Hotdesking. Open floor plans. Food truck Fridays. Gen Z is pushing workplace design and culture in exciting directions, but C-level leaders and power players still need compelling spaces in which to gather. And they must be heard clearly. Today’s executive suites have more glass walls and less wiring than in the past, but they are still the rooms that must provide reliable audio quality for the most influential members of an organization.
According to Justin O’Connor, education specialist, Bose Professional Global Training, to plan for excellent audio performance in executive suites, there are two functional components to consider: meeting the needs of leaders in the room, and meeting the needs of remote participants. These functional needs are similar to other conference rooms or boardrooms, but there is a perception of a greater importance for audio reliability and privacy on the executive level. “These are real concerns in the executive suite,” O’Connor said, “but that doesn’t mean there are lesser needs in the other spaces. It’s just that the consequences can be greater for stakeholders and decision makers who have had a role in deploying those audio systems.”
BALANCING AESTHETIC NEEDS AND ACOUSTICS
O’Connor explained that where audio requirements are unique to executive suites are in architectural and interior design concerns. Certain design and architectural features, such as an abundance of glass or highly reflective surfaces, can limit the audio placement options for an executive suite.
To that end, O’Connor pointed to solutions that offer installation flexibility, such as the Bose Professional portfolio and the EdgeMax Loudspeakers. In addition to an advanced compression driver, the Bose PhaseGuide means that these speakers are “optimized for installation along the outside edges or corners of the room,” he said. The loudspeakers can be located in ways that do not interfere with lighting or ceiling design features.
Chad Wiggins, senior director of networked audio systems at Shure Incorporated, agreed that balancing aesthetics and performance is a key consideration in the C-level suite.
“While it might not be the most earthshattering trend of 2018, the quest to achieve a high level of capability and performance, while delivering ease of use and the right design aesthetic, is a key one to watch in executive suite audio,” Wiggins said. “These facilities demand flawless audio output at all times, and systems equipped with flexible connectivity and intuitive user interface for easy control and operation.”
PLAN EARLY FOR AUDIO EXCELLENCE
Wiggins explained that it is Shure’s driving mission to “get every decibel of performance out of bad-sounding rooms.”
To accomplish that goal, however, AV planning needs to start as early in the process as possible to strike the right balance of form and function. Audio equipment alone will not be able to solve poor acoustical problems, which is why it’s important to design and build a good executive space with quality materials that respond well to acoustics.
Bryan Pass, senior sales engineer with the integration firm VCA, concurred. “Take care of the environment,” he said. “Ensure that there’s proper sound absorption, and then focus on placement.”
“At the bare minimum,” Wiggins said, “make sure the executive boardroom is the best acoustically treated meeting space in your entire office. Then invest in high quality audio equipment that accurately represents how good that room sounds.”
He shared that the Shure Microflex solution, an integrated audio system for conferences and meetings, is available in wired and wireless configurations for more placement options. The line also offers meeting productivity tools for natural audio for both in-room participants and remote attendees.
Pass added that proper AV planning includes a deep understanding of end-user needs. “Make sure you understand the goal of the specific space,” he said. “What’s the primary objective?”
Across the commercial spectrum, there has been an evolution toward network-capable solutions, and the executive suite is no exception. Bryan Pass has seen AV-over-IP awareness increase among customers in the past three years, as demand for transport methods such as Dante, AVB, and AES67 grows. “Customers are paying attention and savvy customers have opinions on it,” Pass said.
“[Clients] are not necessarily closed off to recommendations,” he added, “but they know and have experienced one or another of these transport methods. Or, they might want a global view of all of their systems, so they have a preference prior to that discovery discussion.”
On the question of Dante, AES67, or AVB, Pass appreciates and regularly recommends those three. “Those are our trusted protocols that meet quality standards and have been proven.” But, he added, it “depends on the specific project which one ends up getting [specified]. Sometimes two are used together, such as Dante and AES67, for example.
From the design standpoint, Pass explained that redundancy is helpful. “If you can have a completely redundant system in place, from multiple microphones to redundant DSPs and network switches, that is ideal. And you can have a fail-over.”
AUDIO PRIVACY AND SECURITY
Chad Wiggins said that safeguarding confidential data is a top priority for executive suite audio as more audio equipment becomes network capable, wireless, or both.
“Technology managers need to employ secure design techniques that take advantage of capabilities in the audio devices, such as password protection and encryption of wireless and network audio,” Wiggins said.
Again, it’s important to work on a case-by-case basis, getting granular on specific customer needs including security requirements. The goal should be crafting solutions that protect content without sacrificing ease of use or audio quality. Wiggins cited the example of Shure’s Network Audio Encryption technology that “safeguards confidential content without compromising audio quality.”
USE YOUR VOICE
Bryan Pass believes that in-house IT and AV directors are uniquely positioned to champion audio excellence. “You have the ability and voice to say, ‘I understand you have aesthetic requirements. However, you’re going to have less than an optimal experience if you don’t have microphones in these locations, or speakers in these locations.”
Advocating for quality early in the process will empower AV/IT managers to deliver on the promise of reliable audio while still making the C-suite shine.
Margot Douaihy is the editor-at-large of AV Technology magazine.
Futuresource Loudspeaker Report
51 million loudspeaker units shipped worldwide last year to generate a trade value of $3 billion. Futuresource Consulting has released its 2018 report providing an outlook to 2022. The research covers a variety of speaker categories. Download the report here: www.futuresource-consulting.com