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ATG Danmon Wires Belfry for Broadcast

Unique system uses AoIP to carry up-close audio of bells ringing

ATG Danmon installed a Dante-enabled CTP Systems DIO1600 AoIP interface to handle the bell tower audio.

Audio integration specialist ATG Danmon recently completed a high-profile project to capture the bongs of an iconic bell tower.

The system allows the ringing of the bell tower’s five bells in high quality for live broadcasts, as well as for use in news programs, parliamentary broadcasts and other events. To ensure faithful reproduction of the chimes with minimal pick-up of road traffic and other external sounds, microphones had to be placed in close proximity to the bells in the belfry. The system also had to handle very loud transient sounds without distortion.

To achieve this, ATG Danmon designed and installed two complete audio chains arranged as a fully resilient system. At the front of each chain is a Sennheiser e 904 dynamic cardioid microphone —which would normally be used with a kick drum — to capture the high-level transients along with an Electro-Voice 653A omnidirectional dynamic mic to capture the general acoustics of the belfry. All four mics are fitted with windshields as the belfry is essentially an exterior space.

Audio output from each pair of microphones is amplified to line level, encoded to an audio-over-IP data system and carried to a communications room where the signal can be decoded or sent via an IP link to other sites.

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The system integrated by ATG Danmon includes eight transceivers feeding a CTP Systems DIO1600 Dante-enabled AoIP interface. Each of the 16 line-level inputs and outputs allows ±12 dB of gain adjustment.

A 2008 image of the microphones installed by the BBC to capture audio from Big Ben. (Courtesy of the UK Parliament Flickr feed. Used under a Creative Commons license.)

Because the system’s acoustic and electronic performance had to be tested before the bells were officially permitted to resume their public duty, ATG Danmon conducted performance testing at a church with a similar clock tower. The results were successful and have since been confirmed at the actual site.

Although the company was careful not to name the bell tower where the system was installed, its description — “the clock tower adjacent to one of Europe’s longest established national legislatures” — fits the Elizabeth Tower, which is home to Big Ben, the great bell of the Great Clock of Westminister. A five-year, £80 million ($92.7 million) makeover of Elizabeth Tower was completed in 2022.

The tolling of Big Ben was first broadcast on Dec. 31, 1923, as part of the BBC’s New Years Eve broadcast. In 1924, the BBC began airing Big Ben’s bongs daily at 6 p.m. and 12 midnight.

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