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Tech Showcase: Conference Mics and Systems

There was a day when dim, blinking video and slightly distorted or reverberant sound was good enough, almost expected, in conferencing environments. Hey, it’s just a conference, not a hit TV show right? Wrong. Not anymore. In modern corporate conferencing systems video and sound quality are considered to be as much a part of the company’s identity as what you see in the lobby at headquarters and it’s the front door for many who have never physically visited. The products in our survey here demonstrate the recent advances in quality, reliability and user friendliness that have become a basic demand in the conference room.

Lending a very professional look and sound to any formal conferencing event, the AKG CGN521 STS table top gooseneck microphone provides a frequency response of 70Hz to 18kHz while its 120-degree cardioid pattern rejects room noise and feedback. Its base switch can be programmed to operate in several different modes including push-to-talk, push-to-mute, push ON/OFF and push for low cut. The large LED on the base indicates the microphone’s status while the gold-plated XLR connector assures a solid audio connection. The 19.5 in. stem allows the mic to reach across notebooks and papers to get close to the user but the solid, heavy metallic base prevents it from tipping over.

Among the many conferencing solutions from Audio-Technica are the ATUC-50 wired and ATUC-IR wireless conferencing systems which may be used independently or in a mixed configuration. Using 24-bit/48kHz uncompressed digital audio and a 12-band feedback suppressor, the systems can provide clear speech in large, multiple microphone setups. As many as 100 ATUC-50DU discussion units, ATUC-50IU integration units, and ATUC-50INT interpretation units can be run by one ATUC-50CU rack-mountable control unit. Three of these can be cascaded with CAT5e cable. Wired or hybrid wired/wireless systems can be driven by the AT U C – I RC U rack-mountable infrared control unit. Two ATUC50CU control units may be linked off the ATUC-IRCU with CAT5e or better cable.

Audio-Technica is also now shipping a new Engineered Sound line of modular microphone systems that the company announced at InfoComm. The line includes several dozen variations of the ES925 gooseneck microphone. ES925 modular microphone systems includes a microphone element, gooseneck and power module. Components are interchangeable with each other, allowing users to configure each microphone system from a choice of three different polar patterns (“C,”/ cardioid, “H”/hypercardioid, and “ML”/ MicroLine designations); four power module options (“DS5,” “FM3,” “FM5” and “XLR” designations) and six different gooseneck lengths — a total of 72 new offerings. The desk stand, flush-mount power modules, and all mic element housings feature highly visible, two-state RGB LED status indicators. The 5-pin desk stand is also equipped with a touch-sensitive capacitive-type user switch with local and remote switching options and a UniSteep filter that provides steep low-frequency attenuation to improve sound pickup without affecting vocal reproduction quality. The 3-pin and 5-pin flush-mount power module options mount unobtrusively in tabletops and come with isolators that provide mechanical dampening of the mounting surface. Both versions are equipped with a capacitive touch switch to enable local muting of the microphone. The 3-pin XLR power module version plugs into any standard XLRF-type connector or mounts to 5/8”-27 stands using the included quick-mount stand adapter. The XLR version allows LED control when used with ATUC series products and the AT8699R desk stand. All four power module versions include UniGuard RFI-shielding technology.

The Audix MicroPod modular gooseneck system features the M1250B microphone on stem lengths of 6, 12 and 18in. The MicroPod Series provides RF immunity and clear speech pickup across the conference table with its 50Hz to 19kHz frequency response and cardioid polar pattern. For use in noisy environments, the mic is also available with a hypercardioid pickup pattern. It can be mounted on a standard mic stand or used with the Audix ATS Series table stand with lighted on-off switch. Each mic is machined brass with an integrated mic preamp, field replaceable capsule and it terminates in a male XLR connector. The condenser microphone has a non-reflective black matte finish and operates on 18-52V phantom power.

The beyerdynamic Orbis conference system consists of a range of components including the GMS 52 installation holder, Classis GM 115 Q gooseneck mic, MU 43 chairman unit, MU 41 delegate unit, SU 63 system unit and other hardware. The system connects on a twisted pair loop so that the mic units can be powered from either end of the line. A media control system can be connected through the RS-232 interface and each unit can be wired from behind or from below for installation options. beyerdynamic’s Revoluto array microphones can also be used. Depending on the connecting topology, each control unit can support up to 100 microphone units or up to 50 when connected in loop for redundancy and fail-safe operation.

