AV Technology: How long has Sennheiser been producing networked audio products?
Ron Holtdijk: Sennheiser has been offering networked products for decades. The benefit of networked products is that you can access the features and benefits of a solution remotely over the network. This is the case for control over the network but also audio over the network. Sennheiser started with proprietary solutions and is now supporting state-of-the-art standards and technology such as Dante, AES67, IEEE 802.1x, and others.
AVT: What does IT-friendly audio mean, and why does it matter?
RH: What we have observed is that IT is increasingly in charge of AV products in corporate and education installations. In general, being in charge means it has to work. The IT world requires different skills and backgrounds than audio and wireless transmission. Traditional audio skills in business and education environments aren’t always readily available. IT-friendly audio, therefore, refers to audio solutions that are easy and seamless to integrate in the IT world and that provide audio intelligence, so as a user or responsible caretaker you can focus on what matters: content, not technology. Let’s face it, where would we be without IT right now?
AVT: What technologies and/or standards are being used to create digital audio?
RH: With the use of modern chipsets, almost every audio product these days (you could exclude sophisticated pure analog recording microphones such as Neumann’s legendary U87) is working with digital audio. It is easier to transport, process, and work with a digital signal. For the installed audio applications, we support Dante and AES67 as audio over IP solutions. For digital wireless transmission, we rely on DECT for secure and license-free transmission in our dedicated-to-speech wireless microphone family, SpeechLine Digital Wireless.
AVT: What is the benefit of having room microphones on the network?
RH: There are two key benefits. With a digital signal on the network, you can decide after installation where to route the signal. With analog, the signal flows where the cable goes. Digital lets you change that after installation but also, to route the signal easily to multiple destinations.
The other key benefit is the ability to fully remote control. You can monitor, control, and maintain your installation and hundreds of devices easily, remotely, anywhere on the network with solutions like our free-of-charge Sennheiser Control Cockpit. It is designed to optimize daily business routines by managing and monitoring microphones on the network and you can remotely troubleshoot if necessary.
AVT: Can the microphones in a meeting be managed from a centralized location, and what would the benefit be, or would you still want an AV Tech running the meeting from inside the room? What types of things would be controlled?
RH: Yes, you can monitor the status and functions of all supported products. The Sennheiser Control Cockpit is the central touchpoint of every relevant Sennheiser product for any campus-style installation. You can remotely monitor the “30,000-foot view” but you can also drill deep into every setting of the supported device. The most common applications are simple things like battery life information, mute status settings, or RF conditions. All accessible on any portable device, as long it is in the same network. This renders the need to physically walk to a room unnecessary. Depending on the network setup you can even use the benefits on your commute. You have all the status information available before you even arrive at your desk. With notifications via email or text message, the system can also stay in the background and support you with a “heads up” before you get a support request to provide a spare battery—as one of many examples.
AVT: Is there a room or application size in which you would not use network-audio?
RH: It depends on the use case. The biggest benefits of networked audio are unlocked in bigger campus-wide installations. However, even a single room remote control over the network during events can justify the use of networked audio.
AVT: How do tech managers choose the right system?
RH: The good thing is that more and more standardized solutions are being provided. The broad availability of different Dante- and AES67-enabled devices lets you choose based upon your individual needs. Sennheiser supports with several current products like TeamConnect Ceiling 2, our adaptive beamforming ceiling mic, SpeechLine Digital Wireless, Digital 6000, and others—all with the latest and most in-demand IT standards and protocols.