Easy Audio: A Roadmap to Confident Integration in Hospitality Projects

Easy Audio: A Roadmap to Confident Integration in Hospitality Projects

In the world of hospitality, incorporating audio into projects can often be seen as a daunting task. However, with a structured approach, focused on both the application and guests’ needs and preferences, the process can certainly become an opportunity for success. Rob Voorhees, CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante, BDM II – Technical Specialist at Exertis Almo, has shared with us some valuable insights on how to start incorporating sound into projects with ease. Let go through some of these tips together and turn any uncertainties into endless possibilities.

1. Understanding the Application and Customer’s Needs:
You can begin the audio integration journey by gaining a basic understanding of the application and the specific requirements of your customer. This involves asking targeted questions, much like you would for other components of a project. For example, inquire about the need for microphones, amplification for live bands or pianos, and sound systems. This initial step helps demystify the process and eliminates the “scary unknown.”

2. Creating a Roadmap:
To simplify the integration process you can create a roadmap that starts with the customer’s display or source. Consider how the content will be heard, which most likely requires speakers. These speakers require amplification, potentially involving a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) or mixer for sound control and tuning. Following this roadmap systematically guides you through the integration steps, instilling confidence in both you and your customer to provide a comfortable guest experience.

3. Selling Comfort and Confidence:
Recognize that many integrators may not be entirely comfortable with audio topics. Therefore, focus on selling comfort and confidence throughout the integration process. By breaking down the project into manageable steps and clearly defining each component, your not only simplifying the task at hand, but also assuring that your customers are fully informed and set up for success.

4. Knowing Your Resources:
One key to removing the unknown and building confidence is being aware of your available resources. Numerous vendors and sites, such as Harman Pro Training, offer online support made specifically to enhance your audio knowledge. Additionally, you can utilize any available design tools provided by audio vendors. For example, JBL’s Distribute System Design can assist in determining speaker quantity and required wattage for amplifiers based on specific dimensions. Need to know your sound reinforcement system will be free from feedback? Check out the Exertis Almo PAG-NAG calculator.

5. Utilizing Exertis Almo Support with Manufacturer Relationships:
For support beyond training and design tools, our BDM team acts as a direct connection to our manufacturer partners. From technical support and system design to product training and demo programs, our BDMs are here to assist you and to connect you with our manufacturers for additional help with designing a system or creating the ultimate Bill of Materials (BOM). If certain questions make you uncomfortable or if uncertainty arises, remember that Exertis Almo and our manufacturers are there to assist you and your customer. If you leverage your available resources correctly, then a successful audio integration is certainly achievable!

In conclusion, incorporating sound into hospitality projects doesn’t have to be a complex and intimidating process. With a structured approach, a clear roadmap, and a utilization of vendor resources, you can confidently navigate the world of audio integration, delivering exceptional results for both you and your customers!

Did you find this blog helpful?
Connect with Hospitality at Exertis Almo on LinkedIn, or visit Hospitality.ExertisAlmo.com

The Modern Meeting Room

Our modern meeting rooms are full of the latest technology, but the humans in them are still using the same eyes and ears (interfaces) we were using since we started drawing pictures on cave walls.

Meeting RoomIt would seem to make sense then that we should be designing the room, and the meeting environment, first around the human and then applying the appropriate technology within the boundaries of human factors and ergonomics.

Designing for human factors reduces fatigue and stress, increases comfort, and provides greater user acceptance.  These sound like some pretty good goals for an audiovisual system and where we should first focus our attention.  In other words, we should be designing according to the limitations and needs of people.

So, what does the human need to do?  The human needs to be able to see and not just see but read and comprehend.  The human also needs to be able to hear clearly.  Further, the human needs to be heard clearly and intelligibly to those who are listening regardless of whether the listeners are in the same room or on the far side of a videoconference.