Biamp Systems introduced the Parlé TCM-X ceiling microphone for use with their Tesira systems in meeting rooms with 10ft. or lower ceilings. It consists of the microphone and a network box and it uses beamtracking to pick up sound in four 90-degree zones. Available in black or white to match the ceiling color, the mic has less than a 6in. diameter and it includes a bright LED mute indicator. The network box has a digital signal processing module and an extra RJ-45 connector to allow addition of an optional TCM-XEX. The beamtracking technology actively tracks and intelligently mixes conversations.

The DICENTIS Conference System from Bosch Communications is an IP based system using open standards and OMNEO media networking architecture. A variety of third party control systems can be interfaced and automatic camera control is possible with ONVIF compliant IP cameras or Sony and Panasonic cameras with CGI protocols. All of the DICENTIS devices use Intelligent Acoustic Feedback Suppression to allow high volume levels without feedback and echo. Conference devices can be connected with star and looped daisy-chain configuration using Bosch powering switches and Bosch system network cables. The latest addition is the DICENTIS Interpreter desk and it accompanies the wide range of discussion devices that include multimedia and voting capabilities.

At the end of July, Bose started shipping two new conferencing processors for small and medium sized conference rooms. Bose has an all-in-one processing design in the ControlSpace EX-440C conferencing processor. With its 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 easily be set up and configured with the Bose ControlSpace Designer software. The USB connection allows simple integration with all soft codecs. The AmpLink output has 4 channels of uncompressed, low-latency digital audio to send to AmpLink-equipped Bose amplifiers. The processing is handled by a 32-bit fixed/ floating-point DSP 456 MHz/ARM CortexA8 600 MHz processor and the unit provides full 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response. Also shipping is a second conference processor, the Control Space EX-12AE. With an open-architecture design, twelve acoustic echo cancellers (AEC) and 16 x 16 Dante connectivity, this conferencing processor provides a cost-effective, robust expansion for conference rooms using ControlSpace EX- conferencing processors.

New from ClearOne is the BMA CT ceiling tile beam-forming mic array for drop ceilings. Available in three sizes to fit US and international ceiling-grid sizes, the device uses advanced acoustic echo cancellation and its adaptive steering minimizes background noise pickup. Multiple BMA CT units can be seamlessly combined through its advanced gating and the system uses a single cable for audio, power and control. Its power source is switch selectable between PoE and the P-Link input and loudspeakers can be driven by the built-in  2x10W 8-ohm power amplifier. There are controls for AEC and noise cancellation, gain, automatic level control, mute and manual/auto gating along with extensive filtering.

The Clockaudio D33/D34 dynamic gooseneck mics offer a versatile addition to any conference room or speech podium with their speech optimized response and durable black brass construction. These can be purchased with a fully flexible or semi-rigid (SR versions) shaft and for custom orders they are also available in Nextel Suede Coating finishes. The D33 is 11.8in. long and for extra reach the D34 is 16.7in. The mics produce a cardioid pattern with a frequency response of 150Hz to 12kHz. They can also be ordered in base mount or three-pin XLR styles and they work quite well to deliver clear speech in high background noise environments.

Crestron’s Flex M100-T is at the forefront of their line of unified conferencing and collaboration systems built on the IoT cloud based XiO Cloud platform. Used with the Microsoft Team’s intelligent communications platform, the system is a complete audio conference room solution and combines a full-duplex conferencing speakerphone and touch screen controller in a single unit. Easy to operate, the Flex M100-T provides secure full-duplex wide-band audio in a native Microsoft Teams IC audio conferencing environment. Featuring one-touch meeting joins, onboard calendaring and corporate directory access, the system uses an integrated 360-degree quad microphone array and a high-powered, full-range speaker to allow full-spectrum, bidirectional voice communication.

With 4K video, ultra-high definition content sharing, powerful 20x zoom and 10 shot presets, the Lifesize Icon 700 also supports dual displays. Its compact form factor with integrated PTZ camera allows it to be placed on a credenza or small mobile media table. The system uses standard wired networks as well as 802.11ac wireless and the camera’s 83-degree wide angle of view makes it easy to include all conference table participants in the same shot from a short distance. The web interface can be used for system management with backup and restore capability. Serial control interfaces can operate through the unit’s two USB 3.0 ports. The fully integrated Lifesize phone has a response of 90Hz to 22kHz and a pickup range of up to 15ft.

