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Tech Roundup: Conference Mics and Systems 2020

When the pandemic exploded, we were all blown away from each other and into a world where online conferencing, as a lifeline for both business and family, is the new king of AV apps. Integrators are planning installations and as we’ve all seen on TV where personal and commercial systems merge, there is no shortage in examples of the right and wrong ways to do it. Where social distancing can be observed, in-room conference systems are still in demand and many of these systems are being connected online. Our survey here centers on commercial systems and components that companies are using to keep their workers and conference participants safe, productive and continuously in touch.

In environments that are acoustically challenging or require continuous control of individual microphones, the CGN321 STS professional table top microphone set from AKG has some key features. The 30 centimeter long CGN351 gooseneck condenser microphone gets the mic close to the participant while limiting background noise with its cardioid pickup pattern. The switch on the base can be programmed for push-to-talk, push-to-mute, push-on/off and low cut on/off. While not talking, each participant can mute their own mic to greatly reduce noise and eliminate feedback. The LED on the base indicates the microphone’s selected mode and the XLR connector provided allows connection to a wide variety of professional conferencing systems.

Atlona can provide the AT-HDVS-CAM-HDMI for conference rooms complete with its USB interface for video and camera control. The 1/2.8in. low noise HD CMOS sensor produces high quality color and detail while the multi-element lens has a 10x optical zoom. At the widest angle the auto-focus lens can get all conference participants easily into the wide shot. Simultaneous video output is possible on both USB and HDMI outputs. Available in white or black, the camera has a fast and quiet pan/tilt mechanism and it can be controlled via TCP/IP, RS-232, USB and IR.

The ATCS-60 infrared discussion system from Audio-Technica allows quick and easy setup. It features four selectable channels for multi-language conferences and an automated camera function to integrate video sources. Using the software control option, audio can be recorded, camera positions adjusted and microphone sound levels set. Of course, the infrared transmission also provides a secure environment free from RF eavesdropping. The chairperson’s unit can control all of the others and all units have a built-in speaker and headphone jack. In automatic mode, the microphones sense voice and turn on, turning off again when the voice pickup stops. Power and mic LEDs flash to indicate a low battery.

The Audix Dante | AES67 Integrated Microphone System with its on/off contact closure and LED status indicators handles all of its functions through a single CAT5-CAT7 cable with RJ45 connections at each end. The system can be composed of the four input Dante |AES67 interface, the M70WD flush mount steerable ceiling microphone, the M55WD hanging microphone, the MD3K microphone and interface kit or the DN43 two input Dante | AES67 interface. These components can be used in various combinations to custom tailor the system for the conferencing facility and allow the control to be designed to suit specific clients and operators.

The Orbis Wired Conference System was designed by beyerdynamic to be rugged and capable of using a variety of microphone types. The system can be set up in a line configuration for using up to 100 microphones or in a loop topology for redundancy with a maximum of 50 mics. Gooseneck microphones with a choice of stem lengths can be used or the Revoluto array microphones can be connected depending on the needs of the specific venue and client. The connecting CAT5 cable may be attached to each microphone unit from the back or from the bottom. Using the RS-232 interface, the Orbis can be connected to a media control system. There is also a module to enable connection of Extron control.

For use in its Tesira systems, Biamp has the Parlé TTM-X AVB low profile tabletop microphone. The microphone connects to a control box so that it can use beamtracking technology in four 90-degree zones. The control box has a digital signal processing module along with an additional RJ45 connection to connect an optional TTM-XEX for pickup over a larger area. Available in black or white, the mic sits very low on the table and has a diameter of only 4.7in. Each one includes an LED status indicator and the beamtracking technology works right out of the box.

Conference centers and multi-purpose spaces frequently hold different events, each with different setups and configurations. With its flexibility, easy installation and use of WiFi technology, the award-winning DICENTIS Wireless Conference System from Bosch Communications is perfect for these kinds of applications – especially for where social distancing is required. Based on the IEEE 802.11n standard, the system operates in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands so that it is recognized by other WiFi systems for non-interference and it automatically searches out free channels. Each user device has a 4.3in. capacitive touchscreen making it very simple to use. Two WAPs can be used for system redundancy and maximum reliability.

