Several months after it marked its 50th anniversary with an extensive renovation that included new acoustics and sound system, the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary added a new state-of-the art paging system based on the powerful digital signal mixing, routing, and processing capabilities of the SymNet Network Audio Solution from Symetrix.

Essential to ensuring the safety of patrons and the ability to relay audio content from announcements to music to emergency evacuations, the new paging system is a vital piece of the auditorium upgrade, according to Craig Spallin, the facility's house audio technician. It was one worth waiting for, he says.

"When the bulk of the renovation was complete in September 2005 the funds weren't available to upgrade the ten year-old digital paging system," Spallin says. "So we had to reopen this beautiful Alberta Provincial Government-owned entertainment facility with the old paging system in place."

When the paging system became unreliable following the reopening, the auditorium's decision makers looked to SymNet as the technology to build a highly capable method of handling the complex signal processing and routing needed for the 196,000 square-foot facility with a 2,500-seat theatre and over twelve ancillary spaces.

"As a professional theatre and government facility our requirement for a reliable, flexible, yet simple-to-use, paging system was of the highest importance," Spallin says. "There were quite a few specific demands that we needed to place on the paging system. Although the new system emulates many of the functions of the old one, SymNet allowed us to improve it quite a bit in terms of paging priority capabilities, discrete zoning and the flexibility to move freely between all of the zones."

Built around five SymNet 8x8 DSP units, three of which were redeployed from the main sound system in the theatre, the facility's paging system consists of sixteen separate zones and eight paging panels and one audio matrix panel that incorporate a total of 33 SymNet Adaptive Remote Control (ARC) units. Currently configured to handle 38 inputs and 24 outputs spanning all of the zones, which utilize ceiling-mounted, 70-volt speakers powered by various QSC CX-series amplifiers, and eight dynamic gooseneck microphones at each paging station, the system allows messages and other audio to be easily relayed to the proper areas.

"We needed a system that had very specific zone control—when we're running a show the FOH manager needs to be able to page lobby announcements to the public, but without the same announcements being heard in the backstage area, where they need their own set of announcements," Spallin says. "The nice thing about the SymNet system is that each zone has a Super-module built in. One of those functions is a paging priority selector. The system also ties into the fire alarm system, and two microphones are provided (add), one at the main door and one at the stage door, to allow for fire department evacuation of the building."

The audio matrix control panel, housed in the central equipment room, allows for the routing of background music into both the various lobby areas and several conference rooms. While six of the paging panels are set up to access only eight zones, two master panels are configured to allow access at the push of a button to all zones.

Another feature of the system is the deployment of ambient noise microphones in the public paging zones. The microphones monitor the noise level in its zone and relay the data to the system, enabling the volume level to be adjusted up or down as needed to maintain full intelligibility.

Such capabilities are a big part of the reason the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium opted to utilize SymNet for the paging system. The system's user-friendliness, paired with its technological superiority and flexibility, make it the ideal solution for an entertainment facility that needs a dependable solution for a sometimes mundane, yet clearly vital task.

"From an end-user's vantage point, SymNet is easy to use and simple to work on as needed," Spallin says. "It's very clear in the software application what the audio path is, how it's working, and what needs to be done to make changes that might be required."