As far as reading and comprehension, there’s an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard for this, the ANSI/AVIXA V202 Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems.  This handy little standard defines content size, image size related to content size, farthest viewer limits, closest viewer limits, and off-axis viewer limits. These limits draw the boundary lines for where to place the humans in physical relation to an image.  And this is within the context of being able to assimilate the content over time without fatigue.  This is not about testing the limits of human vision like with a Snellen chart during an eye exam.  It’s about making sure the humans are comfortable in the viewing environment whether it’s a one-hour meeting or an 8-hour class.  Keep in mind that the content to be comprehended by the viewers may only be a portion of the overall image size and you may need to design for the content portion and not solely the overall image size.  The ANSI/AVIXA V201 Image System Contrast Ratio standard is a companion piece and defines the minimum contrast ratio needed for a good image.  If you’ve done enough system measurements, you know there are way too many projected systems running at a 3:1 contrast ratio.

The human also needs to be able to hear.  While our Acoustic Echo Cancellers (AECs) and Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) have gotten much better at removing steady-state background noise out of the audio being sent to the far side in a videoconference, what about the people trying to communicate with each other in the same room?  Typically, the biggest noise offender is the HVAC system.  For many years now, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has published Design Guidelines for HVAC-Related Background Sound in Rooms in the Sound and Vibration chapters of their Handbooks.  You will find that the maximum background noise in conference rooms and classrooms should be no more than NC/RC 30 (approximately 35 dB SPL A-wtd).  The ANSI/ASA S12.60 Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools agree with the maximum background noise level of 35 dB SPL A-wtd.  Again, if you’ve done enough measurements, you know most spaces fall far short of these criteria.  You can think of this as an acoustic signal-to-noise ratio – the ratio of background noise compared to speech level.

Conference MeetingA close second to the maximum allowable background noise level is the acoustical performance of the space.  This is the actual sound signature of the room, and I can think of nothing more important that is also the least considered or even ignored.  While the trend has been towards glass walls, shiny floors, wood panels and other acoustically “hard” surfaces, these materials are the least friendly when it comes to the acoustical criteria needed for human communication.  Jun Lim recently wrote, “No matter how excellent an audio system is, it cannot surpass the limitations imposed by the acoustic environment.”  The late John Murray once said, “Once the sound leaves the loudspeakers, it’s out in the wild”.  “Acoustically friendly” doesn’t have to mean plain or ugly but aesthetics devoid of acoustical considerations impedes the ability to communicate.

A group of us were in a 42 ft. x 32 ft. conference room in an Experience Center of a well-known audio manufacturer in the Chicago area back in November and I stopped everyone and measured the background noise of the room at RC29.  The room was a delight.  Conversation was easy anda low noise floor helps people to relax because they aren’t having to work to understand what’s being said.  An ambient noise problem is magnified if not everyone is able to communicate using their first language.

A major audio manufacturer did a survey just prior to the pandemic.  The survey revealed that 96% of professionals were frustrated with their virtual meetings and 4 out of the top 5 frustrations were related to audio and that “flawless” audio was four times more important than video.  Two of the top five identified frustrations were background noise and not being able to hear each person.  Unfortunately, most buyers responsible for outfitting meeting rooms will be inundated with the lure of new aspect ratios, ever higher resolutions and other shiny audio and video objects that promise to bring all your meetings into the next dimension.  A proper meeting room should first focus on the criteria required for excellent human communication.  While all of us, myself included, absolutely love the look of the latest technology, getting the room itself right should be the priority.  As Pat Brown once said, “The Cloud won’t fix your room.”

I am betting that the leading cause of “Zoom fatigue” is actually the result of the effort and concentration it takes to try and overcome poor audio issues and improperly sized content.

Selling the latest 64:9 display with 32K resolution along with the newest gamma ray-focused mic array and volcanic loudspeakers does not guarantee a high-performance meeting room.  I would argue that a modern high-performance meeting room is one that is designed considering human factors and comfort and adhering to the standards and references mentioned above.  Make it comfortable and easy for the humans to see and hear and they’ll be free to spend their energy on the topic at hand.Exertis Almo Calculators

If you’re interested in how to work towards implementing an actual high-performance meeting room, reach out to anyone here at Exertis Almo and let us help you make your rooms better than anyone else’s.

