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An “Array” of Audio Advancements

By on November 13, 2013

When I say there are an “array” of audio advancements that meeting planners should be aware of, array has two meanings. The everyday use of the word array could include “Our keynote and breakout presentations will cover a wide array of topics this week.”  The audio industry uses array technology to make speakers and microphones more efficient and focus the sound.

Line array speaker systems have been in use for large concert audio systems for quite some time (see the photo of a line array speaker system hanging at an outdoor concert set-up). This technology is now found in smaller systems that are available for training rooms, collaboration areas and meeting rooms.

The vertical line array is the most common configuration and it produces a very narrow output pattern that focuses sound on the audience and does not expend energy on the ceilings and side walls. The vertical array is ideal for rooms that generate reverb that muddies the sound making speech unintelligible.

The focusing of sound is an important issue with the popular collaboration spaces found in many offices. Many collaboration spaces are in open areas so the sound must be controlled so not to disturb other staff working in the same area.

Audio systems in kiosks and trade shows also need to be focused so only the people standing directly in front of the kiosk or display booth can hear the sound.

Portable array audio systems are available. These very compact systems are easy to transport and deliver powerful, quality sound. They also reduce feedback issues so they can be set-up close to the microphones without creating the embarrassing ear piercing squeal.

Array technology is also a part of a new generation of microphones. Board room discussions and videoconferences have long struggled to capture good quality sound. Traditional cardiod microphones have a restrictive pick-up pattern and clutter up the room. Boundary microphones remove the clutter but pick up all ambient noise in the room including the tapping of fingers and pens on the table! The pictured Beamforming Ceiling Microphone Array is unobtrusive yet picks up conversation around the table while cancelling out extraneous noise in the room including echo cancelling functions (common videoconference issue).

Another trend is to include sound masking in offices. Sound masking is added to an area where listening to other peoples conversations is a distraction as well as a privacy issue. This happens in open office spaces as well as conversation carrying out of an office and into a hallway. A low level of noise is added to an area so that it covers up the sound of other conversations.

As usual, contact your knowledgeable AV professional for the best recommendations for your audio requirements.



Ralph Niekamp, Inland AV Saskatoon General Manager addresses audiovisual considerations important to event planners. As a branch manager, Ralph brings a unique perspective as he is involved in permanent systems design, integration, and AV rentals applications.

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