AVT Question: Intelligible audio is the lynchpin that holds the entire conferencing experience together. What are some best practices to help ensure reliable, intelligible audio as the demand for hybrid solutions grows? [November 2021]
Thought Leader: David Lambert, vice president of Audio Technologies at ClearOne Communications
It is important to remember that any conferencing space is only as good as the audio foundation. Without clear audio, participants will become frustrated or miss key information.
[ ClearOne Introduces DIALOG 10 USB Wireless Microphone ]
A critical factor in a conference system is the room itself. A highly reflective room with very high ambient noise will reduce the overall intelligibility and result in listener fatigue as they strain to understand every word. Thanks to the latest innovations in the microphone array technologies that help the microphones perform better in acoustically challenging spaces, rejecting unwanted reflections by creating highly focused beams, deep sidelobe processing, and adaptive noise cancellation algorithms help improve the signal-to-noise ratio.
Popular conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have their own echo-and noise-cancellation features. Understanding the audio processing your conferencing service provides, your adjustment options, and how your in-room audio hardware will interact is important for delivering a reliable conferencing experience. Gain structure is also key. Many popular video codecs for smaller rooms utilize consumer- or mic-level audio inputs. Providing proper audio levels to these devices from your room mixer is key to maintaining a good signal-to-noise ratio and natural sound.
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The devices in use outside of the room directly impact all aspects of audio quality, such as hands-free speakerphones and mobile Bluetooth connections versus traditional telephone handsets. Both the near- and far-end room acoustics, etiquette, and equipment come into play when considering a successful conferencing system strategy. Microphones are often placed improperly to clearly hear those speaking, especially with BYOD options including laptops, mobile devices, and the myriad connections to cloud-based video conferencing apps.
In short, the key to video conferencing is to achieve excellent audio. Audio has always been, and always will be, the foundation of any meeting. It must be consistently clear and natural-sounding, as well as be easy to use, monitor, and manage.