A conference can be one of the most challenging audio environments with dozens of participants—none of whom are sound control experts—and an intense focus on content, which can be easily distracted by the smallest technical glitch. Conference systems have to be both complex and foolproof, a very difficult combination to balance even in modern equipment. Microphones are the primary user interface, so a number of them are singled out here, but we also survey entire systems that are ingenious in design and flexible in their applications.
AKG CS3 Plug ‘N’ Play Conference System
The CS3 Plug ‘N’ Play Conference System from AKG is expandable and versatile on the input and output ends. The heart of the system is the CS3BU 19in. rack-mounted base unit with four operating modes. Capable of managing a conference of up to 60 microphones, the unit can also connect via RS232 to a camera control system while its mixing function can be programmed to allow one, two, four or six simultaneous open microphones. The other two primary components are the CS3 Chairman Unit and the CS3 Delegate Unit. Each of these components has an integrated speaker with volume control, two 3.5mm headphone jacks, a connection to the other microphone units, and each can be fitted with either the CS521 20in. gooseneck or the CS321 12in. gooseneck microphone.
Audio-Technica has put the most useful features for a conference microphone into a housing with the minimum profile. The ES945/LED omnidirectional condenser boundary microphone incorporates UniGuard RFI-shielding technology and it has a self-contained power module with a 3-pin XLRM-type output connector, so no external power module is required. A capacitive, touch-sensitive switch controls muting/unmuting and the integral bicolored LED ring indicates the mic status showing red when muted and green when unmuted. The die-cast mic body uses isolators to protect it from mechanical bumps and thumps on the table surface and the top is protected by a twolayer steel mesh grille. The ES945/LED is available in either a black or silver finish.
For conference situations where ceiling mics are needed, Audix has the M55, which is optimized for speech and may be ordered with interchangeable capsules for omni, cardioid, hypercardioid, and supercardioid pickup patterns. It operates on 18V to 52V phantom power and can be easily adjusted by hand for rotation and height positioning. The cable assembly includes a Phoenix connector and it is housed in an airtight, plenum-rated junction box. Among the optional accessories available are a clear plastic clip to adjust the mic angle and a white foam windscreen. The M55 has an output impedance of 150Ω with a frequency response of 60Hz to 10kHz and the mic and stem extend to a total of 48in.
beyerdynamic has introduced Revoluto microphone stations to the Quinta wireless conferencing family. Revoluto features line-array technology that is exceptional for executive-level meetings and presentations. Quinta features triple-band technology (2.4 GHz, 5.2 GHz, and 5.8GHz), room combining capabilities (up to four rooms), 4-way audio zoning and mix-minus modes, supports 150+ stations, Vox functionality, 20-30 hours of operation time, and includes an AVB interface for sustainable installation and connectivity. Whether with traditional gooseneck microphones (available in four different lengths) or with the new Revoluto stations, Quinta is a flexible and reliable solution for boardrooms, multipurpose rooms, large conference facilities, or rental applications on the market.
Bosch DCN Multimedia Conference System
The DCN conference solutions from Bosch cover a wide range of venues and installation scenarios. The DCN Multimedia Conference System includes a DCN Multimedia Device with a 7in. 1024×600 pixel touchscreen and the Android 4.03 operating system. The unit has a 2-way built-in loudspeaker, a pluggable low-profile external microphone, and the ability to access video, meeting content, and the Internet. The microphone has a 100Hz to 15kHz frequency response and a narrow pickup pattern to work well in high-noise environments. The central DCN Multimedia Powering Switch can be used in conjunction with the Audio Powering Switch to run the system with RJ-45 loop through connections to multiple DCN Multimedia Devices.
