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PAVA systems: Kevin Hilton looks at the two systems - public address and voice alarm

Although they perform different functions and use different equipment, public address and voice alarm are often treated as a single discipline. Kevin Hilton looks at the fundamental uses of the two, where they differ and how quality can be ensured for both.

Public address (PA) and voice alarm (VA) are usually spoken of in the same breath, joined together as a set of initials: PA/VA. They do, however, have their own specific functions, applications and technology requirements that are tailored directly to the particular use for which they were each intended.

Even if most people do not understand the technology and equipment behind PA, they do know what it is used for. Loudspeaker announcements to inform shoppers about the latest sale offers or what is being served in the cafe; and instructing travellers where to catch their train or plane. Both are a necessary part of modern life.

The roots of PA go back to the Second World War when loudspeaker manufacturer Guy R Fountain Limited (previously the Tulsemere Manufacturing Company) supplied its Tannoy branded loudspeakers to the British armed forces. After the war, Tannoy systems gained a public profile when they were installed in holiday camps, leading to the name becoming a generic term for PA, in the same way that Hoover was for vacuum cleaners.

Tannoy’s loudspeakers of that time were typically encased in rectangular wooden frames with a grill bearing the brand name on the front. As other manufacturers moved into the PA market different styles of speaker emerged, including horns on stands and wall-mounted columns. These, produced by companies including Penton, continue to feature in installations today but cabinet-style loudspeakers are now also regularly used for PA work. This has been very much the case in the last 20 to 30 years, during which time there has been a move towards using professional audio equipment in situations that would have otherwise been regarded as traditionally PA.

This is an excerpt from the full article, written by Kevin Hilton, which can be read here:

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