Medford, NJ—November 2016… Founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) as a nonprofit boarding home in 1914, Medford Leas transformed into its present mission as an accredited Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) and moved to its current location in 1971. Recently, Medford Leas added a wing for its long-term care facility, for which they wanted selectable music throughout the building and more intelligible audio in the TV-equipped common rooms. To make it happen, Medford Leas turned to technology systems provider Rethink Innovations, which is headquartered in neighboring Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Drawing on extensive experience in corporate systems integration, Rethink Innovations designed and installed a sophisticated audio system based on a Symetrix Radius 12×8 DSP.
“It’s a complex system that needs to be easy to use,” offers Rethink Innovations Managing Partner/CTO Eric Christoffersen. “Medford Leas wanted a simple way to switch between music channels, change the volume, and bring local TV audio to the same high-quality ceiling speakers as the music. Most of the common rooms, like the dining hall and lounge, needed superior audio so residents can listen to a selection of calming or energizing music. Improving intelligibility in the four rooms with TV audio was important because seniors often have a hard time hearing and understanding audio from regular TV speakers.”
The Symetrix Radius 12×8 is the core of the new system. “The Radius pulls in music sources, TV sources, and microphones and splits out to two Dante amplifiers,” Christoffersen details. “We’re using 6 analog inputs to the Radius, plus 8 Dante inputs, 16 Dante outputs, and no analog outputs. The system includes 12 zones for the main common rooms. A thirteenth zone serves a multipurpose room that has a projector and screen, and sometimes bands play there. So they can mic the band, and the audio can be broadcast to any part of the facility because it all goes through the Symetrix Radius. The audio in the various rooms is mostly controlled by busy nurses, so each room has a Crestron control panel that we’ve programmed to provide simple control.”
A key factor is that all audio in the system is converted to Dante. “The Dante aspect is one of the big reasons we chose the Symetrix Radius,” explains Christoffersen. “Another reason is that I did not want to be constrained by a fixed architecture; the Radius offers the flexibility we need, and the Symetrix Composer software makes it easy to drag-and-drop whatever I need to create a sophisticated system. The Radius also has more than enough power for us to expand the system later.”
With all audio to and from the Radius DSP traveling via Dante across data cables, the network is of critical importance. Before Rethink Innovations began work, an electrical contractor ran the new wing’s data cabling, and Medford Leas’ in-house IT department implemented the network. “The partnership with Russell Pepe and his IT team has been excellent,” praises Christoffersen. “Without their blessing and help, this project would not have worked. Everything that ends up at a speaker is IP. There’s not one thing that doesn’t have an IP address, so no matter where the rooms are, we can piggyback on the network. We can look in on and talk to every device for off-site monitoring and troubleshooting. As long as the network is good, we’re good.”
Designing the system around existing cabling had its challenges; for example, there was only one data pull for the televisions. “We were challenged using that one cable,” Christoffersen admits. “The TVs need to be online in order to stream movies and the like but we also have to stream TV audio to the Radius so we can send it to the ceiling speakers. We solved it with an Attero Tech converter, which has PoE input and data output to feed the TV. That let us use the single data cable to provide Internet access to the TV, as well as sending audio back to the Symetrix Radius DSP.”
The management at Medford Leas is delighted with their new system. “The system works very well and is easy to use, and we’ll expand it further as they continue to develop the facility,” Christoffersen confirms. “We plan to expand with another network amp and add eight more rooms in the future, all centered around the Symetrix Radius.”