CAD AudioAstatic 1800VPGooseneck
For the ultimate in pickup pattern customization, CAD Audio offers the Astatic 1800VP Gooseneck microphone with its controller and continuously variable polar pattern. It uses a two-conductor shielded cable between the microphone head and the pattern control box to eliminate the necessity to change mic capsules. Designed to resist cellphone and similar interference, the mic is made of aluminum and the control box is constructed of steel. The system’s frequency response is 40Hz to 20kHz with a selectable recessed 80Hz 12dB/octave high-pass filter located on the control box. The 1800VP consists of two boxes, the 1600VP microphone system along with the MB-18 gooseneck.
The S 750 tabletop microphone base from Clockaudio fits a range of the company’s microphones including the C 3H, C 3HW, C 900, and the C 800H. The satin-black base fits into any room’s décor and provides a steady mount for the mic chosen to install with it. Fitted with a Tini Q (mini XLR) 3-pin female connector, the stand comes with a 10ft. cable terminated with the same type connector. The unit presents an unobtrusive low profile with a 3in. diameter base and 2.8in. height including the connector. A phantom power adapter is required.
Earthworks IML Series
An in-table installation solution with a high cool factor is represented by the Earthworks IML series microphones with their lighted LumiComm touch ring. The mics operate in a centrally controlled conference system and the ring can be programmed with red or green colors and various functions while it runs on a 7V to 28V power source. The microphone itself runs on 48V phantom power. The pickup pattern is cardioid with a 30kHz flat frequency response and the gooseneck allows directional aiming at the table top. Current consumption is 85mA per mic and each is supplied with either a 5-pin RJ-45 or a 5-pin Phoenix connector. Available in black, white, and silver, the IML mics are RF shielded.
Electro-Voice PolarChoice Satellite
An elegant and versatile conference mic from Electro-Voice, the PolarChoice Satellite multi-pattern desktop microphone has a flexible gooseneck available in 5in., 12in., and 18in. length along with a base that can contain Electro-Voice REV, RE2, RE2PRO, and Telex FMR or SAFE1000 model bodypack transmitters. The back electret condenser mic’s pickup pattern is switchable between omni, cardioid, super-cardioid, and hypecardioid, and the mute switch on the steel base can be programmed for on/off or push to mute. The unit also has a switchable high-pass filter and it can be fitted with a black foam windscreen to complement its semigloss camera black finish.
Milab VM-44 gooseneck
The Milab VM-44 gooseneck condenser mic can fit three capsules for a choice of omni, cardioid, or supercardioid pickup patterns, and its 12dB pre-attenuation pad allows it to perform in high sound level environments up to a maximum SPL of 140dB. Its transformerless design runs on 12-52V phantom power (Milab power supply available) providing a frequency restponse of 20Hz to 20kHz with a current consumption of only 4mA. The mic’s XLR connector is gold plated for clean connections with the mixer and its 120mm flexible gooseneck stem can be mounted on a table stand such as the Milab TS-84 or on a permanent surface fixture using a 3/8in. thread. The black foam windscreen is included.
Mipro’s BC-100 boundary mic can work with a wide selection of ACT wireless microphone system transmitters and it can operate with either the MM-202 or the MM-202B gooseneck microphones by plugging them into the top for conferences. There is a back panel XLR connector into which the MM-202 or the MM- 202B gooseneck can be connected for operation with a wired audio system. The built-in hypercardioid electret condenser mic has a frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz and it can transmit through a Mipro body pack transmitter placed inside the boundary mic case. The unit’s transmission and mute is controlled by a flush mounted button on the upper surface.
Peavey PM 18S
For podium or conference table mounting applications, Peavey has designed the PM 18S back-electret condenser mic with a Collet-type mounting flange and a mechanical isolation system. Available in either black or white, the PM 18S has a cardioid pickup pattern for high gain before feedback. The security locking system prevents unauthorized removal and the unit runs on 9-52V phantom power. There is also an LED power indicator. The long stem has a flexible segment at each end for a wide range of positioning, once mounted.