One of the more adaptable and versatile conferencing solutions from Mipro is the combination of their MM-204 gooseneck microphone and BC-24T wireless conference microphone base. The Proprietary microphone mount design allows 110 degrees up/ down and 300degrees left/right angle adjustments of its 15in. black stem. Its 50Hz-18kHz frequency response provides good speech pickup and the multi-layered microphone grill minimizes pop noise. The BC-24T base allows the ACT-24TC transmitter PCB to be inserted while maintaining hard-wired system capability by accepting phantom power directly from a mixer. The base includes a talk/mute button with an LED status indicator. The unit also has a built-in charging circuit for recharging the battery.

The Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 is a conference microphone that uses beam-forming technology to allow participants to be mobile and use the entire conference room with perfect speech pickup. Operated with Sennheiser’s Control Cockpit software, one or more mics can be controlled from anywhere on the corporate network and it can be connected to the conference system through its analogue and DANTE outputs. Installation is made easy with PoE and the system is fully compatible with Dante Domain Manager. The mic can be flush mounted as a ceiling tile, suspended under a higher ceiling using the SL CM SK accessory suspension kit or it can be attached to the ceiling using the optional ceiling mount bracket.

Shure has the conferencing system to use when hard wiring is not possible. With Microflex Complete Wireless, there is not only no wiring clutter but the quick setup and flexible configuration are basic advantages. Transmitters and receivers automatically find and use clear channels and meetings of up to 125 participants can be accommodated using the same multi-role wireless conference units for chairman, delegate or listener. Features include two, three or five-button voting, color touch screens, rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries and there is a networked charging station that charges ten batteries in four hours. A variety of Shure gooseneck microphones can be used with any of the participant stations.

Taiden’s HCS-8368 Series Paperless Multimedia Congress System is designed for high-level meetings, summits, conventions, parliaments and city councils. The system is user-focused on the HCS-8668 Series Paperless Multimedia Congress Terminal with its 14in. HD touch screen and its buttons for voting, language channel selection, video source selection, mic on/off and IC card identifier. The base is the HCS-8600M Main Unit with a built-in DSP processor and amplifier, direct recording and playback via USB port, and an HDMI interface.

The TS-800 and 910 Series Conference System from TOA can be wirelessly set up and configured for secure operation saving time and potential connection issues. The user can choose between the high-end TS-910 system featuring up to 96 chairperson/delegate stations, three level voting and simultaneous translation audio channel and the TS-800 system supporting up to 64 chairperson/delegate stations. Each station in the system can be powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or AC power supply. Both systems can be controlled externally via RS-232C and USB port and each station is individually controllable by assigning a unit address. Separate external devices can be connected for conference recording. Feedback is automatically controlled by switching the station speaker off when that unit’s mic is on and vice versa.

Vaddio is now shipping its new plug-and-play TableMIC microphone. Engineered to reduce distracting table and operational noises that arise in the conference room, the TableMIC has a solid metal base construction, acoustical fabric wrap, and padded rubber feet to diminish table vibration noise. The top of the TableMIC features a capacitive touch control surface for silent operation. The ability to enable and disable button functionality during configuration can further simplify the end user’s videoconferencing experience. With full 360-degree coverage from three unidirectional condenser microphone elements (and integrated echo cancelling and DSP including EQ, filtering and AGC) a single TableMIC microphone provides excellent coverage for most meeting rooms. The DSP in a companion product such as the Vaddio AV Bridge MATRIX PRO or EasyUSB Mixer/Amp provides an AEC reference from the far end and applies it to individual mic elements, so conference calls are crystal-clear on both ends of the conversation. Power, control and audio are all carried over a single CAT 5 cable. up to 100 feet (30 meters) between the microphone and equipment with Vaddio EasyMIC ports.

The YAI-1 Conference Ensemble from Yamaha Unified Communications is a working system right out of the box with its pre-programmed configuration, integrated Executive Elite wireless system and microphones. It features the Yamaha MRX7-D DSP processor, 256-bit AES encryption and USB connection for use with existing conferencing software. The system is available in a number of variants to easily blend with existing hardware and conference room environments. It rejects GSM noise from other wireless electronic devices while its DECT protocol protects against radio frequency changes.


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