Bad acoustics are the bane of many business conference calls. It’s one of those niggling workplace challenges. You can have a meeting room that looks state of the art yet if the audio is poor it’s a pretty worthless venue for all those corporate conference calls. Most businesses have at least one of these ‘problem rooms’ which workers try to avoid using because of issues with the sound.
It’s not surprising really, whether they’re trying to conduct a constructive internal call or, worse still, impress a new external client, any problems with audio can be both disruptive and damaging. Meeting spaces are at a premium in modern workplaces. A symptom of the prolific use of digital technology means people can meet virtually rather than physically, prompting an inevitable rise in the number of conference calls.
One common problem is that businesses tend to focus on aesthetics rather than acoustics when designing their workplaces. When evaluating the effectiveness of a meeting space, the furniture, design and technology are top of the agenda, while the acoustics are often overlooked. There are several different elements of a room that contribute to issues with poor audio and these can occur in every office building, from older structures to the most modern new builds.
Factors that can seriously affect the quality of conference calls include everything from the shape of the room, to the surfaces and electrical equipment. For example, an L-shaped or irregularly shaped space will impact on the audio and carpets or upholstered walls will affect voices being heard. Glass walls cause sounds to reflect and also allow “noise bleed” from sources outside the room. Even the so-called ‘live surfaces’ such as table tops, blinds and cabinets will make the sound bounce around the room. If we factor in electrical noise coming from the HVAC, that also produces a low-level hum that can foil high-end conventional meeting room microphones.
There are a number of solutions to improve audio in problem rooms. With hindsight, the obvious one would be to prioritise acoustics during the design phase of a new build or refurb. Fixing the issue in existing meeting rooms or turning rooms into spaces suitable for conference calls could be partially solved by installing sound-absorbing materials or sound masking. Unfortunately, this will entail calling in the IT experts and enduring the related expense and inevitable disruption. An in-ceiling system could also alleviate some of the audio issues, but again there’ll be substantial cost implications and a ceiling torn out while the technology is installed.
There is a recent addition on the advanced technology market that provides a common-sense solution for problem rooms and that is the Nureva™ HDL300 audio conferencing system. The HDL300 can be installed in around 30 minutes as the microphone and speaker bar are simply hung on the wall so it’s the fraction of the cost and inconvenience of an in-ceiling system.
What sets this solution apart is Nureva’s breakthrough Microphone Mist™ technology that effectively fills the room with up to 8,192 virtual microphones. The elements of a ‘problem room’ such as glass walls, movable furniture and HVAC are all overcome with these virtual microphones and advanced processing. The system can tell the difference between multiple people speaking and distracting background noises so people will only hear what they need to hear and voices will be clear no matter where they are, whether inside or outside of the room.
There is no denying that problem rooms are bad for business. Remote callers can’t hear what’s being said so it’s highly frustrating for teams trying to collaborate on conference calls. Important ideas and inputs are lost and when external clients are on the call, a business’s reputation is at stake. We can stop bad audio leaving a bad impression. It just needs the right solution that doesn’t blow the budget, or a large hole in the ceiling.