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A number of options are available when selecting a group conferencing system. The following describes some of the different types of solutions.
Speakerphone—The traditional “speakerphone” is often found incorporated into a desktop telephone. It generally has only one microphone and no echo cancellation capability. This solution is designed for one individual sitting directly in front of the phone to occasionally participate in a hands-free conversation. Speakerphones are sometimes used in group discussions, but because the systems are not designed for group interaction, the sound can be very poor and impact productivity.
Conference phone—A conference phone is a single unit, sometimes with extension microphones, built to operate in an open-air environment. A conference phone supports communications for the whole room and all the people in it. Although conference phones are as easy to use as any standard telephone, today’s models are complex, sophisticated communications tools. High-quality conference phones incorporate an array of digital signal processing and echo cancellation techniques to reproduce the voices of the participants clearly in spite of room noise, echo, computer and overhead fans, side conversations, and any number of acoustic challenges that occur during the average meeting.
Conference phones have become enormously more capable in the last 15 years. There are significantly more models to choose from to meet the unique needs of the many different environments in which conference calls take place. Having so many options may seem overwhelming, but the selection and installation of the right system for a particular environment can also make a big difference in how well it performs. This paper will guide you through the selection process to make sure you have the right system in the right environment.
Installed audio conferencing system—An installed room system partitions the pieces of a traditional self-contained unit into separate elements so that they can be placed where needed to maximize the conferencing experience. Each of these components is controlled by a very sophisticated system that adjusts the microphone gain levels, speaker outputs and myriad other variables to maximize the quality of the audio throughout the room. This system includes advanced digital processing capabilities to eliminate the problems that emerge with larger rooms such as feedback, loudspeaker zones, multiple echo canceller mixes, and tricky noise problems. These systems also provide a wide range of remote control options, and can integrate with other room systems such as video conferencing equipment. Installing these systems is usually done with the help of an A/V consultant or system integrator.
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