“What is the best type of conference room microphone?” A two-second question, but unfortunately not so easy to answer.
The technical specifications will offer a lot of jargon and details on pick-up patterns, decibels and frequency response. However, these specs will not take into account the environment. If you are not an audio expert they will tell you very little on how you will experience a certain type of conference room microphone in your meeting environment.
Properties of a Conference Room Microphone: an infographic
We’ve produced an interactive infographic that will give you a qualitative score against 6 user experience based properties of the most common type of conference room microphones:
- a gooseneck microphone
- a shotgun microphone
- a linear array microphone
- an omnidirectional boundary microphone
- a half cardioid boundary microphone
Scroll down for background and insights for those properties
A Conference Room Microphone described in 6 properties
Forgetting all the technical gobbledygook, here are the 6 conference room microphone characteristics of the infographic explained from a user perspective.
Ambient noise immunity
Honestly, if you would listen with headphones to the ambient noise in a meeting room, you would be surprised how much is going on. Rustling paper, moving chairs, pens dropping, coffee being spilled … Air conditioning and projector fans aren’t helping either.
Having a conference room microphone that is able to precisely pick up the voice of the speaker and ignore all other noise will greatly contribute to the intelligibility in the room.
Be aware that this is particularly important for meetings with simultaneous interpretation. If your microphone system picks up too much room noise, it will drive interpreters up the walls and make their work very difficult.
Other than ambient noise is the noise generated by the system. Every electronic circuit generates noise, but some do more than other. How well a conference system deals with that noise depends on the type of microphone, how carefully the circuits have been designed and the quality of the components used.
Important to know is that more noise decreases the quality of the listening experience.
A carefully selected conference room microphone system increases intelligibility and makes meetings more relaxed and less tiresome. Delegates no longer have to raise their voices for them to be heard on the other side of the table.
However, for this to work also in longer meetings, the sound coming from the system must sound natural and well balanced. Controlled and even in the high frequencies, warm but not overdone in the low ones. And not picking up to much reverberation caused by the room’s acoustics.
Listening to an unnatural sounding system will quickly irritate and cause fatigue.
Freedom of movement
What happens when a speaker turns his head to the delegate sitting beside him while speaking? What if – in the heat of the moment – he gets up from his seat to continue his speech? What if the speaker is very relaxed and laid back in his seat?
These are all situations a microphone has to deal with: the distance of the speaker to the microphone changes as well as the direction in which he is speaking. Some conference room microphone types deal with these changing conditions better than others.
Hey, this is a meeting room with microphones. Privacy? So what?
Well, it is extremely annoying listening to a person speaking and all of a sudden also hearing the voice of his neighbor exchanging a few words with the person next to him. I’m sure you can imagine situations where this is downright embarrassing too.
The directivity of the microphone will largely determine how well the voice of the speaker is ‘isolated’ from all other sounds.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the truth is: some types of conference room microphones are more intrusive than others. The less visible ones will compromise on ambient noise pick-up and privacy, the more intrusive visible ones will perform better on those aspects.
As you can see, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to the question of which type of microphone is the best. It really depends on the application and what you feel is more important to you.
However, with the above in mind and with the help of the infographic, you should be able to make a more educated evaluation of what type of conference room microphone best suits your needs and which ones to avoid.
We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.