To make some of this easier, we’ve developed a new online calculator for image sizes and PAG-NAG that can be very useful: https://www.exertisalmo.com/tools/calculator.aspx

If you enjoyed this blog, you’ll enjoy watching these on-demand, educational webinars hosted by Tom.

Tom Kehr

About the Author

Tom Kehr

CTS-D, CTS-I, Network+, LEED Green Associate, ISF-C, ATD Master Trainer

In-House System Designer and Trainer

Supported Applications: System Design

 

Life Is Beautiful… When You Attend JBL Fest!

Being that I am now 42 years old and have worked in Telecom and AV for the better part of 2 decades, I have 12+ trips to Las Vegas completed and feel like I know what to expect each time I fly into Harry Reid International Airport. First, it was the annual DIRECTV Revolution Conference, then it was Channel Partners, followed by InfoComm in alternating years. As I have explained to my wife (who has never been), I feel like the mystique of Las Vegas wears off after the first or second trip out there. However, when I was approached back in 2019 with the chance to attend my first ever JBL Fest, I felt the type of excitement as if I had never been there and was eager to experience a new list of firsts. Unfortunately, a family health scare cancelled my trip that year and 2 years-worth of a Pandemic further delayed my first JBL Fest until 2022. Having enjoyed last year as much as I did, I still felt a certain sense of the “exciting unknown” when I was invited to attend again this year. Along with our Exertis Almo Incentive Winners – Josh Taylor, Kyle Smith, Randy Robinovitch, and Ray Farler, I headed out to Las Vegas and made sure to document JBL Fest 2023 for all of you!

Landing Las Vegas, you are almost immediately greeted by hosts holding “JBL Fest” signage at the baggage claim area and are ushered to a waiting shuttle (aka a rather swanky party bus) which took us to the Park MGM where we would be staying for the next 2 days. Surprise #1 on this trip was while I was checking in and I lift my head to notice Kevin Humphrey, Harman Distribution Manager (and close friend), standing next to me. I have always said that I am only as successful as those around me, so to be able to share this experience with someone deserving like Kevin made the event that much more rewarding. We then walked to the Hospitality Suite where I received a welcome packet and the “infamous” JBL Fest Swag Bag. This year, the bag contained several JBL branded items such as water bottles and hand sanitizer, but the highlight was the customized pair of JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds. If you are not familiar with these, they are JBL’s newest noise cancelling earbuds which were featured in WIRED’s Best of CES 2023. Spatial Audio, wireless charging, and a first of its kind touch display on the charging case make these anything but your typical earbuds. I had to open and pair them with my phone the second I got to my room! Once we got to the complimentary lunch, I was able to meet with our team as well as with Frank Joseph and Whitney Bosch from the Harman marketing team as we game-planned the day and discussed all that was happening.

Next stop was a VIP-access tour of Allegiant Stadium which is where the Las Vegas Raiders play their home games. Seeing as how I just recently took my daughter on a tour of Citizens Bank Park as well as Lincoln Financial Field, this was right up my alley! Aside from going down to the field level and experiencing this newer facility up close, we received some behind the scenes sneak peaks into the A/V which included their control/IT room which housed an impressive 50+ Crown DCI4x1250N amplifiers and multiple BSS Processors amongst other items. Simply standing next to the rack of amps was eye-opening as you realize how much it takes to truly power that type of operation. While we didn’t get up close to the speakers, we did learn it was the JBL VLA Series of Line Array Speakers which are typically found in stadium-type applications. Following the tour we had a little downtime before meeting up for the evening welcoming reception at the Hotel, which we were greeted by a team photo opportunity and another swag bag complete with a custom JBL Fest Masterclass Bluetooth speaker. This opening event was followed by an even bigger party at the onsite club. Mingling with a diverse group of worldwide influencers and Harman executives is always fun but I was fortunate enough to make my way to the Harman VIP lounge which then led to a once in a lifetime opportunity! Kyle Smith and I were invited into a back room where we met and had a photo opportunity with Lenny Kravitz! To finish things off was a rather surprise appearance from Grammy winning artist Bruno Mars who sang along with some of his biggest hits. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night!

