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Putting Students’ Imaginations to Work with ListenPoint 2.0

Let’s face it. Other than parents, teachers have the greatest influence over children, so it is essential that students hear well in the classroom. That’s why we released ListenPoint 2.0, our latest Soundfield solution—we wanted to make learning limitless.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if Shakespeare had never learned to read? What if Einstein hadn’t had the opportunity to learn calculus? How different would our lives be if Steve Jobs couldn’t hear his kindergarten teacher? Without Jobs, we’d all still be using those crazy brick cell phones from the 1980’s! #lame #nomobileapps #howwouldiplaycandycrushsaga

Students learn best in environments where they can focus on what their teachers are saying. Unfortunately, several factors can get in the way. Some students have trouble focusing because they have hearing loss or are too far away from the teacher. Meanwhile, the classroom itself might have poor acoustics, or the teacher could have a strained voice from talking too loudly or too long.

In today’s classrooms, students have a lot of creative and innovative thinking to do. ListenPoint 2.0 helps them put their imaginations to work. It can also have a positive effect on their grades and test scores.* #bettergradesareawesome #A+ #listenpointisgenius

ListenPoint 2.0 delivers the following key benefits:

  • With mission critical deployments, it is the most advanced, flexible, scalable Soundfield system delivered by a trusted authority in the pro-AV market.
  • It incorporates AV technology and assistive listening systems to create enhanced and enriched learning environments for all students.
  • It is easy to install, operate, maintain, and adds more functionality over time.
  • It couples competitive pricing with advanced features.

We are truly excited to be part of a noble mission—educating students to become extraordinary people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Marrs Report, 2006

Sound Amplification Basics

Sound amplification needs to not only make sounds louder but more intelligible. A loud overhead sound system that no one can understand has no value. The effect of quality sound amplification for presentations and trainings is significant.  Studies have shown that sound amplification in small- to medium size rooms can increase people’s retention by as much as 30%.
For sound amplification to give everyone in the presentation or training room a full sound experience, it must deliver sound that is:
 
• Clean—free from noise and artifacts
• Intelligible—clearly recognizable and comprehensible
• Natural—full range of frequencies are properly reproduced
• Balanced—different audio sources produce the same level
• Evenly dispersed—loudspeaker coverage is such that everyone can hear
When you consider the cost of attendee time, particularly higher salaried employees, any downtime due to issues with the room is wasting company money. A recent study of IT managers who support presenters in company presentation rooms found that on average, each problem wastes up to 31.5 minutes of the meeting time—from the initial attempts by meeting participants to resolve the problem to the final resolution. Multiplied by the average number of meetings and the wasted time added up to 21.2 hours per attendee per year.1

Exploring Sound Amplification Options
For most small organizations, choosing a solution is a balance between the sound quality they are willing to tolerate and their budget. Here are three possibilities:
 
• Attaching external speakers to a laptop, for example, will amplify music and video audio that is played from a laptop as well as from Skype remote callers. But it won’t amplify the presenter’s voice, improve intelligibility, accommodate speakerphones, or make it easy to use.
• Purchasing a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeakers will make it easier to hear the presenter—particularly if the loudspeakers are properly placed in the room. But it won’t accommodate additional audio sources or remote callers.
• Installing a feature-rich solution that provides microphones, loudspeakers, digital-signal processing, numerous input and outputs for audio devices, and a variety of control options will deliver excellent sound quality. However, it will probably cost upwards of $4,500.
In reality, an installed system like this has far more horsepower than most organizations need for their multi-purpose rooms. But if you could strip an installed system down to only the most necessary components, you would have a complete sound system that includes:
 
• Wireless microphone for the presenter
• Ceiling speakers
• Device with a VoIP port, audio inputs, control interface, and wireless microphone receiver
• Equalization and filtering capabilities
• User-friendly controller

Components of a Complete Sound System

The illustration below depicts the basic components of a sound system for training rooms or presentation rooms. It is a system that is able to deliver rich, full sound. This system uses four loudspeakers to distribute audio throughout the room, creating a soundfield. It also includes a microphone with volume control, a control unit that interfaces with audio devices and provides volume control and device selection. Finally, the room module ties the system together and delivers audio signals from the various inputs to the loudspeakers.

 sound-system-components
1 The Meeting Room Marathon – A Waste of Corporate Time, Dynamic Markets research commissioned by Casio, July 2010.

Factors that Impact Sound Quality

It would be nice if all a presenter had to do was speak louder to ensure everyone could hear. But it’s rare to find a powerful voice that carries all the way to the back of the room. 

If they did, it would likely be too loud for the people in the front of the room. But volume is just part of the battle.

Sound quality is affected by a number of conditions, chief among them:
 
• Distance—between the listener and the person speaking
• Room noise—such as HVAC systems, paper shuffling, and people whispering
 
These factors make it difficult for people to hear regardless of how loud the presenter tries to talk.
 
Distance
In physics, the inverse square law tells us that sound decreases by 6 decibels (dB) every time the distance from the person speaking to the person listening doubles.
 
