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Tech Showcase: Room Conferencing Systems

Our entries represent both wired and wireless operation with some of these systems capable of running in both modes simultaneously.

When deliberative bodies convene, there can be a wide variety of people, customs, languages, and emotions, and this makes it essential to keep things on track and under control. The room conferencing systems listed here represent the latest advances to date in giving control of such meetings to the chairman without requiring a steep learning curve to command their numerous features. Designed to be operated by decidedly non-tech people, room conferencing and discussion systems must be simple, reliable, and unobtrusive. It’s enough of a job just keeping order sometimes without the additional task of running a complex microphone and speaker system. Our entries represent both wired and wireless operation with some of these systems capable of running in both modes simultaneously. The latest such technology helps keep large meetings and conferences orderly and under control.

The CS5 Reference Digital Conference System from AKG is a hard-wired solution using Ethernet cable and it is simple enough to be mobile, used in a temporary arrangement, or it can be permanently installed as a larger system with up to 5,000 microphone stations and 63 languages. The setup is anchored by the CS5 BU (base unit) with its CS5 PS12 power supply. This unit has a TRS headphone jack, rear panel configuration DIP switches, RJ-45 input/output ports, an IR output for emitters, a USB port for computer control, tape in/out, effect out for using external signal processing such as feedback eliminators, and a balanced XLR input for an additional interpreter channel. That input signal can be muted or fed to language channel 1, which is part of the infrared signal. There are also line in/out, telephone in/out, and the power supply connection. The DIP switches can be set for NOM auto-mixing and they can control a number of signal routing functions. The CS5 DU basic microphone station includes mic input, volume control, a programmable push-to-talk button, and a pair of small speakers. The CS5 VU can be configured as a delegate station with voting functions or as a chairman station. The CS5 IU adds interpretation capability.

Audio-Technica ATCS-60

Audio-Technica combines the freedom and setup ease of wireless operation with 4-channel configuration for multi-language applications and an automated camera function. An infrared wireless system, the ATCS-60 allows control of microphone and camera settings from a PC running the Conference Manager software. The chairperson’s microphone station can override all other stations using its All Finish function and all mic stations include a speaker and a headphone jack with volume control. Each can also operate in either manual or automatic mode. In manual mode, the Talk button enables the mic but in automatic the microphone is triggered by voice, and the triggering threshold and length of time it stays on can be adjusted. When battery level is low, the LED on the station base and the LED on the microphone both flash rapidly. Security and eavesdropping concerns don’t arise since the system is line-of-sight and its signals do not penetrate walls. Battery charging time is about 5.5 hours using the ATCS-B60 charger and with continuous speech the mic stations can each operate for about six hours.

Beyerdynamic Orbis

Reliability through redundancy is a feature that goes to the front of the line with Beyerdynamic and its new Orbis conferencing system. All microphone stations can be arranged in a loop on the Cat-5 cable so that if there is a defect or break in the cable the system is still powered from the other end of the wire loop. Each control unit can operate with up to 100 microphone stations using a line topology and with the Cat-5 loop it can work with up to 50 mic stations with each using less than 1W. Hot plugging and automatic device recognition allow addition of stations with no interruption. The base unit uses one-button setup navigation and it provides internal SD card recording capability. It can also be connected through its RS232 port for serial control by a third-party control system. The gooseneck mics in the system are available in four lengths and they mount on XLR connectors. They are coated in scratch-resistant paint and the control panel is made of acrylic glass. Each mic station has a headphone output that can carry line audio or an interpreter channel, and the microphone on each unit in the system can be manually button-activated on the base or used in voice activation mode.

Bosch CCS-1000D

The Bosch Communications CCS 1000 D discussion system is designed for small-to medium-size meeting areas such as courtrooms and town halls. It incorporates Digital Acoustic Feedback Suppression (DAFS) to enable participants to reach higher volume levels without a problem. The control unit offers native support for automatic camera control, a built-in recording facility for internal and external recording, and a built-in Web browser for system and setup control via tablet. The unit can easily interface with an existing sound reinforcement system and it can rest on a table top or in a standard 19in. rack. The chairperson can select the number of open microphones, microphone mode, and system volume. Up to 4,000 hours of discussion can be recorded on a USB stick and the internal memory can store up to eight hours of content. Up to six HD cameras can be connected to the system without the need for additional software. The participant stations include an LED to indicate when the mic is on, in the queue or when it is possible to speak by the color in which it is illuminated. Each unit has a headphone jack with volume control and each one can be configured as a participant or chairperson station.

Clockaudio CS 3SN-RF

The CS 3SN-RF from Clockaudio is the nickel-finish tri-element boundary layer microphone using a half-cardioid polar pattern. The electronic capacitive-touch-sensitive switch illuminates in red or green to indicate the on/off status of the unit when used in conjunction with Clockaudio LB001 and other electronic mute switching boxes. It operates on 9-28V phantom power and provides a balanced audio output while its case and shielding make it immune to RF artifacts. The housing mounts into a .94in. hole and sits flat on the conference table. The mic is also available in a black finish.

Earthworks IMBL30

One of the most unobtrusive conference microphones in permanent installation is the Earthworks IMB/IMBL series with only a 1.4375in. diameter and flush mounting. Available in black, white or silver finish, these microphones exhibit a True Semisphere polar pattern and 30kHz flat frequency response. The IMBL mics include the LumiComm LED touch ring with red and green colors. Programming can make a simple touch of the ring turn the mic on/off or perform other functions including activation of other equipment. The system interface board is powered from an external 8V to 18V DC supply via a Phoenix or RJ-45 connector mounted on the microphone’s external PC board.