Waking up on Friday I knew we were in for a long but rewarding day. First off was breakfast which came complete with a Johnny Fly Sunglasses gifting station! You essentially walk up and try on several pairs of high-end sunglasses and then say “ok ill take these”. The wrap them up in a custom JBL case and you are on your way! We then made our way to the Installed Audio Masterclass presented by Saben Shawhan, Director of Partner Business Development for Harman. If you have never attended one of Saben’s classes, it is a MUST ATTEND. The passion he has for audio comes through loud and clear and he also plays a very eclectic mix of music to demonstrate all the features of JBL’s product categories. During the Masterclass we learned about the CBT Series column arrays, the portable PA category, the SRX900 Series, the VTX Series line arrays, the new outdoor landscape speakers, the performance software they have for the line arrays, and the new SLP slim surface mount series. This was a lot of products to be in one space they their team demo’ d all of it! While I had to fight my urge to belt out the chorus of “Hello” by Adele, I was really excited for Rage Against the Machine being played on the VTX arrays and subs. As I mention to our team multiple times, “you really felt it in your chest!”

After the Masterclass was complete, we all headed nearby to Flyover Las Vegas. Dubbed the “ultimate flying ride” this attraction straps you into your seat in front of a fully immersible screen that makes you feel as though you are flying through the sky of amazing landscapes. Now, for those of us who might have some issues with motion sickness, such as yours truly, you are urged to make an “X” symbol with your arms and the very nice ushers will take you off the ride. There is no shame in my game, and I was very happy to have my feet back on the ground asap! After some much-needed rest time back in our rooms, the shuttles took us to the Life is Beautiful festival which was being held on Freemont in downtown Vegas. I personally have never been to this area in the past, however I was amazed that they closed down and fenced in the entire area to set up 4 concert stages along with vendors and other private access locations. We immediately went to the JBL Stage with VIP access where we all met up for drinks, food, and music. I ventured off while Bebe Rexha was performing and found myself with perfect view of the main stage where an EDM DJ was getting the crowd fired up for the next act. After looking through the street vendors and other areas, I called it a night as I listened to Bebe Rexha perform with special guest Tyler Hubbard (from Florida Georgia Line). The Killers were the headliner of Friday night and through videos I saw from Josh Taylor, it seemed our entire team left the trip on a high note!

To close things out, it was really a phenomenal experience and somehow the Harman/JBL team took an already great event and then amplified it even more (pun intended!). I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to experience this time with a vendor like JBL but to also receive all access looks at their product lines and be up close and personal to the a lot of the very people who designed it. There is no better place to be and if you ever get a chance to attend JBL Fest in the future, I promise you will leave with a much better understanding of their vast product lines as well as the perfect applications for each. Job well done to all involved in the planning of this “must attend” event!

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #ExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

BDM II – Technical Specialist

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

Edition 7 of “This May Be a Dumb Question, but…” – Audio 101

Blog Series written by Exertis Almo's Ashley Nichols, CTS, DSCE & John Borns, CTS, DSCE. 

Welcome to Issue 7 of “This may be a dumb question, but…”. This week, we’re going to tackle some basic questions with audio. This should be a fun one since neither of us would really call ourselves “audio experts.” Luckily, we have a whole team of audio experts on staff at Exertis Almo who will tell us about all of the things we got wrong. 😅 We’re going to share the ways we’ve come to understand some basic principles of audio that we’ve gathered by asking some dumb questions. Below are two questions we hear most frequently from newbies (like us), so hopefully these basic answers will help you feel empowered enough to dig a little deeper and expand that audio knowledge!

QUESTION

What’s the difference between 8ohm vs. 70-volt audio systems?

