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North Dakota Legislators Receive Audio Boost

Mics at every desk improve understanding

The Senate Chamber at the North Dakota State Capitol, featuring ES935SC6 cardioid condenser gooseneck microphones from Audio-Technica. Photo courtesy of Tricorne Audio.

STOW, Ohio — By 2014, the existing sound system in the North Dakota state legislature was 17 years old and the microphones in it dated back to the upgrade before that. Last year, Tricorne Audio, an AV systems integration company with offices in Fargo and Bismarck, N.D., was hired to completely renovate these audio systems, and an upgrade was long overdue.

As part of the system re-design, Tricorne needed to choose a new microphone that would be easy for legislators to use, with a user-accessible mute switch; have excellent sound and a high degree of speech intelligibility; and have a minimal profile that would let lawmakers’ faces be visible during the live webcasts the legislature streams from its sessions. One microphone came through on all of those counts and more: the ES935SC6 cardioid condenser gooseneck microphone from Audio-Technica. Part of A-T’s Engineered Sound line, Tricorne installed a total of 162 ES935SC6 microphones — 108 in the State House of Representatives and 54 in the State Senate.

“The microphones that we found in use there when we came in were really more like CB mics, with push-to-talk buttons, like old cop-car radio mics from the 1960s,” said Dallas Anderson, systems designer working out of Tricorne’s Bismarck office. “It wasn’t going to be hard to improve on the audio quality of those, but we also had to make sure they were simple to use and extremely reliable, and have the kind of low profile that would work on a live-streamed broadcast.”

As they put together the rest of the new audio system, which includes two Renkus-Heinz Iconyx loudspeakers on each side of the rostrum and a Biamp Tesira DSP processor for automated mixing and I/O management, they also tested several microphones to see how well each of these criteria were met.

A closeup of a ES935SC6 cardioid condenser gooseneck microphone from Audio-Technica, installed at the Senate Chamber at the North Dakota State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Tricorne Audio.

“The A-T microphone sounded the best — the audio was extremely clear — and it was the only short gooseneck available, which offered a really slim low profile, perfect for on-camera use,” Anderson said. “Once they listened and looked, it was a done deal.”

The ES935SC6 is a miniature condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern and an integrate mute switch/LED. It is designed for sound reinforcement, professional recording, television and other demanding sound pickup applications. The small-diameter gooseneck design permits highly flexible positioning, while maintaining a smooth, well-contoured appearance. The A-T ES935SC6 is equipped with UniGuard RFI-shielding technology, which rejects radio frequency interference. That last point was particularly important, Anderson discovered, after noticing how many smartphones and tablets were regularly resting on legislators’ desks in close proximity to the microphones.

“Having the shielding is very important in government installations these days, as you never want to hear that smartphone RFI buzz or crackle coming through the audio.” he said.

This was the first time that Tricorne Audio had used the A-T ES935SC6 but it was certainly not the last — Anderson said he’s used them since then in a number of house-of-worship installations, and they perform just as well there as they do in the North Dakota legislative chambers.

“The sound is excellent,” he said. “It has a flat frequency response and natural sound. And it has excellent gain-before-feedback characteristics. It’s just a great microphone for these kinds of applications.”

But those old CB-type microphones weren’t just tossed out. Anderson said several veteran legislators asked to keep one, as mementos of an earlier era.

“They were a piece of history,” says Anderson, “but now they have a better microphone to make new history with.