PA Override for Classroom Audio Systems

If you are looking to get a good sound system for your classroom orconference room, one of the questions that typically comes up is this: Should I have PA (or alarm) pass-through for my sound system?

It’s a good question to ask since it could potentially have an impact on safety. The reasons may seem obvious, but there are several factors that should be thought through for your particular application.  

The most common aspect to consider is a scenario where the local audio in the room is being played and is loud enough where it interferes with hearing anannouncements.  If the announcement is not that important, maybe the consequences are not significant.  However, if the announcement is one that requires taking action immediately for safety reasons,the impact of not having PA override could be considerable.  Over the last few years, we have noticed that more and more customers are requesting amplifiers that do have PA override.  At the very least, this should be a feature that will mute the local audio during anannouncements so that the PA message can be easily heard.  At Roemtech, currently, we offer two different amplifiers that offer both PA override and pass-through.  These features are found in the DMA-355H and the PMA-350H+.  

Another aspect to consider is this; some hold the position that relying on the amplifier to do both (PA muting and pass-through) is asking too much of one piece of equipment.  However, if an amplifier already has the ability to mute the local audio during a general PA message, then passing it through where it is heard intelligibly is not that difficult of a task.  One could make the argument that if there is a partial power failure, then you may lose the ability to broadcast the PA message to the areas that have lost power.  This is a valid concern and one that should be considered when trying to make a decision on the feature sets of the sound system.

From a cost standpoint, having a local amplifier that does both PA override and pass-through makes good sense.  You don’t need extra dedicated PA speakers for one.  For another, the speaker wire that you run to each local amplifier for PA messaging can be much thinner since there is almost no current carried by it.

As a side note, more and more education centers are installing large, flat-panel displays and using the in-built speakers for their local audio.  In many cases these speakers provide adequate audio for the conference room or classroom. However, they overlook the important safety aspect of having a PA override feature.  This may seem like an easy answer and a good way to save money, but it opens the door for possible liability in the case of an emergency.  At Roemtech, we recommend that clients seriously consider choosing a local sound system that provides at least PA muting for general announcements.  The cost difference is not that much and the safety payoffs are well worth it.