ANSWER

We will start by saying this: One is not better than the other, no matter what you hear. They are made for different situations and require different levels of sophistication and wiring. This is where your “needs analysis” also comes in, because you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary work if you ask: Is audio the driving NEED of the space, or is it just adding to the experience? Do you need to be able to scale the system later, or cover large areas now? How many audiophiles7 will be in the room to tell you that you chose the wrong brand? All important questions. Here is a chart to help you get an ‘at a glance’ feel for which system could be right for you:

8ohm 70v
Flexibility May require larger changes to the system if you add/remove speakers Most flexible, can add/subtract a few speakers without issue typically
Sound Quality Best Just Fine
Cost Effectiveness Less Expensive More Expensive
Scalability Not ideal for large spaces/long distances Best for large spaces/longer cable runs
Ease of Install Straight forward wiring, less components Relatively easy but may require additional components that add to the cost, time, and attention to detail
Room Size Smaller Spaces Large spaces, multi zone, etc.

As I said at the beginning, neither of these are truly “better” than the other. Like all of us, they just shine brighter when they are used in the right space at the right time. In another episode, we would be happy to go over the wiring differences between the two in more detail, so drop a line in the request section if you think that would be beneficial to you!

QUESTION

What’s the difference between mic level and line level audio?

ANSWER

If you’re a seasoned audio veteran, this probably sounds like the simplest question possible. Well, for someone like me who broke into the industry selling cables, it took me a while to fully understand what the difference is between these, and when/how to work with each one. Phoenix blocksFor me, I was always looking for the connectors on the cables to give me some sort of indication as to what signal they were sending, and to a certain degree they do. An XLR mic cable is GENERALLY used to for mic level audio, but not always. In many cases, there aren’t cable connectors at all, sometimes there’s just PHEONIX1 block connectors. Anyway, it became clearer to me when I learned that they’re all pretty much the same signal just at different voltage levels.

  • Mic Level – I was absolutely floored when I first learned that mic level signals are the signal that is produced by a microphone. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Anyway, microphones are sensitive and produce very low signals, usually measured in mVa (millivolts)2. This signal would not be strong enough to produce and audio signal that you could do anything useful or be able to hear at all.
  • Line Level – The mic level audio signal that we just mentioned will need an audio device to bring that voltage of that signal up to line level. I personally think that line level would be better referred to as “Do Stuff Level”, because this is audio engineers like “do stuff” with the audio signal. Mixing, processing, recording, etc. are all done at line level. Ask Tom Kehr and he will agree that we should start referring to this as the “Do stuff level”. These signals are stronger, usually measured in 1V (volt). Once the signal has been processed and has all of the stuff done to it, it’s ready to be sent out to an amplifier which will bring it to speaker level.
  • Speaker LevelGet this: this is the signal level used to power speakers. The voltage4 is much stronger than line level, usually measured between 10V and 100V. The power of this signal is strong enough to move the physical cones in the speakers to produce the sweet sounds of the Taylor Swift concert that Ashley couldn’t get tickets for (not for lack of trying).

lord of the rings analogySo, really, an audio signal is just like a little hobbit making a journey through Middle Earth. It leaves the Shire weak, but full of ambitions (mic level), it journeys through Middle Earth where it “does a bunch of stuff” (line level) before it finally reaches its final destination in Mordor (speaker), where it finally gets to dunk the ring of power into the fires of Mount Doom and achieve the righteous sounds of a fully produced audio experience.

Vocab Test Time!

Are these the most detailed definitions? No – we are not a dictionary, nor the AVIXA CTS Prep book. Will someone message us after still telling us how much we missed? Possibly. Will these get you a basic working knowledge of these terms and why they matter? 😄 We hope so. Plus, we are 99% sure one of these words will be on your kids’ back to school pop quiz!

  1. Phoenix Block – a.k.a. Euroblock, a.k.a. combicon, essentially a low voltage terminal block commonly used in mic or line level audio signals, but you can also see it in RS232 or RS485 control signals as well.
  2. mVa or Millivolts – one-thousandth of a volt
  3. Milli Vanilli – French-German R&B group that rose to fame and fell to infamy in the last 80’s-early 90’s.
  4. Voltage (E). – The difference in charge between two points, caused by the pressure that forces the current to flow. Voltage is measured in volts.
  5. Current (I). – The rate at which the current flows. Current is measured in amperes, which are also referred to as amps.
  6. Resistance (R). – The rate at which a material resists the current’s flow. Resistance is measured in ohms.
  7. Audiophile – A person with A LOT of passion and enthusiasm around high-quality audio experiences.