Certified for Microsoft Teams and compatible with Zoom, the Bose ES1 Ceiling Audio Solution includes the directional EdgeMax EM180 loudspeaker, Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone and PowerSpace P2600A amplifier. At the heart of the system is the ControlSpace EX-440C processor with four mic/line analog inputs, four analog outputs, onboard VoIP, PSTN, USB, Bose AmpLink output, eight-channel acoustic echo cancelling (AEC), and 16 x 16 Dante connectivity. The unit can be configured using the Bose ControlSpace Designer software with drag and drop programming. The EdgeMax EM180 mounts in-ceiling and is normally positioned at the front of the room near the display screen. The PowerSpace P2600A amplifier provides 600 watts per channel, and a Bose AmpLink input produces multiple channels of uncompressed, low-latency digital audio from Bose DSPs through a single Cat5 cable.

Crafted specially to facilitate audio for meetings, the Harman BSS DCP-555 Digital Conferencing Processor can be custom set for any specific room simply by using one of the many templates available and then tweaking in the configuration from there with a web interface. The unit provides four bidirectional VoIP connections along with I/O for BLU link, USB and 16×8 analog audio. In addition, there are built-in microphone tunings and JBL speaker tuning presets. When the system is used with AMX SVSI networked AV solutions, encoder syncing keeps the audio and video signals perfectly aligned. GPIO and relays enable remote control of muting and amp power on/off.

The Clearone COLLABORATE Live 1000 professional video collaboration system includes a Unite 200 PTZ camera with its 12x optical zoom, a CONVERGE Pro 2 audio processor, a patented beamforming microphone array ceiling tile and an easy to operate user interface. The CONVERGE Pro 2 includes 12 mic/line inputs and a USB audio interface, along with optional Dante for networked audio. The camera is capable of H.264 and H.265 streaming and it supports USB 3.0/2.0, HDMI, and IP with simultaneous video to all three of its outputs. The COLLABORATE Space software is a secure cloud collaboration suite allows access through a web interface, meeting scheduling and it integrates with Microsoft TEAMS.

For the ultimate in conference room applications in which having microphones on the table is not desirable, Clockaudio has the CCRM 4000 motorized ceiling microphone. Designed for suspended ceiling installation, it drops down at the optimal position and it can be retracted when not in use. This ability makes it especially useful for minimizing background noise pickup in rooms with high ceilings. For very large rooms, up to 99 units can be daisy chained with the height of each one individually set and there is a plenum version available. Versions include a model incorporating a single element (C3 capsule) and a tri-element (C303W-RF). Included are an 18VDC power supply, ceiling tile mounting bracket and safety cable.

The Crestron Flex R‑Series Plus mobile UC system can be rapidly deployed to provide convenient video conferencing in a variety of professional settings, such as corporate, education, healthcare, or manufacturing environments. The first-of-its-kind UC system supports native Microsoft Teams or Zoom Rooms, and BYOD conferencing with the same hardware. Enabling social distancing without compromising experience, the Flex R-Series features an intelligent camera with 150-degree field of vision that autoframes participants, 360-degree quad mic array with up to a 20ft. range, and retractable Ethernet and power cables for easy connections.  All components mount to a wheeled cart to bring collaboration to wherever it is needed.

4K content sharing and dual display support highlight the many features of the Lifesize Icon 500 conference system and its integrated PTZ camera provides a 5x zoom and full pan/tilt/zoom camera controls. Designed for small to medium sized conference rooms, the Icon 500 system uses Opus audio that is tuned for human speech. The plug-and-play setup is augmented with centralized management and automatic updates. Additions can include the Lifesize Phone HD with its touchscreen controller, Lifesize Share for easy screen sharing and the Lifesize GO app that enables the user to host meetings of up to eight participants from a phone or laptop.

The VC-B2U video conference camera from Lumens brings full 1080p HD video to the conference room while dual microphones allow participants to speak from a wide range of positions within a distance of about ten feet. The fixed lens can focus on attendees from the back of the room all the way up to within 30cm of the camera. Automatic audio gain, USB connectivity and camera exposure control make the system very easy for non-techies to use while concentrating on content. Compatible with Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and other conferencing conveyances, the BC-B2U can be integrated into any existing conference environment.

Mipro’s ACT-5800 Series wireless microphone receivers can be teamed with the BC-58T wireless conference microphone base to form a system in which participants can locally mute and activate their own mic. The base can snap in the ACT-58TC body pack transmitter PCB or accommodate a wired connection. The BC-58T is powered by an ICR 18500 rechargeable lithium-ion battery and it has a built-in charging circuit for recharging the battery. The ACT 5800 Series receivers are digital units ranging from the ½ rack unit ACT-5801 with its single channel to the ACT-5814A quad channel receiver. Between these are the ACT-5802 ½ RU dual channel receiver and the 1RU ACT-5812A dual channel receiver. These units all operate within the ISM 5GHz band in a range of up to 24 channels.

