When Vanguard University rang about a sound system for their upcoming Veteran's Courtyard of Honor it sounded like an interesting challenge. Fill a space that would seat 250 people with natural, distraction-free background music as well as a wireless microphone for speaking.
Since the visual focus of the courtyard is a water fountain memorial, I wanted to develop a solution that allowed you to enjoy the waterfall while still being able to hear every word of the person speaking. This called for a distributed approach, surrounding the area in smaller speakers rather than a traditional set of large speakers projecting from the fountain/speaking area.
We installed QSC AD-S82 speakers around the courtyard about twenty feet from the ground. They were placed and directed so as to minimize interference with each other- the nasty cousin of a "blanketed with speakers" approach. We processed the audio with a Symetrix Jupiter 4 processor. The iPod input receives a fair amount of auto-leveling so that background music can STAY background when the next song in a playlist rears it's ugly loud head.
Our Shure SLX-SM86 wireless mic received a very generous helping of processing. Regardless of who is using the mic, and how far or near they hold it to their pie hole, the sound remains very consistent. Finally, automatic feedback prevention is constantly being performed in the background. Our wireless mic will often be passed around, many times directly under our amplified speakers. Feedback is terrific on Yelp, but not at a somber memorial service.
The users see an iPod connector to input music, and a simple volume control for music and voice. There is nothing else to do. This means that at 15 seconds, our training session ran long. "Here is where you plug in your iPod and here is how you turn up or down the music and voice. Even the Q&A segment ran over after I stumbled answering where the greenish-black thing stuck in my teeth had originated.
At the end of the day Vanguard landed a system which sounds consistent in all points of the courtyard. Background music and speech are all heard with gentle clarity, lacking irritating spikes and missed words in the presentation.
My toothpick and I can now attend this dedication service while still enjoying the gentle sound of the waterfall.