Most input signals are generated from telephone-quality paging and security systems. And so, with all that stacked up against me, I had to find a processor and amplifier capable of multi-layer priority ducking, matrix routing, extensive signal processing, and significant output power to make sure that all pages and announcements are heard loud and clear,” he continued.
The Ashly Pema multi-channel amp with on-board Protea™ DSP processor met all of those requirements at a fair price-point and with Ashly’s reliability and support.
The system covers thirty-plus zones with one Ashly Pema 8250.70 and six Pema 4250.70s powering over 600 Lowell 805-T72 loudspeakers. Both Pema models provide full-blooded 8x8 DSP together with eight (8250) or four (4250) 250-watt amplifier channels in just two rack spaces. Three redundant paging systems at different priority levels provide input.
An industrial-grade Black Creek security intercom system provides top-priority paging: any Black Creek handset or computer-controlled announcement or alarm will immediately take control of the PA system. The most commonly used paging source occupies the second level – a comprehensive Stentofon IP telephone paging system with sixteen microphone stations located throughout the facility. Finally, built-in microphones and program sources at each of seven head ends provides the third-level input.
“We were introduced to the Ashly Pema through our extensive use of the Ashly ne24.24M modular DSP,” said Campana. “We love the flexibility, simplicity, and power of the Protea software platform. Moreover, Ashly’s ‘network-enabled’ equipment is vastly easier to use than other equipment in its class. Instead of opening up control panels, messing with ‘COMM-this’ and ‘PORT-that’ for two hours, the Ashly equipment plugs into the computer and just works.”
While Campana says he welcomes that speed and simplicity at any job, it was especially important at YCF. “Getting in there for any changes will not be easy,” he laughed.
“The process can take quite awhile! With the Ashly Pema in place, I was able to make efficient use of my time. It will be even trickier to go back for any updates or a service call when the inmates are in residence, so I’m glad, first, that the Ashly gear is so solid, and, second, that it’s so quick to work with in case I have to go back.”
Campana reported that the sales support from Charlie Eaton at Eaton Sales and Marketing was exemplary.
Campana commissioned the system in the presence of prison officials and security system integrators.
“They were stunned at how wonderful it sounded,” he said. “They’re not used to working with people from a true audio background. I wasn’t just trying to make the pages intelligible, I was trying to make them pleasingly so!”
Where most security integrators might tap a loudspeaker at 0.5 or 1 watt, Campana leveraged the muscle of the Ashly Pema units to tap loudspeakers at between 5 and 7.5 watts.
“I know that people are under the impression that there are tons of powerful amps out there,” he said. “But I defy anyone to come close to the Pema’s eight channels at 250 watts each with full DSP in just two rack spaces at the price point Ashly manages. It’s a godsend. It’s perfect.”