Listen Technologies LS-216

For situations in which an entire discussion system must be set up on the go, Listen Technologies offers the LS-216 wireless digital conferencing 12-person boardroom system. Featuring discussion, voting, and signage capabilities, the LS-216 includes one WC-CV3-C wireless digital conferencing chairman voting unit, microphone and battery pack and 11 WC-DV3-C wireless digital conferencing delegate voting unit, microphone and battery pack stations, two WC-CHT Wireless digital conferencing charging trays for six battery packs, and there is the CoCon Meeting Digital conferencing software suite. Providing up to 28 hours of operation on a full battery charge, the system operates in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands and provides a battery life LED status indicator. Each unit has a headphone jack for assistive listening or language interpretation. The system also uses the WC-WCAP3-C wireless digital conferencing conference access point and power supply. For more versatile interfacing capacity there is also a 1/4in. jack for audio input, one for separate audio output, and a LAN port.

Revolabs Executive Elite

The Revolabs 4-channel and 8-channel Executive Elite wireless mic system is designed for boardroom and conference room applications and uses a distributed architecture separating the remote antenna receiver from the Executive Elite base digital signal-processing (DSP) unit and connecting them on Cat-5e or Cat-6 with Power over Ethernet (PoE) support. Revolabs OTA technology enables receivers in relative proximity to one another to synchronize automatically and boost the number of microphones the system can handle up to 44 or more. The system can be used with the full suite of Revolabs Executive Elite microphones including the 6in. and 12in. gooseneck types. The crossover adapter allows a table top microphone to be charged all the time and this allows a wired option for such mics with options for permanent placement or a movable microphone configuration. Local or remote cloud-based management can be used to monitor and control microphone status, audio and radio signal strength, and system performance. A computer can also be directly connected to the base unit through a USB port and the unit can be operated on third-party control systems.

Sennheiser ADN-W Wireless

The ADN-W wireless conferencing system from Sennheiser operates in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band using pattern diversity antennas in each conferencing unit. The system uses 128-bit AES encryption to assure security and there are state of the art interfaces for remote media and PC control. The user stations include the ADN-W C1 chairman unit and the ADN-W D1 delegate unit each of which can accept a range of Sennheiser gooseneck microphones with various pickup patterns to suit room acoustics. Wireless connectivity is provided by the ADN-W AM antenna module with its tough metal housing, 100ft. coverage radius, and bus or DC adapter powering options. The system is focused on the ADN/ADN-W central unit, which uses its pre-installed software to power up to 40 stations and connect up to 400. In addition to USB recording, it uses intelligent audio processing to optimize intelligibility. The wireless connectivity integrates seamlessly with the wired ADN system to provide a wide range of design and installation options while the downloadable Cable Calculator app aids in system planning. All mic stations have a headphone jack with volume control.

Shure DDS5900

The Shure DDS 5900 Digital Discussion System is designed to be either permanently installed with flush-mount microphone stations or configured for mobile applications with quick and easy setup. Using digital transmission, the system can be expanded to 250 discussion units by adding extra equipment. The CU5905 central unit has two language interpretation channels, analog inputs and outputs for connection to room sound systems and videoconferencing units. It keeps track of microphone activation and routes audio to each discussion unit. The microphones can be operated in any of four modes; automatic, first-in/first-out, manual and vox (voice activated). Up to eight conference mics can be open at the same time and assigned to four groups by using the built-in group matrix. All of the components connect in a daisy-chain topology using shielded Cat-5e cables. For permanent installations, the DDS 5900 can be controlled through third-party control systems and up to 32 interpreter units can be connected. The base has a Web interface that can be used for system configuration, microphone/request list control and basic operational parameters. For instant participant identification the system includes a built-in seat table for attaching seat numbers and names to units using the Web browser. The DC 5980 P portable discussion units can be configured as chairman, delegate, or interpreter stations.

Taiden HCS-4851

Taiden’s wide range of wired tabletop and flush-mount digital conference systems are all compatible with the new HCS-4851 Retractable Microphone Array. The new device is a flush-mount unit with a retractable line array microphone and mic activation button. A cover plate hides all electronics when the microphone is fully retracted. When taken out for usage, the Taiden HCS-4851 microphone array has a total length of 7.9in. with a 30-degree lean angle; the microphone placement offers proximity to the sound source while using the advanced physical characteristics of a microphone array ensuring excel-lent pick-up of the human voice and rejecting ambient noise from above and below the microphone.

TOA TS-910

The new TS-910 central unit from TOA can connect to and operate both wireless and wired (Cat-5e) participant stations in combination. The wired units connect to it via the wired Expansion unit and Bridge unit and between wireless and wired; the TS-910 can connect up to 192 stations. 900 Series conference units are equipped with voting and base/translation language selection functions while 800 Series units are designed primarily for speaking and monitoring. A chairman unit operator can immediately take priority over the delegate units by using the Priority Speech Key Operation function. Recording equipment can be connected to the central unit for preparing conference minutes and when conference units are in use their local speakers are turned off to enable greater gain before feedback from the open microphones. The system’s Mic-Off feature automatically turns off any microphones that have not been used in approximately 30 seconds and a Simultaneous Speaker Number Restrictor limits the number of mics that can be on at the same time. The Feedback Suppressor function helps keep things under control when a large number of mic stations are connected. Free PC software is available to allow control and monitoring by way of the USB port on the central unit and it can control individual station volume levels via RS232. The TS-910 adds voting and interpretation features to wired configurations.

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