Revolabs Executive Elite
The Executive Elite 4- and 8-channel wireless microphone systems from Revolabs connect a remote antenna receiver with base DSP units over standard Cat-5/Cat-6e and powers these on PoE. Using Revolabs OTA technology, the system enables nearby receivers to synchronize enabling up to 44 microphones to be used. The receivers can operate with any of the Revolabs Executive Elite microphones including directional, omni, 6in. and 12in. gooseneck, as well as wearable wireless mics and adapters. At the base DSP unit, the operator has indicators for mic status, RF/AF signal strength and system performance. Multi-system monitoring and control may be done by local USB connection or a cloudbased setup and existing third party control systems can be connected. The mics rest in the tabletop charging unit and are ready to go on the 1.9GHz band.
Introduced at Infocomm 2014, the ADN-W (Audio Distribution Network-Wireless) is the wireless expansion of Sennheiser’s familiar ADN conferencing system. It uses both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with automatic, dynamic frequency management and makes a perfect expansion for an existing wired ADN conferencing installation, which can extend its central control to the wireless units. The Ethernet interface can be used for operation of the system from a PC or media controller while the rechargeable batteries keep the ADN-W discussion units going for 20 continuous hours. Up to 150 wireless discussion units can be used simultaneously while AES 128-bit encryption protects the audio transmission coming from their Sennheiser ME 36 supercardioid mics. The ADN-W Case houses dedicated stackable modules for all the system components and recharging equipment.
Shure DC 6990 P
The DCS 6000 Digital Conference System from Shure counts touchscreens, portable, flush-mounted, and customized conference units among its expansion options and can configure a system for up to 3,800 delegates (with additional equipment) and simultaneous 31-language interpretation capability. It also features voting functions, web streaming, agenda management, ID card registration, video projection control, and recording through its powerful SW6000 suite of software applications. The flexible microphone modes include automatic, first-on/first-off, manual and Vox (voice activated). The entire operation can be controlled by web interface or through a third party control system and it can function in standalone mode or as part of an existing audio or videoconferencing operation. The conference units can fit a variety of different microphones and they contain internal loudspeakers.
Speco Technologies MCDT 300A
For trouble-free conference setups, Speco Technologies offers the MCDT 300A back electret condenser tabletop conference microphone with its integrated base and an ultra-cardioid pickup pattern. The base includes an On/Off button and the blue LED shows when the mic is on. The unit has a 50Hz to 16kHz frequency response and -42dB sensitivity (±3dB). The MCDT 300A operates on two AA batteries and it comes with a foam windscreen and a 20ft. XLR mic cable (MCA10). The gooseneck stem is rigid with a flexible section near the base for easy positioning.
Taiden has enough base units, microphones, and accessories to configure the Digital IR Wireless Conference System to suit any venue and conference format. There are two chairman units, the HCS-5300CE/20 with voting capability and the HCS-5302C/20. There are three delegate units, one of which has five voting buttons, and all of these mic stations have a local loudspeaker built into the base. There are also several types of IR transceivers to accommodate a range of mounting environments, and Taiden has power and charging equipment for all of the mic units. The main units form the heart of the system, digitally encoding and modulating audio and data for IR transmission. The HCS-5300MA/20 main unit handles voting, discussion, and multichannel language interpretation. The HCS- 5300MB/20 has discussion and 1+3 channel audio, and the HCS-5300MC/20 has only the discussion feature. A variety of software applications is available to conduct voting, venue design, video control, recording, and other functions.
Versatility is a key aspect that TOA has built into the new TS-800/900 conference systems with their infrared transmission, selectable power, and PC/customized console control capability including speech permission. The number of participants who can talk at the same time is switch set, as are multiple priority modes. The TS-900 chairman and delegate units have voting buttons along with two audio channels for bilingual conferences. All participant stations have adjustable microphones with local loudspeakers, and the system can be used to record all speeches. The auxiliary input on the central unit allows audio playback from any sound source. Installation accessories include the YW-1024 coax distributor for more complex IR sensor setups.