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Behind the Microphone – What you hear but do not see

In our Video Conference rooms, there is a lot to consider when trying to make sure the other side of the call can hear us intelligibly. This will always be dictated by not only the software or internet connection but also the hardware we use.

When using most all-in-one solutions, there is a high chance that once the microphone takes in the sound of the room and passes it straight on to the software to process. This means that the software suites such as Zoom, MS Teams, LifeSize, Bluejeans, etc. are handling critical functions. These functions include processes that benefit the far end experience such as canceling potential echo (don’t we all love that), background noise reduction, and automatic volume control amongst others.

All of this is kept in mind with the fact that if the audio fails or is unintelligible, the meeting itself could come to an abrupt and embarrassing end.

With all of this to consider, what would dictate to us to know what the right equipment is? The answer to this is really looking at answering some simple questions:

  • How big is the space I am wanting to fitout?
  • How many people will this system need to accommodate?
  • How good or bad are the acoustics in the space? Be honest here!
  • What functions, other than video conference, will the audio system need to fulfill?
    • Company presentations? Internal or streaming?
    • Games room?
    • Townhall type functions when rooms adjoin?
    • Training?

There are certain benefits and considerations to consider when selecting the right solution. Even small 3-4 people spaces may want to consider dedicated microphones and audio processors before the connection to a Video Conference meeting.

Here are some of the considerations to budget and application that will influence your decisions:

Cost. There is often a marked difference in the financial investment between a dedicated audio system and just using basic devices. The other cost to consider is the amount of productive time of the meeting or engagement. A dedicated system will help often save the time of every user adjusting to the room and the audio especially if you do not select the correct hardware for space.

Control. Systems with a dedicated Audio Processor can take all manner of control signals and bespoke control requests from the system. They can also be controlled by the Video Conference software if you use a system certified for that software such as MS Teams and Zoom. Microsoft Teams does have the most stringent certification process as they only trust devices and systems that meet their high-performance standards. Zoom also has an extremely high-performance expectation from systems they certify.

Tuning. This is where the “magic” happens. Once the acoustics of the room has been addressed a dedicated Audio Processor can be programmed to fine-tune the space for optimal audio pick by the microphones as well as making the speakers perform to their full potential. This can often be the difference between a great experience or “near enough is good enough”.

Variety. Most systems that have a dedicated Audio Processor are able to use a variety of microphones to ensure you get the right microphone for the job. These range from wireless desktop boundary microphones, “Smart” Ceiling Arrays, Audio over IP-based solutions, etc. All the major audio manufacturers have their nuances but largely they can all handle the variety of microphones for the job. The variety also speaks to the ability to perform more than one role in a room. Adding presentation microphones or sharing audio from video content in a meeting should be considered.

Aesthetics. Every installer has this conversation on almost a daily basis and why wouldn’t you want your new room to look as good as it sounds. Wireless, desktop, ceiling-mounted, soundbars all have a place and you may not like what comes in a kit. Keep in mind that sometimes form factor and performance are tied together as well.

After all of this, the investment behind what drives the Audio should be judged by what your participants hear in the video conference meeting. Your investment is primarily for the benefit of people who are not in the room with you. Are they worth it? If the answer is yes, talk to us!

We at Fast Track is your professional team, and we love what we do! We are also lucky to have some dedicated and talented companies to partner with. Many of the rooms we provide solutions for have audio challenges… and when we need specialist backup, guess who we turn to? 10 points if you guessed Jands Pty Ltd!

If you’d like to talk to one of our professional team members about the best solution for your requirements, then fill out the form here and contact us today, we are here to help!

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