Testing: one, two

For conferencing and presentation applications an integrator or installer needs to know the sound chain is not going to fall at the first hurdle: the microphone. Anna Mitchell explores omnidirectional boundary and gooseneck options.

Microphones can sometimes be overlooked during an install; hastily specified at the end of a project and purchased on price not performance. However, talking to some of the manufacturers of wired models it becomes quickly apparent that enormous research and development efforts, a great understanding of the user and sensitivity to design and architectural concerns all come together to produce their products. In order to meet every possible need, whether aesthetic or functional, microphone manufacturers usually boast an alarming range of models. This article aims to explore omnidirectional boundary and gooseneck microphones.

Sennheiser’s Martin Gurtner, industry team manager of installed sound and audiology project management, says Sennheiser offers a range of boundary microphones from its evolution series; the e 912 and e 912 S. The S model provides users with a programmable switch that activates the microphone. Gurtner reveals that there is an increasing demand for a built-in boundary microphones, partly in response to demand from videoconferencing applications.

On the gooseneck side Gurtner highlights the company’s ME 36, 35 and 34 permanently polarised condenser microphone heads for use with the Sennheiser MZH goosenecks. The ME36 is a highly directional mini shotgun head for difficult acoustical environments, the 35 is a super cardioid capsule and the 34 is a cardioid microphone, offering a smooth response across all frequencies. Alexander Lepges, Audio- Technica’s European product manager, says the company’s three gooseneck lines have been engineered to ensure consistency. The most costeffective line is the Pro-point range, followed by the Unipoint and Engineered Sound lines, which offer slim, low profile housings and come in a variety of combinations, all with interchangeable capsules. Each line focuses on different applications to provide integrators with the flexibility to meet most eventualities. Audio- Technica shields all its models against RF interference using its trademarked technology, Uniguard.

Interestingly, the company can offer very small microphone capsules using a patented technology that utilises an embossed hexagonal pattern called "double wave forming pattern", which Lepges claims allows smaller diaphragms with higher sensitivity, better low frequency response and a higher sound consistency. At this year’s ISE show in Amsterdam the company also released the U843R boundary microphone. Although technically not an omnidirectional model the microphone incorporates small levers on the underside that adjust the three channels within in the enclosure to provide 360° coverage.

Beyerdynamic was showing off new integrated Revoluto microphone units at ISE. The company’s Michael Knopf said the units could be concealed in a table and opened out as required. He also explained that the Revoluto units were now phantom powered. He says the company aims to provide its customers with “natural sound, transmitted in the best possible way” and explains the Revoluto technology not only provides good intelligibility but, compared to gooseneck models, offers users a more comfortable experience.

Mario Siokola, product manager of installed sound at AKG, says the company has three ranges of gooseneck microphones and two ranges of boundary. On the gooseneck side the top range is the Architectural microphones. Siokola says they have a flat frequency response and suit conferencing applications. Customers can choose from a variety of housings and capsule shapes. In anticipation of Prolight and Sound AKG is launching an online configurator designed to allow users to quickly and easily create the microphone that suits their purpose via an online tool. Next up, the Modular Series offers five different capsule models and three lengths. LED indicators can be applied to all models.

Also at Prolight, the Compact series, a spin-off from the Modular, will be integrated into a new entry level gooseneck series, the 99ers. The range consists of nine microphones that are equipped with components from classical AKG products, such as the capsule of the C542 BL boundary layer microphone. All models are shielded against RFI.

Siokola also anticipates that AKG will be able to offer the European market Crown boundary layer microphones from this autumn. “[The products] were integrated into the AKG product range last year,” he says, adding that so far they are only shipping in the US. The company will not release the models until they are certain that improvements in the RF shielding technology are in place.

“We’re known for our ability to customise,” begins Rod Geary, sales and marketing manager of Clock Audio. He says aesthetics are hugely important and cites the company’s decision to manufacture most of its products from solid brass as a reason why it can be so flexible with specific finishes and colours. Geary explains that the company’s CS series of boundary microphones was inspired by a brief from a consultant that required a clear boardroom table. “We offer multiple microphones in one lump meaning you need one small hole that will go through the table,” he explains adding that the top model, the CS4 will service up to eight delegates. Recently the company took the concept a stage further when it introduced the Retractor series, which allows users to push the microphone back into the table after use. “We do pride ourselves on audio quality as well,” he adds. “This is all about voice intelligibility and that’s really what we try and achieve with all our products.”

Shure’s Anthony Short introduces the company’s MX412 and MX418 Microflex gooseneck microphones. Shure offers various models with numerous heights and mounting styles in order to suit multiple applications. The ‘S’ models offer a programmable mute switch option and all are resistant to RF interference. Shock mounts provide more than 20dB isolation from surface vibration noise and cartridges are easily interchangeable to offer differing polar patterns.

On the boundary side Short highlights the company’s button boundary models. The MX395 is a low profile table microphone which Short says offers good sound pick despite its small size of 3.2cm in diameter. An LED ring indicates the microphones usage and models come in black, white or aluminium.

An infrared detector built into Sabine’s microphones mean that microphones at empty chairs will not open, even if there is a large amount of background noise. Doran Oster, the company’s president told InAVate that all of the company’s gooseneck models boast this feature. He also explains that the company has worked hard to ensure presenters who are not sophisticated performers can use its products effectively. “Our microphones incorporate automatic gain control (AGC), or plosive control as we call it,” says Oster. He continues to explain that AGC combats the extra pressure that ‘p’ or ‘t’ sounds can place on the microphone. All Sabine microphones require phantom power and offer various mounting options. Communication Technology is a UK headquartered microphone manufacturer that offers a range of gooseneck and boundary models. The company’s ranges of gooseneck microphones, C98 and C100, offer both moving coil and electret capsules which are fitted to fully flexible or part flexible/rigid goosenecks.

Furthermore, the company has recently added a solar powered option to its Buddy range of desk paging units. The new innovation removes the need for external phantom power.

Anthony Walker, chief executive of the company, explains that many of the models are used for rugged applications thanks to Communication Technology’s dedication to heavy duty build often using innovative materials and solutions. He also highlights the company's Silent Witness, a ceiling mounted microphone disguised as a smoke detector with a 360° pickup range covering areas up to 100m².

Finally, Milab’s Mattias Stromberg introduces the company’s VM-44 gooseneck microphone. He explains that the company has recently discontinued its boundary layer microphone prior to the introduction of the VLM-44, a boundary layer plate that turns the VM- 44 into a boundary layer microphone. Both models are phantom powered. He said Milab would introduce at least one or two new models this year but declined to elaborate on any details.

What becomes apparent when exploring all the different options available to integrators is the wide variety of choice available, not just across the different companies but actually within specific product lines as well. So whatever the project, whatever the need – whether a specific performance characteristic or aesthetic requirement - there should be a microphone out there to suit the application.

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