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Understanding Audio: Terms and Solutions You Need To Know

by | Alec Olson

No matter the industry you are in, the size of your company, the location of your employees or the type of conference room you use, audio matters.

But just investing in top quality audio solutions is only part of the puzzle. You also need to understand what type of solution is best suited to meet your needs and goals.

Understanding Top Audio Solutions

Even among high-quality, professional-grade audio solutions, not every solution is created equal. Below we break down the 7 top audio solutions to keep in mind.

Microphones

Microphones are the basis of an integrated audio system but the type and location of your mics matter. Tabletop microphones get you the best sound quality because they are closest to the person speaking, but they require a fixed wire configuration that doesn’t leave much flexibility for moving and arranging furniture in your conference room.

Ceiling microphones provide maximum flexibility for furniture configurations and can provide better coverage in large rooms, but they are farther away from the person speaking and may pick up ambient noise around the room.

Wireless microphones are a good mid-point solution. They offer the flexibility of ceiling mics and the quality of tabletop mics. What to consider with a wireless microphone solution is the need to monitor the battery life as well as the possibility for interference on the wireless frequency being used.

Front-firing Speakers

Conference rooms generally have one of two types of speakers: ceiling or front-firing. Distributed ceiling speakers can be mounted to ceiling tiles or installed as pendants for open ceilings. They provide maximum, even coverage and are ideal for audio conferencing.

Front-firing speakers are typically located next to or behind the display or projection screen, which means you can localize the audio at the front of the room. Front-firing speakers are a great solution for remote content sharing and video conferencing, but the speaker coverage might not fill an entire room so delayed fill speakers may be required.

You should also think carefully about the placement of your front-firing speakers in relation to other equipment that might cause feedback or interference.

Teleconferencing

Video has become the conference room darling, but a video conference won’t get you very far if the audio is not reliable or intelligible.

Investing in a top-tier teleconferencing system is just as critical as a high-quality video conferencing system and, ideally, the two can work together so picture and sound are both crisp and clear.

Conference phones can not only serve to make and receive calls but can also act as the control hub for your entire conferencing system with embedded controls for displays, video monitors, and collaboration software.

Sound Masking

Acoustics are often an afterthought but even the best audio solutions can’t overcome excessive ambient noise, echoes, and reverberations.

These environmental factors are caused by everything from sounds outside of the meeting space to furniture and surfaces within the room. These sounds can degrade the quality of your audio.

Proper audio design from the beginning stages of the construction of a space is ideal but not always possible. Sound masking curtains, ceiling baffles and furniture without hard surfaces, such as cloth-covered chairs, can help prevent, absorb and block out ambient noise, echoes, and reverberations that compromise the quality of your audio.

Network Connectivity

Many audio solutions are moving towards network-based technology, with systems that allow audio to pass through network cabling and switches rather than using conventional device-specific cabling.

Network enabled audio solutions to allow you to create an interoperable system using devices from multiple manufacturers so your needs and goals drive your purchasing rather than being forced into a proprietary system that might not be ideal for your application.

Audio Processors

A Digital Sound Processing (DSP) audio processor is a great solution for smaller conference rooms and informal collaboration spaces.

Instead of installing multiple solutions—which can take up a lot of valuable real estate in a small space—the data captured by a single box DSP audio processor can be used to control a variety of functions including VoIP and teleconferencing capabilities, sound mixing and echo cancellation.

Audio Interfaces

Not everyone who needs to hear a meeting or a presentation will be sitting in the conference room.

Depending on the device they are using, their audio quality might still be compromised even if your system is the best money can buy.

While audio interfaces used to require bulky boxes and cables for input and output, these days a simple USB interface plugged into a laptop or desktop can provide remote employees with the same audio quality as on-site employees, both when they speak and when they listen.

Identify And Meet Your Audio Needs

Deciding on the right audio solution is important, but deciding on the right audio solution for your specific need and application is critical.

A large event center or house of worship will have vastly different audio needs from a small huddle room or mid-sized conference room. The way you use your space and the type of audio you create will impact what the appropriate solution is.

A certified AV integrator can help you identify your needs and settle on the best solution to meet them.


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