Global strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Virginia recently installed one of the largest Symetrix SymNet audio networks ever built for an upgrade in their 147-seat corporate meeting space known as Newman Auditorium.

"In 2002, we recognized a need to redesign and upgrade our AV systems to showcase the latest advances in technology and to better serve the complex needs of our clients," said Gary L. Hall, CTS-I, CTS-D, regional AV lead for Booz Allen. "So in 2004, we began execution of a project to overhaul the systems in the auditorium."

The Newman Auditorium was originally constructed in the mid-1990s and installed with the current AV technology of that time. Ten years later, Newman Auditorium's aging systems were under constant use and stress so Hall, along with colleague Edwin Morman, CTS-I, worked with Rick Winde, national accounts director, systems division, for professional products, Inc. (PPI) and with internal teams to formulate the install plan. "The biggest challenge was the ailing sound system, one with patchwork processing and problems interfacing with the other systems," said Hall.

While most physical aspects of the auditorium would not change, the entire technological backbone was upgraded. All seats were removed and the former delegate microphones that were daisy-chained at each seat were replaced with new custom integrated stations complete with off-the-shelf microphones with light ring and a contact closure switch at each seat. The microphone light ring and push buttons were tied directly to the I/O modules in the SymNet system. "With the delegate system wired as a single I/O, we were limited in our capabilities," said Morman, who served as project manager for the install. "The digital audio platform allowed for a clean signal with no incremental addition of noise, as well as expanded AV capabilities."

"One of the biggest technology advancements installed here is the SymNet network," commented Hall. "Using SymNet's Control I/Os and the RS-232 features, we could take advantage of the camera system's automatic or cued preset recall to work with the microphone's push-to-talk feature. When the button on a microphone is pushed, video follows the audio automatically."

All audio signals are processed by the SymNet network. The network is comprised of two SymNet CobraLink units linking two rings of SymNet equipment. Each ring can contain up to 15 devices in addition to the CobraLink. The SymLink bus within each ring allows for up to 64 channels of reusable audio to pass between devices the ring. The entire system consist of five SymNet 8X8 DSP units, two SymNet 8in DSP units, fourteen SymNet BreakIn12 A/D units, and eighteen SymNet Control I/Os for gating control of the delegate microphones and power to their light rings.

PPI worked directly with Michael Warona at Symetrix to create a custom, flexible I/O layout that allowed for an agile mixing architecture for all 147 microphones. The powerful processing allowed for separate mixes for four zones of sound reinforcement, Dolby surround for playback, and output for recording or audio conferencing, as well as two auxiliary mixes of all sources for feeds to the nearby conference center and demo room. The team added a physical console capable of controlling the SymNet system directly via MIDI for tactile control of their record mix. They integrated soft control over RS-232 with the installed Crestron system for control of the remaining mixes. "The SymNet network system was a huge change for us. The flexibility of the system means that we can easily keep pace with advancing audio technology in the future," said Hall. "Once you start experiencing audio issues, a meeting is no longer effective. I am confident that the SymNet network provides all the processing and control capabilities we need in a solid, reliable platform."

The network, and other AV components, were installed over a two-week period in December 2005, and made its functional debut January 4, 2006.