A Guide To Microphone and Speaker Placement In Your Conference Room
Creating a DIY conference room isn’t as easy as buying a microphone and some speakers and plopping them willy-nilly onto the conference room table and calling it a day. There’s a reason it takes weeks for professional AV teams to create fully integrated conference rooms – each room is different, and the materials, size, and layout can significantly affect sound quality during a call.
That doesn’t mean you can’t create your own professional-level conference space with the right tools and know-how! If you’re creating your own conferencing system and need help with getting the best positioning for your microphones and speakers, read on for Stem’s step-by-step guide.
Step #1 – Record high-traffic areas in your room
The first step in creating your ideal microphone placement is mapping out where most users sit when using the conference space. Regardless of size, meeting spaces will typically be used by any number of people during regular use. That means even large conference rooms will sometimes be used by solitary users and small groups outside of the meetings that use the full capacity of the room
Smaller groups and solitary users may prefer to use the section of the room or conference table that is closest to the door or that provides optimal access to the display in the room. For fuller capacity meetings, there may be a spot for prominent speakers or higher-level executives that will be directing the meeting and whose voice is essential for both remote and in-person attendees.
While every voice is important, ensuring that these commonly used areas have better audio coverage is essential to a successful conference room.
Step #2 - Use An Audio Ecosystem
No matter how technically able you are, creating a DIY conference room with professional-level audio quality can be difficult and time-consuming without the proper tools. One step you can take to make things much easier on yourself is utilizing an audio ecosystem that can provide you with some of those tools.
Audio ecosystems use software to create a network of audio devices that work together to create a more seamless conferencing experience. The Stem Ecosystem goes a step further by adding nearly unlimited customization to your ecosystem with four uniquely designed audio endpoints that can be mixed and matched to fit any space.
The Stem Ecosystem also can use its in-built software and hardware tools to provide you with some of an integrator’s specialized toolset. To start, you can quickly and easily digitally recreate your space using the RoomDesign tool, which provides a map that the devices can use to project the information they gather. The next two steps can then be done in minutes rather than hours or days with the help of the options available in the Stem Ecosystem Platform!
Step #3 – Test for audio quality and perform simple room treatment
A common issue with conference call audio quality in DIY setups is reverberation and echo. If the room is constructed and laid out with materials that make for poor audio – for example, if it has large windows, glass walls, or lots of hard surfaces with little to no insulation in walls – your call quality is going to be significantly affected.
You can test for audio quality for a conferencing space by making some test calls once the system is set up. If you or your coworker on the other line notice a lot of audio interference or echoing, you know you’re going to need to do some fiddling with the room and the audio system to improve call quality.
To offset this, you can reduce pickup levels in the device settings, which will reduce the pickup radius of the device but can be compensated with more microphones. If you’re using the Stem Ecosystem, using the RoomAdapt tool once again uses the speakers and microphones to listen to the specific acoustic properties of the room. Once the devices have collected enough information, the software automatically adjusts the device settings so that they’re optimized for their new home!
You can also treat the room with some easy changes – using furniture made from soft material, cloth curtains to cover windows and glass surfaces, etc. Reducing speaker volume may also be beneficial for reducing the echo and reverberation present during a call.
Step #4 – Test for dead zones
Once you have received and set up your conference audio system, you should begin testing different areas to see if there are significant coverage ‘dead zones’ where speakers will not be able to be heard clearly. When creating conference rooms, AV integrators usually utilize tools to create a heat map of the room that can designate where speakers will be heard best.
Since you probably don’t have access to these tools, you have to rely on trial and error to determine where the dead zones in your room are. The best method is testing every commonly used position in the room to test the sound quality in that area. Sit at every seat, test the quality, and then move on to the next.
An advantage for people utilizing the Stem Ecosystem is the use of onboard equipment to test for sound quality in a space. The RoomCheck tool in the Stem Ecosystem Platform is used to create a virtual heatmap of the room that is projected onto the map you created. The ecosystem uses the speakers and microphones in tandem to provide a pickup range for all the microphones in the room, letting you observe where any dead zones may be located so you can reposition your microphones or add additional ones.
If the conference room commonly has people standing or in chairs or positions outside of the regular seats around the conference table, you should test those areas, too. If there are large dead zones in areas where participants will be regularly sit or position themselves, you may need to reposition the microphones to create larger pickup areas with less concentric zones or buy more to cover more space.
DIY conference rooms get a bad rap thanks to the poor performance of badly optimized slapdash solutions, but with the right tools and knowledge, you can create a fully customized conference room that has an audio quality that is on par with most professional rooms. The Stem Ecosystem makes it even easier with a number of hardware and software tools that creates a seamless conferencing experience that scales to nearly any size room. Use up to 10 of our audio devices to create your own ideal conference room.