Choosing the right Loudspeakers for a PA or background music system

HowToAV audio expert - Jon Doar - looks at the options available and how choosing the right loudspeaker for your environment and the correct positioning of your loudspeaker and how significant this is to ensure in an effective communications system.

Installing the correct choice of loudspeakers is the number one priority for a clear and effective public address or background music system.

Buy horn speakers for your public address sytem from CIE GroupIs the role of our Audio System going to affect the quality of sound reproduction or clarity needed?

Indeed, the three disciplines: the informing, warning and entertaining categories that we use when planning a system all follow the same principles when we’re looking at the type of loudspeaker that we need and type of loudspeaker that the environment needs.

Understanding the acoustic environment of our application and how this is going to affect our choice of loudspeaker:

Every environment is different – things such as the acoustics, the size of venue and area you need to cover, ambient noise, the amount of people in the environment and what activity is in the environment. These all have an impact on the type of speaker that we need to provide.

Speaker choices available for low ambient noise level indoor environments:

Many spaces – offices, schools and retail have low ambient noise levels. The key speaker that you would utilise in an environment as such would be a ceiling speaker; this is placed in the ceiling and provides an even coverage - very simple and straightforward. However, that is not always possible to provide that type of coverage within the environment, so we would look at utilising a wall speaker that’s would sit around the edge of the space and project the sound into the space. This is very effective in an environment with low ambient noise level but where you need to ensure the coverage is clear.

Speaker choices available for high ambient noise level indoor environments such as factories:

Factories and industrial environments are a little more difficult. Typically you have to overcome machinery or higher ambient noise levels. To overcome this you would look at providing sound through a horn speaker which would give a significantly higher sound output to overcome the background noise or sound pressure levels within the space. Horn speakers are typically used in very noisy environments. If the horn speaker is too much of overkill for that type of environment, you could also fall back onto the sound projector. The sound projector allows the sound to be pinpointed towards the area it is required, but is not as harsh as the horn speaker. Therefore it is going to give us better sound quality.

What if we want background music or radio in the factory environment?

The horn speaker is tailored more towards voice frequencies where as the sound projector offers a wider frequency response working very well with voice and background music.

Speaker choices for warehouse and large shed retail environments:

In warehousing and retail environments we tend to use suspended speakers. These speakers are typically hung from 4-6 metres high, they allow us to provide (with height) a very wide coverage area and wide footprint of sound coverage that allows you to cover the space effectively for paging and background music.

What factors need to be considered when using speakers for outdoor environments?

axis horn speaker c3003-eThe outdoor environment has its own challenges. Being outdoors there are a number of factors to consider including; area coverage, difficult acoustics  and the environmental conditions of rain, changing temperatures and public access areas where damage and vandalism are concerns. One of the key factors you have to consider when using speakers outdoors is noise pollution. The railway station for example – we need to ensure the messages get through to passengers but that they don’t go through to adjoining housing, school or industrial area. To do this you tailor the loudspeakers little and often to make sure that we’re able to get the message across but not providing a noise pollution or irritant to nearby neighbours and local areas.

Also IP protection or Ingress Protection is really important to loudspeakers as well. A loudspeaker that has an IP protection number against it means that you can very effectively use it outside. The higher the number, the higher the protection for example an IP67 unit – we would happily use that outdoors in the middle of a field and it would work perfectly. However something else which is perhaps 43 or 44 IP range you would look to make sure that was installed somewhere where it was protected or under some sort of canopy.

When choosing the right speaker for public address or background music systems always consider:

  • Environment - the acoustics, the reverberation times and reflective surfaces.
  • Ambient noise – is the environment quiet or surrounded by noisy machinery, vehicles and crowds?
  • Area Coverage – you may be installing into a classroom, an office or a huge warehouse or car park.
  • Quality and clarity of sound – if you’re providing messaging or critical voice evacuation then clarity is going to be paramount or in background music or audio marketing quality of sound is likely to be the deciding factor.
  • Aesthetics – some loudspeakers are wonderful and stylish or invisible others not so pretty but built to last!
  • Directionally – it is important for the sound to be evenly dispersed or directed to very distinc areas in the environment.
  • Environmental factors – outdoor installations, public access areas and harsh environments will need to consider the IP rating required.

Want help with your public address or background music system design?

Get help choosing the right loudspeaker for a PA or background music system design from CIECIE is one of the UK's leading and most innovative professional AV distributors and are widely accepted as the experts in commercial sound systems design and supply.
Our professional system design team provide a unique AV system architecture service for installers and integrators to help you deliver the best in public address, background music and professional AV systems.

If you would like to discuss you next AV system or would like more information on the latest analogue and IP audio products, please call our team today on T. 0115 9770075 or email us now. free audio visual training channelGot a question for CIE's HowToAV team?.. provides a whole host of tips, tricks and technology know-how for the professional audio visual industry.
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