At its best, audio conferencing is an efficient productivity tool — but at its worst, it is a barrier to understanding filled with buzzing, humming, and echo. Here are three ways to improve your customers’ audio conferencing experience as well as some product recommendations.
Let’s address the following audio conferencing questions, and what answers you can give to your client to keep their audio conferencing as smooth as possible post-installation:
- How do I achieve the best audio quality?
- What types of microphones should I consider for the installation?
- What is echo cancellation and why is it important?
Achieving Audio Conferencing Quality
Tell your clients to keep the mic close
They should speak with volume and clarity, but also know where their microphone is located. Keeping a microphone close improves “signal to noise” ratio and ensures maximum voice and minimum noise.
Utilize automixing and proper gain structures to keep a consistent audio level
Audio conferencing spaces often have multiple microphones, so automixers lower the hiss, rumble, reverberation and other extraneous noise that can occur when microphones operate simultaneously. Proper gain structure will manage distortion, thus improving audio quality.
Use acoustic treatments to reduce echo, audio reflection and external noise
These include absorbers, diffusors, sound barriers, construction materials and isolation platforms. There are two main approaches to creating a balance between echo and reflection: absorption and diffusion. Absorption is essential for reducing flutter echoes. Diffusion is the scattering of sound energy using multi‑faceted surfaces, which helps in energy control and improves the sound quality in frequencies. A good acoustic treatment plan can turn a poor audio conferencing experience into an excellent experience. It is equally important to treat the space acoustically as it is to make the right microphone and processing choices. No amount of electronic processing can compensate for poor acoustics in a room.
Audio conferencing product suggestions:
Audio Technica ES963 Boundary Mic
Audix Gooseneck Mic
AKG Cardioid Mic
Position microphones close to the speaker
Look to achieve a good balance between the current presenter sound and the ambient noise of the room. During audio conferencing any given speaker should be the clear focus, with a moderate amount of ambient surrounding noise. Encourage end users to be no further than 3 feet from a microphone for general audio conferencing and no more than 6 inches for local reinforcement of the microphone.
Consider microphones with coverage patterns
Use controlled pattern microphones to steer coverage to capture audio where the microphone is positioned, while rejecting unwanted artifacts from sources such as HVAC systems or room equipment fans. Controlled pattern microphones behave much like flashlights, point them at the sound you want, avoid the sound you don’t want.
Target the speaker with directivity
Directivity is related to how a microphone picks up sound from a source depending upon their relative orientation. Tell your clients that, if the microphone is not ideally positioned for audio conferencing, they can use a microphone with directivity to target the speaker.
Microphone product suggestions:
TOA AM-1 Mounting Bracket
Shure MX 418 Gooseneck Microphone
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Break the echo loop
Have you ever heard yourself talking through a cellphone call after you have already spoken? No one wants to hear themselves talking back — your clients included. Echo cancellation mitigates this by breaking the echo loop.
Cancel the echo
Your customers can’t hear a good echo cancellation algorithm in their conference room, but they can appreciate and benefit from the clarity. Acoustic echo cancellation benefits the far-side in audio conferencing.
Use a digital signal processor
Software based echo cancellers are available, but have not caught up to dedicated echo cancellation processors. Digital signal processing (DSP) is all about improving the accuracy and reliability of digital communications by taking a digital signal and processing it to improve the signal into clearer sound.