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PoE Loudspeakers: Wherefore Art Thou?

With every passing day and another system design, I find myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a good solid PoE loudspeaker that could accept Dante, Q-LAN, Cobranet, ‘what-have-you-audio-net,’ or AES67-ish?”

Here’s why my thinking lends itself toward PoE speakers:

•We’re seeing mics that are straight to the network via Dante/AES67;

•We’re seeing DSPs being used with no analog IO cards;

•We’re seeing DSPs being offered with no analog IO;

•We’re seeing audio input devices with no analog audio outs on them;

•We’re seeing amplifiers with no analog audio inputs on them;

•We’re seeing video encoders and decoders that stream video here and there using standard networking protocols. (They’re getting really good now too!);

•We’re seeing control systems be fully networked or cloud-based needing only power and data;

•We’re seeing control interfaces that are simply PoE driven tablets.

We’re seeing a lot of stuff propagate in our industry that is designed from the ground up to be powered and to operate in the standards-based network realm. They offer telemetry, remote reboot by default, and all the things that come with a truly networked device—a “heartbeat,” if you will. If we connect our devices to managed switches, which are the IT industry norm, we should use devices that can be managed as well.

Now, I get it, there are a lot of purists out there who want that powerful, dynamic audio… I mean heck, I’m one of them—but I think there’s a time and a place. If I’m doing a basic conference room, huddle room, or classroom, I think a PoE-based loudspeaker should get the job done. I’ve seen some stuff from SoundTube, BTX, AMK, and an amp from Atlas|IED. Which could be enough, but I want to see more.

Not that I’m a big electronic circuit-designing guru or anything, but in college physics, I ran a test on a Zapco amplifier playing pink noise at 50 percent volume and found that it was about 50 percent efficient. The Wiki page for PoE tells me that we can get at least 15.4 watts of power with a minimum of 44V DC, and PoE+ will do 25.5 watts of power at the same voltage. Reasoning that most amps are still 50 percent efficient (although I’m sure things have evolved some since then by the super smart amp people in this industry) I *feel* like that should leave enough power for a basic ceiling speak’ with some “what-have-you-audio-net” baked in.

So, there you have it. I hope this idea gets the right people thinking about maybe, hopefully, possibly bringing a PoE speaker to market. My voice alone is not enough to force movement on this though, so comment below, give your feedback, and queue up the data for product managers to feast on, and maybe we’ll see something happen. Tell them how many a year you’d potentially use, what applications you would spec them into, and what you’d like them to cost.

Joey D’Angelo has worked on more than 500 projects as a consultant over the course of 18 years. He is now VP of design and engineering at Utelogy, and he consults independently on projects of interest.