Thanks for Reading and Asking Your Questions!

Do you have more ‘dumb’ questions? Share your questions here and we will get you an answer.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Connect with us and #TeamExertisAlmo over on LinkedIn.

Ashley Nichols, Dir BizDev

Ashley Nichols | CTS, DSCE

Director of Business Development

Supported Manufacturers: Sony

John Borns, BDM

John Borns | CTS, DSCE

Services Development Manager – Central

Exertis Almo Professional Services

Xilica…Not a new drug but very addictive!

When InfoComm 2023 was approaching, Exertis Almo launched an exclusive relationship with Xilica. You might ask, what is Xilica? It sounds like the latest cure for something. Well, maybe that is where we start. Xilica features conference products for medium and larger spaces, as well as DSP to fit most any application. The unique characteristic of these processors is that they are card-based so you can build the processing to fit the application, thus saving time and cost as well as increasing functionality.

Xilica has already seen great success in other parts of the world with conference and system processing applications. Besides the card-based approach to the DSP, they have also developed a plenum rated POE+ amplifier (SONIA AMP) that sits atop a passive ceiling speaker (SONIA C5) and provides power for up to 8 speakers in a given space. The connectivity is all based on using premade ethernet cables for ease of installation above the ceiling. The Amplifier also provides a Dante network connection to a beam forming ceiling microphone, such as the Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2, or others for a complete conference system.

This synergistic approach with other manufacturers’ products allows the Xilica system to be a widely used platform for varied types or sizes of rooms. Where some try to create their own ecosystem, Xilica approached the conference space with an adaptive approach that works in harmony with other products to fit most applications with ease. The Xilica approach also includes camera integration with Lumens and other products for complete room systems.

On top of this, two versions of control appliances allow simple, user-friendly control of any system. The Lucia, single gang wall remote can provide the most common type of functionality with volume and source control while the XT80, 8-inch touch panel can provide more advanced control of user defined parameters in an easy-to-use format. Controls can also be integrated with other well-known control platforms such as AMX as needed.

We are just getting started – the loudspeaker system processing is also very powerful with a full slate of tools, equalization, FIR filters and all the functions of any DSP with up to 64 channel capability and 64×64 Dante capacity. As you might imagine, the uses are exponential for all types of systems. This will allow the integrator to build many configurations on one platform, and scale the DSP to match the application.

Maybe you are beginning to see where the addiction begins…this powerful yet easy to deploy and program system can make quick work of even more complex conference systems and keep the integrator stress to a minimum! There are already bundles built for medium and large conference rooms, with more versions to be launched soon to include cameras. Exertis Almo and Xilica have teamed up to bring one of the most viable conference solutions to the industry.

Exertis Almo and Xilica invite you to contact us and get up close with this powerful new system. You will be amazed at the simplicity as well as the capability of these products. Our Services Team can even work with you to provide full system design, programming, and commissioning as needed. Contact us today for more information and find out why Xilica has such an addictive personality!

John Fuqua
About the Author

John Fuqua | CTS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Audio Applications, Amplivox, Audix, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Rane, Shure, Sennheiser, Yamaha UC

Choose Quality AV

One of the worst case scenarios is when the client’s equipment budget expectations and reality are not one-and-the-same. I had one of those recently.

We look at some of this equipment they’re considering and think, “Bargain Bin.” You know, like those $5.00 DVDs movies found in the round bins at the Big Box store with titles that no one has ever heard of? There are no Oscar winners in that bin. I guess there’s a reason those bins are round. At $5.00, they’re a throw away if they’re no good.

Where do these budget numbers come from? If our clients and end users do some cursory surfing on the ‘Net, it’s amazing the things you’ll find for so little money. I did a generic search for “conference room microphone” and up pops a $27.99 speakerphone as well as a $89.99 conferencing microphone that’s advertised for “8-10 people” on a popular buying website.

