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OWI Enhances Classroom Audio for Virginia’s Chesterfield County School District

Oct 18, 2006 8:35 PM

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As many educators often find themselves in the same predicament, Chesterfield County School District’s Manager of Video Technology Brian Jones was recently in the position of a having a new visual system with substandard sound. “We were in the process of installing LCD projectors in all of our high school classrooms, about 700 classrooms total," says Jones, who oversees video production as well as video technologies in classrooms for the entire district. "LCD projectors typically come with very small, low-powered speakers—definitely not adequate for a classroom of 25 students, even if they’re being very quiet. We knew we needed additional speakers for these projectors.”

Jones knew that, in addition to LCD projectors, teachers would be displaying a variety of visual learning aids, and he wanted audio operation to be simple. An arrangement was needed so that a teacher could use the same remote to increase or decrease volume, no matter if they were using the LCD projector, their laptop, or their DVD player.

The LCD projectors were ceiling-mounted, so it made sense that the speakers should be ceiling-mounted as well, cutting down on wiring and other potential costs. Jones began searching for ceiling speakers, and found that available equipment was as inadequate as the LCD projector speakers he needed to replace. The speakers he found were mostly of the type used for an intercom or for piped-in music. Such a system consists of a series of non-powered ceiling-mounted speakers connected to a single amplifier, which was located somewhere in the room. For Jones, utilization of these speakers meant that every classroom would require an amplifier, which he found unacceptable. Accessible to anyone in the room, an amplifier could be damaged or have its settings incorrectly altered. The solution, he realized, was ceiling-mounted speakers with built-in amplifiers which would require no separate components.

In the first few schools where the LCD projectors were installed he had to compromise with wall-mounted self-powered speakers. He humorously recalls how he finally happened on the right solution. It came about in conversation with a retired audio-visual integrator who couldn’t remember a brand name, but seemed to recall “something about an owl”. Jones’ subsequent search led him through “owl speakers” and finally to the correct spelling—OWI. As only one of two manufacturers that make ceiling-mounted self-powered speakers, OWI Incorporated of Carson, Calif., beat out the competition based on competitive pricing.

OWI offers three different in-ceiling mounted self-powered speakers. Models AMP IC5 and AMP IC6 have 25W of peak power and will support three additional non-powered speakers. Model AMP-31C6 also has a peak power of 25W, supports three additional non-powered speakers, and will also support 50 powered speakers on the same line.

After the install, the OWI speakers fit in so well that several teachers didn’t know they had been installed and asked Jones when the new speakers were coming. He surprised them by telling them the speakers were right there, ready for use.

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