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So, You Want Wireless Mics in Your Conference Room?

 

My earliest memory of a microphone is Bob Barker using his Sony ECM-51 microphone (mic) while watching The Price Is Right when I was home from school, sick. I distinctly remember the cord that was attached to the microphone. One day the familiar cord was replaced by a small box on the end of the mic. Bob went wireless!

For a long time, wireless mics have been a staple of the live sound and broadcast production environment. In the last ten years, wireless mics have proliferated the education, corporate, and conferencing environment.

The Popularity of Wireless Mics Has Grown

There are many reasons for the growth in popularity of wireless microphones.

  • Wireless mics allow the person speaking to be closer to the mic
  • No expensive floor drilling is needed to get wires to conference tables, desks, or other locations where mics provide the best coverage
  • Participants can pass a mic around so everyone can hear the audience/class questions

People sometimes ask if a mic will “reach” a certain person. This is a bit of a misnomer. Mics simply pick up the sounds that are there. The closer the source of sound is to the microphone, the better the quality. If the speaker holds a microphone 3 inches from their face, the quality will be much better than a microphone that is 3 feet away. This is a very important concept for sound quality in conference spaces.  The farther away the microphone is from the source, the more noise and unintended sounds will be picked up along with the speaker’s voice.

Comparing Corporate and Classroom Microphone Integration

Wired Up without wireless micsIn corporate boardrooms, table mics are the preferred way to mic meeting participants. This requires a way to get a wire for each mic to the equipment rack location. Sometimes, running these wires is not possible due to the expense of drilling the floor. It’s a very involved process that will involve noise, dust, and carpet replacement because a floor box will need to be drilled or a trench will have to be carved from the conference table to a wall. A wireless mic system solves this issue. You simply pick up the mic and place it on the table near the meeting participants.

In classrooms, and other meeting spaces, there may be Q & A sessions. It is much easier to pass around a handheld mic than to have participants walk to lecterns or drag a mic with a cable attached. The spaces between chairs are notorious for capturing mic cables. Cables of any type are always a potential trip hazard. Did you know that there are mics specifically made for throwing around the room for Q & A sessions? Talk about audience engagement!

The Downside of Wireless Mics

As advantageous as wireless mics are, there are a few drawbacks.

Wireless mics must each be considered as their own radio station. They all require a piece of the wireless spectrum. As more personal wireless devices are used, this spectrum becomes smaller. It is a requirement to scan the location where the wireless mics will be used. Scanning the environment for frequencies in use, and space available, ensures that the correct frequencies are selected for your location. Unfortunately, wireless mics must accept any interference. What may work one day may change in a few months. Occasionally, Unified must come and rescan the site and coordinate the frequencies to find available space in the wireless spectrum if the previous space is now occupied by another device.

Power is a big concern for wireless mics. Batteries must be changed on a regular basis in wireless mics. High quality rechargeable batteries are sometimes a good alternative to one-time use, disposable batteries. Some customers do not realize how much money needs to be budgeted for battery replacement if using mics without a rechargeable battery option. What may look like plenty of power on the battery meter could be insufficient when the mic is handed to someone who will be speaking for a long period of time. The good news is that wireless microphone manufacturers have been developing their own rechargeable battery options and charging stations that are much more convenient than purchasing batteries in bulk.

User interaction is something to be considered when using wireless mics. This could mean pulling the mics from charging trays, placing the mics on the table, switching units on, or remembering to unmute the mics. If non-technical people use the room and do not know the steps to make the mics work, meeting participants will not be heard either in the room or on the other side of a phone call. This situation can be awkward when a meeting starts and participants are trying to let you know that they cannot hear you.

Integrating Wireless Mics for Your Organization

Wireless mics have their place and can solve a lot of installation and deployment issues. The environment must be able to support the use of wireless mics and the customer must know any potential pitfalls. Unified Technology Systems has the tools and knowledge to ask the right questions regarding wireless mics. We will suggest the best technology to use, depending on your specific room or facility needs. It will be important to know how the room will be used and by whom. Give us a call today to discuss the various types of wireless microphone technology available and if it fits your application.

Hal Hawkins

Hal Hawkins

System Design Engineer at Unified Technology Systems
In the AV industry since 2004, Hal has been a System Design Engineer with Unified Technology Systems for more than 10 years. He is responsible for designing audio, video, and control systems for regional businesses that solve today’s needs and are “future-proof” for tomorrow’s advancements.
Hal Hawkins
Hal Hawkins

Author Hal Hawkins

In the AV industry since 2004, Hal has been a System Design Engineer with Unified Technology Systems for more than 10 years. He is responsible for designing audio, video, and control systems for regional businesses that solve today’s needs and are “future-proof” for tomorrow’s advancements.

More posts by Hal Hawkins

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