Microphones plug into the network

Networking, control, aesthetics, security and usability are all impacting the microphone market. Anna Mitchell talks to some of the manufacturers developing products to meet the diverse and changing needs of users and installers.

Executives in boardrooms, meeting rooms and presentation spaces the world over rely on microphones every day to make themselves heard. When delivering such a staple and necessary piece of equipment it can be tempting to stick with what you know. However, there are a number of key trends pushing technology developments and it’s important to keep pace with them to provide systems that deliver a good experience for people using and operating the equipment at every level of an organisation.

New networking protocols and a transition to digital has put certain pressures on microphone manufacturers but also opened up areas of development to allow them to offer entirely new ways to control and install products.

“The installed microphone market has been transitioning to digital interfaces over the last few years,” says Tim Root, chief technology officer and executive vice president of new business development, at Revolabs.

“With the implementation of the AVB standard and proprietary Dante technologies, most DSPs now support directional audio. This has pushed microphone vendors to add digital interfaces to their traditional analogue offerings. Revolabs supports AVB in our Executive Elite wireless product family. This advancement allows installers the flexibility of having an antenna that can be up to 100 metres from the receiver box as well as simple connection to the DSP box.”

Tom Harrold, Audio-Technica marketing manager for EMEA, agrees. “The requirement for networked audio systems has obviously been the most significant development in the installation microphone market recently,” he notes. “Integrators increasingly need to offer their clients solutions that afford real control and functionality, and the advent of networked audio products allows exactly that.

“Audio-Technica launched the world’s first Dante-enabled wired microphone – the ATND971 boundary mic – in 2014, bridging the gap between audio and IT and allowing the transmission of audio and control data via Audinate’s network protocol.

“The ATN8677 Dante-compatible microphone desk mount was also released in 2014, allowing gooseneck microphones to be connected to a network without the need for analogue audio and control cabling.

“The new products are designed to give control over functions including room lighting [and] videoconferencing camera operation. The ATND8677 features GPIO-over Dante for integration with various Symetrix and Biamp networking solutions.”

Kai Tossing, portfolio manager for business communication at Sennheiser, says: “Audio-over-IP is definitely a trend we’re monitoring. Two years ago we demonstrated an AVB microphone table stand. For the Digital 9000 we decided to opt for Dante as that was the appropriate technology for corporate applications and presentations.”

Wolfgang Fritz, product manager of conference and wireless technology at beyerdynamic, says: “The analogue XLR is still the most popular connection. More and more installed devices are integrated in a standard CAT5 network. For a futureproof solution it is important to work with standardised licence free protocols. Beyerdynamic was one for the first companies to integrate AVB audio transmission to their products and will continue to integrate digital transmission.”

The article goes on to explore control options (including iPad applications for TOA and Trantec products), aesthetics, wireless considerations and some common installation headaches.

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