THE PROPOSITION

A voice alarm system with the flexibility and quality of pro-audio, harnessing the best open-source components for your voice evacuation project.

Enabling Dante within EN54 environments

By enabling Dante within EN54 environments, we create the opportunity to harness the very best ‘open-source’ high quality pro audio equipment to a powerful voice evacuation system to provide comprehensive venue solutions operating to EN54 standards without compromise.

HOW TO ACHIEVE IT

Adding a Dante Brooklyn chipset to a voice evacuation router with flexible IP networking allows us to approach the Dante element of an environment as a ‘layer’ of functionality above and on top of core EN54 capabilities. Taking such an approach allows entire audio installations within venues including performance spaces, in addition to voice evacuation zones in typical public spaces, to achieve EN54 compliance.

 

CONSTRUCTION PRODUCTS REGULATION (CPR)

EN54-Dante-White-Paper-A4-ThumbAccording to the Construction Products Regulation, it is mandatory that Fire Detection and Fire Alarm equipment is certified under EN54 standard by an authorised certification body. The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) came into effect from 1 July 2013; products which are placed on the market in the EU after that date must comply with the provisions of the Regulation, and by extension therefore with EN54. When EN54 first became mandatory the range of audio products available was small and aimed primarily at voice reproduction. In the last 5 years EN54 systems have become more acceptable but are still limited when addressing the requirements of a flexible venue such as a large hotel, exhibition centre or stadium. The introduction of hybrid EN54 / Dante solutions offers the opportunity in large-scale, multi-application venues to remove boundaries between what has previously been two separate systems i.e.EN54 voice evacuation systems and pro-audio systems, without compromising performance or safety.

THE MARKET FOR HYBRID EN54 / DANTE SOLUTIONS

Until now, we have seen that stadiums in particular have struggle to source fully EN54 compliant voice evacuation systems, mainly due to issues surrounding delivery of the required 105dB at listener positions in the crowd seating area or ‘bowl’ when using traditional EN54 compliant battery backed amplifiers. Battery-backed voice evacuation amplifiers have traditionally been used to drive circuits of multiple 100v line loudspeakers rather than individual large point-source/line-array loudspeakers used in stadium ‘bowls’ for sporting events, rock concerts etc. Stadium projects also require flexibility in performance functionality offering different modes of operation for varying events, including comprehensive ‘live’ mixing facilities etc. for staged events.

A hybrid EN54 / Dante system used in such an environment delivers on all fronts. It provides EN54 compliant solutions to all zones of stadia and large venues, with the flexible programmability and functionality required. This is also the case for large hotel complexes. Often it is a requirement within the architecturally considered front of house areas, such as ballrooms, for loudspeaker installations to be minimised. In this example it is more acceptable for only one set of loudspeakers to manage the dual roles of sound reinforcement and voice evacuation. When you consider the advantages of combined hybrid EN54 / Dante solutions more and more use cases come to mind.

THE TECHNOLOGY

EN54 system technology requires a set of distributed voice alarm routers, such as the ASL VIPEDIA, to be connected via a 1GB fibre dedicated dual redundant network, running rapid spanning tree protocol (RSTP), to provide diverse routing in the event of cable failure. Fire service microphones and connections to the fire detection panel are connected to the routers to trigger evacuation messages or sequences of pre-recorded messages. Non-Dante IP paging microphones for standard paging and remote controls for volume and source selection in zones are also commonly used. Audio outputs of the voice alarm routers are connected to EN54 amplifiers, for example ASL V2000, which in turn connect to EN54-24 loudspeakers. Available EN54 loudspeakers now cover a broad spectrum of passive point source devices, from a small 100mm ceiling loudspeaker to a 500W horn-loaded multi-way loudspeaker, for example Community R2.

EN54 amplifiers use twin power sources, typically mains and 24VDC, and monitor all signal paths and loudspeaker lines in accordance with EN54 and national standards such as BS5839pt8.

With Dante layers added to EN54 solutions we can connect components normally associated with pro-audio solutions such as ‘live’ mixing desks, separate high power amplifiers for sub-bass loudspeakers (where frequencies do not contribute to intelligibility ratings for EN54 compliancy), active Dante input plates, line array loudspeakers and more.

Dante enabled mixing desks are able to contribute scene setting, presets and offer the ability to control systems from devices such as smart-phones and tablets around in the venue.

In situations where designers may require a larger number of Dante channels than a 1Gb Secure VA link between voice alarm routers can provide, a separate 10Gb link between Dante devices can be provided for the multi-channel aspect with links to hook across only the number of actual channels required for VA transmission at various VA router locations.

To ensure voice evacuation messages are delivered with maximum clarity and intelligibility within the context of overall system performance, base EN54 systems are required to be set up for the venue with room equalisation and delay.

Engineers looking for a different equalisation setting from their feeds into the system, for example for a foreground music system with a different EQ curve, simply need to compensate from how the EN54 system is set

THE PRESENT LIMITS OF EN54

In the current version of EN54, tests and certifications for Dante transmission or for active loudspeakers are not present in the standard. The standard is currently being revised for a new edition in the future. By looking at what can be monitored with these hybrid systems we can contribute to the revision of the EN54 standards.

It is possible to monitor the Dante clocks working within the Brooklyn chipset in the voice-alarm router ASL VIPEDIA to ensure the chipset is running. Data sent over the secure EN54 link route between voice-alarm routers can be CRC error checked to validate data packets. This provides security in internal transmission.

When the EN54 system is receiving inputs from external Dante sources, we can request the Dante source is configured to transmit a 20kHz tone continuously. We can monitor the arrival of this tone in the voice-alarm router and by checking this periodically in accordance with VA standards we can confirm the link between the Dante source and voice-alarm router is intact and the transmitting device is powered up and alive.

When transmitting outputs to Dante, monitoring isn’t often considered but with some product and software development it would undoubtedly be possible to monitor connections.

We can use Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) capture from external devices to check for faults in the system. These can be relayed through the EN54 voice alarm reporting system for fault logging. Normal procedures for passing the fault log on detection to the system maintainer can be followed.

CONCLUSION

Whilst the variety and performance of products certified to EN54 has increased considerably, the user requirements for larger project sound systems has also expanded. As such, a hybrid EN54 / Dante system is highly desirable. This can now be achieved with seamless connectivity between both systems, dramatically enhancing overall solutions.

ASL is pleased to release the EN54 certified VIPEDIA-PRO with Dante to herald this new era and is working with the EN54 committee to consider how the integration can be embedded in future editions of the EN54 standard.