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Are Conference Room Microphones Necessary?


Conference room microphones are absolutely necessary because people respond negatively to poor audio quality. In fact, it’s worse than that, according to a study published by the University of South California and the Australian National University. The study determined that poor audio quality sabotages a meeting and makes the speaker appear less likeable, less intelligent and what they’re saying less important.

Research studies aren’t needed to demonstrate the importance of audio quality, though. Consider that during a video conference, a slight hit to video quality may mean little, especially if everyone can still make out things like gestures and body language. However, even a small drop in audio quality will mean some words are missed, some ideas miscommunicated, and that’s all it takes to ruin a conference.

Strong audio quality matters, and the best way to get excellent audio is with a proper microphone setup.

What microphones are best for the conference room?

Microphones are one of the easiest pieces of hardware for AV integrators to set up, and there’s plenty of microphone models to choose from. There isn’t a single best choice, either, as they differ in how they pick up sound, where they are installed, how much space they take up and so on. In most cases the right conference room microphone will be one of the following:

1. Gooseneck microphone – Gooseneck microphones are called such because they extend out of their base like a goose’s neck. If audio quality is the number one priority, gooseneck microphones are almost always the best choice. They are mounted one or two to a seat, and they are designed with a cardioid pattern, so they only pick up sound from the front. That’s perfect for conferences, where everyone will be seated directly in front of their gooseneck. It also means no ambient sound will be picked up, which will be appreciated on the other end.

The only potential issues with gooseneck mics is that they must be mounted close to the speaker, so they can take up a lot of space, and without clever wiring they can cause some clutter. If aesthetics is a concern, a gooseneck microphone may be a bit too conspicuous. A skilled integrator can resolve these problems with few obstacles, however.

Among microphone brands, Shure produces some of the best gooseneck mics. Its CVG18 model, for example, is a cardioid gooseneck microphone designed with Shure’s CommShield feature. This technology blocks out sounds from wireless devices and smartphones. The CVG18 also comes with a windscreen and mounting flange, so it’s effective and built to last.

2. Ceiling microphones – Ceiling microphones are permanently mounted to or inside the ceiling. Alternatively, ceiling microphones can be mounted to large light fixtures or suspended from the ceiling.

Every approach ensures the microphones are positioned over the conference table, so they take up no space and do not interfere with the room’s aesthetic or function. They can also be positioned to pick up sound, no matter where it originates in the room. It’s a much more streamlined approach, but it comes with some drawbacks. For one, it takes a bit more work to install these, so some advanced planning may be necessary. This is something that a reputable integrator will have no trouble with. What’s more of a challenge is how ceiling microphones pick up sound. While modern ceiling mics are getting smarter, they still occasionally pick up ambient noise, especially when it originates from the HVAC system. It’s tough to completely neutralize it, and it’s also tough to get the same audio quality from a ceiling mic than what a gooseneck microphone would provide.

Ceiling mics, though, may be the perfect option if there is no ambient noise to worry about. A good choice is the Poly HDX 8000, which integrates seamlessly into Poly’s video conferencing solutions. It’s capable of capturing audio in a room up to 2,500 square feet in size and comes with Poly’s sophisticated noise blocking technology to keep the audio nice and crisp.

3. Boundary microphones – Boundary microphones are much smaller and sleeker than gooseneck microphones, but they are still mounted in front of the speaker. However, boundary microphones tend to cover more area, and you may only need one or two for each side of the table. They can also be installed along the edge of a stage to capture audio during a larger event. Boundary microphones are also inexpensive and can be integrated into a conference table, reducing their already small footprint.

Boundary microphones, though, have some of the same issues that ceiling microphones do. They tend to pick up more ambient noise than gooseneck microphones, and because they are nearly flush with the table, any finger tapping or paper rustling may be a noticeable annoyance.

4. Conference phones – The tried and true conference phone is still capable of excellent audio, and most come with a variety of extra features that add value. This is especially true when the conference phone is part of a larger AV conferencing solution. They are placed in the middle of the table, so they stay out of the way and they can pick up sounds from up to 20 feet away, so only one is needed.

Conference phones, though, are built with 360-degree microphones, so they can pick up ambient and unintended sounds. Fortunately, speaker phones like the Poly Trio are designed with excellent noise-cancelling features that resolve this problem in most instances.

Every conference room needs a set of reliable microphones, and an AV integrator can help their clients find the best setup for their space. Whether it’s a gooseneck, boundary or ceiling microphone, there’s a perfect match for every conferencing solution.