For many financial institutions, the foundation for stable development and market competitiveness is to manage risks and approach work in a strict, rigorous, and highly efficient manner. For one of the ‘Big Four’ state-owned banks in China, ensuring such work efficiency recently required an upgrade of the conferencing technology used in the 42-seat boardroom at the Bank’s global headquarters in Beijing. System Integrator Yongtianzhengyou together with the support from Shure, designed a new digital audio solution, consisting of Shure MXA310 Table Array Microphones and Biamp Digital Signal Processor, to replace the ageing analog system.
The Bank had been using the same conference system in its boardroom since the room was first set up over 10 years ago. In recent years, users have increasingly been plagued by problems such as poor sound reinforcement and speech intelligibility, which greatly affected the quality of meetings held in the room. After an initial site visit, the Shure Applications Engineering team quickly discovered acoustical challenges as well as technology limitations that needed to be addressed.
The boardroom stretches over 25m with a 4m high ceiling. Floor-to-ceiling windows along the room cause strong reflection of sound and the long reverberation time makes it harder to distinguish words, making conversations more difficult. On the technology side, the existing analog microphones had a relatively short pick-up range. Conference attendees had to lean forward and maintain an uncomfortable posture when talking into the microphone. Only four microphones could be activated at a time, which further limited discussions among participants. Moreover, in important confidential meetings, technicians are not allowed in the room, which created additional problems for the conference leader to manage the system.
Following several site visits and field tests, Shure and the system integrator Yongtianzhengyou designed a new digital audio solution to overcome the acoustical and technology challenges. The existing 42 analogue microphones were replaced by 20 digital Shure MXA310 Table Array Microphones. Mounted on top of the circular ridge along the conference table, the Table Arrays can each utilise up to four audio channels to capture talkers. Which halved the total number of microphones needed compared to the old system. The MXA310 microphones were configured using a total of 32 channels to cover all seats. The integrated Steerable Coverage technology was used to make individual adjustments of pick-up pattern, direction and gain for each channel. This now allows conference attendees to remain comfortable in their seats while speaking and doesn’t require any direct interaction with the microphone – an improvement in user experience which has been unanimously recognised by the Bank’s leaders.
Through Dante digital audio networking, all 32 audio channels from the 20 MXA310 microphones are routed over the network to the new DSP which replaced the old analog mixer. The processor mixes audio from the MXA310s and provides output control for the connected ceiling speaker system. The 12 legacy analogue ceiling speakers have been redesigned into a zoned speaker system with 3 speaker groups to allow more flexibility in sound reinforcement. Integrated automatic mixing functionality within the microphones automatically activates the best channel for each talker. Paired with the output control matrix of the DSP, the ceiling speakers now reinforce sound in grouped areas, depending on which microphone channel is activated. The result is more evenly distributed sound throughout the large room, and conference participants have clearly noticed a significant improvement of speech clarity.
Following a period of trial and after full completion of the system overhaul, the Bank’s Technical Director reviewed the project, “The acoustical conditions in our building are very harsh, and we have to support very important meetings with a large number of users. It was a difficult task to find a suitable replacement for our conferencing system and we demanded a lot from our future system. Especially in our industry, an audio solution for an application like this needs to be reliable, well established, and safe to operate. We looked at the best solutions available in the market to provide us the top-notch scale and skill that we required.”