Great Meeting Audio and the Laws of Physics
AUDIO TIPS by Jim Wilkens, A1 at AVFX
As you know, there have been incredible advances in audio technology; however, we are still bound by the laws of physics. While we can’t eliminate complications presented by the acoustics of the room an experienced engineer can mitigate the problems. AVFX Boston considers audio quality to be vital to a successful event and offers these suggestions.
Event planners have a great responsibility. Audiences receive at least half of the information that is presented with their ears and many presenters overlook sound quality. House sound can be “good enough” for small rooms, but the size and design of the venue dictate the emphasis on higher quality audio.
Sound waves bounce. When selecting a venue, planners should add acoustics to their checklist, just as you would house lighting, square footage, ceiling height, electrical infrastructure, etc. Reflections from the walls and ceiling reach the listener’s ears later than the first arrival of sound from the loudspeakers. Those reflections can degrade intelligibility and negatively affect the presentation. Essentially, the louder and later those reflections are, the harder the audience has to work to understand what’s being communicated. This can seriously affect the audience’s comprehension and enjoyment of the program. In general, the larger the room, the greater the challenge presented by reflected sound.
Cool air or clear sound or both. For example, one problem we often discover in hotel ballrooms is very loud heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Another source to consider is the noise coming from adjacent rooms. If there’s a food prep area that opens into the ballroom you must be aware that refrigeration machinery, ice machines and other equipment with loud compressors will not be in use when you visit the site but when your event begins, you’ll hear the kitchen noise.
Most people don’t notice all the noise when they walk into the ballroom because of the continuous drone. Audio engineers notice and immediately realize they could be in for a bad day. Engineers must start with the ambient noise of the room and work from there. The audio has to be much louder to compensate. This affects the sound quality. Detail is lost and delicate sounds can only be amplified so much before the audience hears the screech of feedback.
Digital technology is used to analyze room acoustics and computer modeling to design sound systems for greater pattern control—using loudspeakers that focus more of the sound in the direction of the audience and away from those reflective surfaces. Advanced equipment and software combined with experienced technicians enable AVFX to make sure event planners never have to worry.
We know that audio is only one consideration a planner must keep in mind when selecting a venue, but please don’t forget that a room’s inherent acoustics are still the dominant influence on sound quality. AVFX Boston has powerful audio engineering tools to help minimize the effects of acoustic challenges.
As you conduct site visits please remember, every room imparts its unique acoustic signature on every sound made in it. Please remember, when evaluating a venue, take the time to listen to your room.
SEE ALSO: The Feedback Loop
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