The WHAT, WHEN, and HOW of Video Conferencing Soundbars

David
What exactly is an all-in-one soundbar? There seems to be a lot of these types of products out on the market at the moment. What’s a quick 30 second definition?

Jonathan
I like to call them all in one conferencing bars. We are talking about a video conferencing Bar. It’s not just a speaker or a Soundbar like you have at home. It’s also got an integrated camera and also microphones as well. So they are used in conferencing spaces to capture the voice of participants, capture the video of the participants, and also as a speaker so you can hear the other people on the call.

David
What are some spaces that you would recommend this product for and what are some spaces you would not?

Jonathan
Yes, so the simplicity of installation is really one of its biggest features. There are limitations, and it comes to the space as you just pointed out David. The spaces that the soundbars, or the all-in-one conference in bars as I call them, are suited towards are those smaller huddle spaces. You know, where you’ve got the table hard up against the wall? There might be two or three people. Or, you know, a small room where you’ve got the table in the middle. But, really, no bigger than a 6m length of room. After that distance, the sound bars, or the all-in-one conferencing bars, really aren’t suitable or can’t produce good enough audio or video quality for that size room.

David
What are some rules of installation that you could maybe share?

Jonathan
One of the critical parts when the table is up against the wall is actually to be able to capture everybody in the camera frame. That’s why, when we position the soundbar, you want it positioned at eye level above the screen and have the screen quite low. You also want to have a camera that is able to achieve quite a wide-angle so the people sitting towards the sides of the table and close to the wall are actually captured in the frame.

David
So what is the real issue there? Is it that the microphone just doesn’t pick up?

Jonathan
Yes, so it is really two issues, and I suppose you could say it’s the microphone. But really, before you get to the microphone, it’s actually the room itself. The Acoustics in the room. Once you get to that size room, they really need to be perfect for the microphone within a conferencing bar to actually function correctly. If the Acoustics aren’t perfect within the room, the microphone in the conferencing bar just isn’t good enough to be able to clearly pick up those people.

David
Lots of highly reflective surfaces or even open huddle areas with that kind of a depth of space just will not be suitable for a conference bar irrespective of whichever one you if you’re looking at on the market. Is that what you’re saying?

Jonathan
Yeah, that’s right, and even walls that are just plasterboard or, as you point out, glass sliding doors or glass doors or ceilings that are not acoustically treated in a space that size mean that a conferencing bar just isn’t going to cut it.

David
Also with the camera, you were mentioning when you get to a room that size, I guess, you were alluding to some limitations with the camera. Could you just explain that a little further?

Jonathan
Yes, so to keep a conferencing bar nice and compact and sleek, the actual camera itself is physically small and there’s no moving parts. So the way that they deal with that is actually to use digital zoom. When you digitally zoom in with a camera you can get distortion. What most people see is actually the pixilation, or the fuzziness, of the image. So when you get to a long depth you use a lot of that digital zoom, and the image quality is quite poor.

David
Yeah, let’s just finish up here Jonathan with products that are currently on the market. Maybe you’ve got one or two that you think are really high quality or really well suited to the types of rooms you have described?

Jonathan
Look there are a lot of these conferencing bars coming out from a wide range of manufacturers, and on the box they all kind of say they do the same thing. They’ve all got these 4K auto tracking cameras, they’ve all got these microphone arrays, they’ve all got high wattage speakers. But it’s not until you test them that you realise that there’s actually quite a lot of difference between those products. One of the ones that I have on my radar at the moment is actually the Bose vb1. One of the key things about this, and I think this comes from Bose’s pedigree in audio, is you can actually manipulate the microphone. If you have a very noisy area, there is actually in adjustment to allow you to ignore that area. On the basic conferencing bars you just can’t do that. There’s no ability to adjust or configure the microphone.
The other choice for a really wide room is AVER. That camera has actually got a really wide field of view. So when you are hard up against the wall, when you physically don’t have real estate, it’s able to capture the whole room, which is really great.

David
Well thanks for sharing these tips, Jonathan. Hopefully the viewers will be able to take that information and apply it to their real-life situations. Is there anything else you want to close with?

Jonathan
All of these products say they can do the same thing. Ideally, if you have the time, narrow it down to two or maybe three products and actually try them in your environment to see what the results are like.
There’s nothing like actually testing a manufacturer’s claims to ensure that the quality you are receiving is what you’re expecting.

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