House of Representatives Chamber Gets State of the Union Audio Overhaul

Diversified replaces decades-old audio system in a few weeks to deliver a State of the Union audio overhaul, all while deferring to bomb-sniffing dogs and 24-hour quality control screening.

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We all reach our saturation point when it comes to listening to politicians speak, but there’s no political event on the calendar that’s more important that the president’s State of the Union address.

When audiences do listen to President Donald Trump deliver his 2019 address from the House of Representatives chamber on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the messages should come through clearly (from an audio standpoint), thanks to a state of the union audio overhaul.

President Trump will be speaking into an all-new audio system that was part of a major audio upgrade in both sides of the Capitol, with 2016 CI Integrator of the Year Diversified handling the House overhaul.

Diversified crews installed new digital signal processors, replaced all 14 microphones and about 900 speakers in the room and preserved the custom mounting inside the historic building—and they did it all without being able to rely on floor plans for the building, because those simply don’t exist, says Diversified regional VP Michael Burnstein.

“Nothing gets done without being documented there, so it’s sort of surprising to not have plans for such an important building,” he says.

Diversified did the broadcast update for the House about 15 years ago, says Burnstein, but the audio in the building hadn’t been modernized in decades.

House of Representatives Installation Amidst Harsh Security

Diversified used QSC Q-SYS amplifiers as part of the House of Representatives chamber overhaul and tied them into the existing broadcast system, says Burnstein. The company’s contract includes quarterly maintenance checks and on-site support for the State of the Union.

The crew of about 40 workers had to stop every few hours to allow bomb-sniffing dogs to go through the chamber and ensure there was nothing in the room that shouldn’t be there.

Because the work was scheduled for late last year when the House was in recess, Burnstein says there were some anxious moments when Trump threatened to keep the representatives in session to debate a replacement for the Affordable Health Care Act, but government officials were able to resolve that.

Diversified technicians worked on nights and weekends to complete their work quickly, but there was a lot of special planning that went into this job. The crew of about 40 workers had to stop every few hours to allow bomb-sniffing dogs to go through the chamber and ensure there was nothing in the room that shouldn’t be there.

On top of that, all tools had to go through a federal quality control process, which lasted up to 24 hours.

“You couldn’t just walk in with your tool bag,” says Burnstein.

On top of all of that, Diversified had to redesign the original plan, but only after bidding on the original specifications, he says. That led one of the contractors to walk off the job but resulted in a better final product, says Burnstein.

US House of Representatives

Diversified navigated unique security challenges to deliver a State of the Union audio overhaul. Photo: Architect of the Capitol

State of the Union Audio Project: How It Happened

Government officials and Diversified staffers first started talking about the need for a more modern audio system about two or three years ago, says Burnstein. Two Diversified staffers will be the last people to touch the microphones before Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the gathering to order tomorrow.

“It’s a great honor to be involved with this work and I’m really proud of the work we did,” says Burnstein. “There’s a sense of pride for us. A lot of the work we do doesn’t affect the general public like this one does.”

And, while Diversified has earned praise and even an award from a D.C.-area publication for its work in the House, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be the integrator the next time there’s an upgrade.

“The fact we did good work allows us to bid on new work, but it doesn’t promise us anything,” says Burnstein.