This is what our clients see in front of them every day when they surf the ‘Net for information. I’ve even received product links with the question, “Do you have this equivalent?” Before I respond with what I’m thinking, I remind myself that the client often doesn’t know that there is a difference. It says, “professional” in the product description, right? (If it says, “professional” that’s usually my first clue that it’s not).

As an example, back in November of 2022, Recon Research published a comparison matrix of features and functions of 120 USB podcast mics.

The least expensive I saw on the list had a MSRP of $22.99 and the manufacturer listed it as a “Professional USB Studio Condenser Microphone for Chatting.” $22.99. That’s less money than a large pizza with a side order of breadsticks. For a few dollars more, you could get the next model up that also featured LED lights. You can guess the website.

There are a lot of USB mics listed in Recon’s matrix for around $99.00 MSRP and there’s some pretty cool mics that start at a bit over a C-Note up to around $199.00. I would not hesitate to suggest some of those to a client for a podcast and admittedly, I’m an audio snob.

I have colleagues that purchased some inexpensive podcast mic/boom arm/pop filter bundles from that popular buying website. Results have varied. Some threw out the mic because it was so awful. Another threw out the boom because it wouldn’t support a real microphone.

May I suggest a different way to reduce your carbon footprint?

Buy quality. It could be quality products or quality services. Either way, buy something only once.

Have you considered the costs associated with a lack of quality? Time to research, order, receive and set up. Time to use and evaluate and discover the deficiencies. Time to decommission and dispose. Time to re-research, re-order, re-receive, re-set up, and reevaluate. Where did all that time come from and who pays for it? It comes from productivity and profit. Mistakes and failures are costly. If you follow the acquisition flow above, it took about three times as long to get something that actually worked when price is the only consideration.

My neighbors had a yard sale recently, and amongst the treasures was an older Master Appliance heat gun. It was missing the base and the nozzle was a little beat up. I snatched it up right away. Why? Because I knew I could order replacement parts like bases, elements, switches, and more. It is not a throwaway product. It’s a quality product that you can keep running for decades, because if something does need attention, parts can be obtained, the unit fixed and put back into daily service easily.

How many $22 microphones and cheap boom arms do you think have been thrown away? How is that sustainable? Buying cheap junk is a waste. It is a waste of raw materials, energy, and labor to manufacture, fuels and materials to ship, heat, and A/C as it takes up room in a warehouse, labor to unload, inventory, pack, and ship. Time to unbox, set up, and discover that it’s less desirable than a rusted Yugo. Plus, now you have to go through the research and buying process all over again. What are we thinking when we shop in the bargain bin? “If it’s no good, I’ll just throw it away.” This is not a sustainable mentality. The throwaway society with single-use disposable items came into vogue in the 1950s. Here we are seven decades hence and we’re doing it again – but this time it’s not plastic utensils and paper plates. The materials are now much more costly and sometimes even toxic.

You and I have purchased a lot of microphones over the years, and some of us have collected some classics. Real microphones cost real money and I still have a couple I want on my bucket list. No one will be dropping a mic in my house without incurring severe monetary penalties. But microphones are only a part of our industry. Quality audio-visual equipment costs real money, and a system needs to be professionally designed, engineered, installed, tuned, commissioned, and placed in a space that also considers environmental and ergonomic factors so that it will provide the end users with many good years of faithful reliability while delivering quality results.

As audiovisual practitioners, we look for products that we know are offered by reputable manufacturers, fit the client’s need, work within a reasonable budget, and will serve the client and end user well for many years to come.

If you are at all uncertain about equipment decisions and/or needing design, CAD, programming, or installation assistance, we have an entire team that can help you make the appropriate quality choices given the need and budget. None of those options will include a $22.00 microphone.

Want to know more? Check out Tom’s “Project Questions & Needs Analysis” post.

Did you find this post helpful? Engage with us over on LinkedIn.

Tom Kehr

About the Author

Tom Kehr

CTS-D, CTS-I, Network+, LEED Green Associate, ISF-C, ATD Master Trainer

In-House System Designer and Trainer

Supported Applications: System Design

Pin It on Pinterest