One of the least visually obtrusive conferencing and telemedicine microphones around is the MXL AC-44 with its three capsule 180-degree pickup pattern and 30Hz-20kHz frequency response. The pattern enhances sound from the front while minimizing room sound and noise from the rear of the unit. The power is provided through a single USB-C connection and it adds a line level auxiliary output for recording and capture applications. The metal frame and grill resist impacts and prevent any damage while its availability in white, black and cobalt assures its match with any room and other conference gear. A 6ft. USBA to USB-C cable is included.

Sennheiser’s conferencing solution for medium to large size rooms with up to 16 participants is their TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone array. The device has 28 condenser capsules linked through DSP matrixing where all of the processing occurs inside the ceiling unit. Using this method it can recognize which direction the sound is coming from and focus its pickup beam in that area while attenuating sound from other directions. Analog and digital outputs are available and power is supplied via PoE. The system can be set up with Sennheiser’s Control Cockpit software 4.0.0 and it can also be operated with a media control system.

Shure developed the MXA710 linear array microphone for clear voice conferencing and capture using Shure IntelliMix DSP and Autofocus technology to adjust its pickup lobes. Available in black, white or aluminum finish and 2 and 4ft. models, the MXA710 can be mounted horizontally or vertically and on ceilings, walls and tables. There is also the A710-MSA mic stand adapter. The mic is Dante Domain Manager/Device Lock compatible, UL2043 plenum and IP5X rated. Dual LED status bars at each end can be configured in adjustable colors and brightness. When used with IntelliMix P300 Audio Conferencing, Shure audio encryption can be enabled. Processor or Shure Audio Network Interfaces,

The Starin DTEN D7 is a 55-inch all-in-one videoconferencing solution for Zoom Rooms. Featuring a built-in 4K camera, a 16 elements microphone array, amplified speakers and one-touch startup controls for Zoom Rooms meetings. As an added bonus, you gain annotation abilities through the software to ensure everyone in the meeting can clearly see what is being discussed or changed. Great for strategy sessions, brainstorming, accounting reviews and much more.

The Taiden HCS-5300M/80A Series Digital Main Unit is the foundation for an infrared conferencing system and it can be used with a wide array of digital IR chairman and delegate stations, some of which allow both discussion and voting. The HCS-5300TD/80 digital infrared transceiver can be ceiling, wall or tripod mounted to pick up and distribute the IR signals between base and microphone units. The Digital Main Unit can handle multi-channel audio signals and it is capable of bidirectional data transmission and control. The wireless functionality makes the whole system very quick and easy to set up without stringing microphone cables.

TOA Electronics has a versatile conferencing solution that combines the TS-920RC Central Unit with the TS-921 Chairman Unit, the TS-922 Delegate Unit and the TS-923 and 924 gooseneck microphones. The system, which can be PC controlled, features a voting function, feedback suppression and mp3 recording. The chairman is provided with a priority speech key and that unit can run on an AC adapter or on batteries. All user stations have a remaining battery indicator and they can fit the TS-923, TS-903 standard type and the TS-924, TS-904 long type gooseneck microphones. The standard and long stem microphones have two flexible joints and they are equipped with an illuminated ring that shows when the mic is activated.

Everyone can get into the picture and be heard clearly with the Vaddio HuddleSHOT All-in-One Conferencing Camera thanks to its 125-degree, built-in twin microphones and echo cancellation. Its two integrated speakers provide clear stereo sound while a red blinking LED lets participants know when the local mics are muted. For larger rooms the HuddleSHOT can be used with an optional TableMIC or CeilingMIC microphone. The browser based user interface allows the system to be very intuitive and easy to operate. Included is a remote control, thin profile wall mount, PoE+ Midspan Power Injector with AC cord along with CAT5 and USB cables. The unit is also equipped with a 2X digital zoom.

The YAI-1 Wireless Microphone Conferencing System from Yamaha Unified Communications plugs into a USB connection and works right out of the box. The YAI-1 Boardroom version features eight Elite 12in. wireless gooseneck mics and the Yamaha MRX7-D DSP processor. There are also two VXL1-16 PoE line speakers, Dante AVIO USB adapter, SWR2100P-5GL2 network switch with PoE and a DCP1V4S wall mount volume controller. Also available are the YAI-1 Conference version with seven Elite wireless directional mics, the YAI-1 XL Conference with 16 Revolabs Elite wireless mics and the YAI-1 XL Boardroom with pre-configured and installed firmware and software. Any of these versions can be chosen to match the specific conference environment in which it will be used.

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