The typical presenter’s voice measures 60dB at a distance of 4 feet from the listener. Double that distance to 8 feet and the volume drops to 54dB. At 16 feet, the volume is 48dB.
The effect of distance on sound is the reason we huddle around speakerphones and try to move closer to the person speaking. But in a large group meeting, that’s clearly not a practical solution.
 
Room Noise
In addition to distance, we also have to contend with noise. All rooms have noise. This noise is created by a number of things: projector or computer fans, building systems (HVAC, plumbing), people whispering or shuffling papers, external noise (traffic, construction), etc.
 
The combination of these noises is called ambient or background noise. Loudness is measured in decibels.
 
For a person to be heard clearly, the level or loudness of their voice needs to be significantly above the room noise. An acceptable separation of speech to background noise is about 15dB. For example, let’s say the ambient noise level in the meeting room depicted in the figure above is 45dB. The presenter is speaking at 60dB so her voice is 15dB louder than the room noise and can be easily heard and understood.
 
However, the room has noisy fans that just turned on so now the ambient noise is 50dB. Now with only 10Bb of separation from the background noise to the speaker, intelligibility starts to suffer.
 
At this level, while the people in the front, near the speaker may be able to hear, it would be very difficult for the people sitting 16 feet from the presenter in the previous example to hear, because being farther away from the speaker’s voice, the speech would start to blend in with the background noise.
 
This is similar to when you’re sitting in a crowded restaurant and you can hear the person next to you, but have a hard time hearing people across a larger table.
 
Room noise can be minimized by installing sound-absorbing materials such as ceiling tiles and wall panels. However, that can be a costly endeavor. In many multipurpose rooms, the easiest way to overcome the effects of distance and room noise is through mild or slight sound amplification.

Sound Matters

If you ask how to improve a presentation, the first suggestion you’d likely receive is “add a graphic or an effect.” As presentation software has improved over the years, the focus on visual elements has eclipsed audio. We’ve been so distracted by cool transition effects that we’ve forgotten to make sure everyone can hear.


Studies conducted in classrooms
have found that students in the back row miss 30% of what the instructor says. That’s alarming since many company and sales meetings are held in multipurpose rooms of equivalent size.
Straining to hear is stressful and frustrating. It becomes easier just to tune out. That same study found that when sound is properly amplified in a room:
 
• Attention improves
• Interaction and participation increases
• Stress is lowered
• Retention improves
This is not to say that visuals are not important. In fact, the combination of seeing and hearing is by far the most effective method of communication. Another study found that three days after an event, people retained 10% of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.
Sound affects listeners in four key ways, according to Julian Treasure, chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses on how to use sound. If you’d like to learn more, watch this short clip from his 2009 TED talk.
 

What do you think – does sound matter? Do the visual aspects of preparing for a presentation or training session sometimes get more planning and preparation that the audio?

For more details on the impact of sound and some practical ideas to those impacts look into ListenPoint

When Good Presentations Go Bad

It’s one of the most important presentations of the year. The one that gets the sales team motivated and all the employees revved up. The VP of Sales has prepared for weeks—practicing in front of anyone who will listen. He has this presentation down cold.

 
The slides are dynamic and well illustrated. There’s a video testimonial from a customer that will keep the energy high. And, he’s kicking off the meeting with one of his favorite motivational songs. This presentation can’t miss.
 
The IT team has the room prepared. The projector is ready and the three remote sales managers are connected via Skype™ on the VP’s laptop. The welcome slide is up as the 65 employees begin to file into the presentation room, which also doubles as the cafeteria.
 
The VP is ready to begin. He pulls out his iPod® and plugs it into what he thinks is the audio input jack. But it’s actually the speaker output. Thanks to IT, a few moments later the song is heard playing through the laptop speakers. Unfortunately, even at full volume, only the front row can make out the song.
 
The audience is restless from the delay so he jumps into the slide show. Five minutes in, he hears voices coming from his laptop. The Skype callers are yelling that they can’t hear him.
 
Frustrated, he motions to the IT staff, whose only option is to tell him to stand closer and talk into the laptop microphone.
 
Fifteen minutes in, he notices he’s completely lost the back of the room. They can’t hear him well enough and are tuning out. At that point, he doesn’t even try to play the video clip.
 
The VP is upset. The audience is bored. The presentation is a disaster. And everyone is looking at IT.
 
A Real Impact on Business
 
The executive did everything right to create an energetic, motivating sales presentation, but it still wasn’t effective. He practiced. He had his iPod, a projector, some video, a laptop with Skype—everything you need for a great meeting. Everything but sound.
 
Scenarios like the VP’s disappointing sales meeting occur more frequently than they should, particularly in small businesses that don’t have the luxury of expensive installed sound systems.
 
Instead, they experience:
• Difficulty connecting audio sources such as iPods, MP3 players, CDs, or DVDs
• Remote callers who can’t hear or be heard
• Inattentive, restless audiences
• Frustrated presenters
• Distracting hums from HVAC systems
• Delays that waste valuable time
• Embarrassing quality in critical customer meetings
It’s true that not all meetings rooms are so problematic. Many are deemed adequate. However, as presentations become more sophisticated and the number of remote participants increases, adequate may not be good enough anymore.
 
listenpoint-multipurpose-roomsThe good news is that there is a simple solution with ListenPoint®. A ListenPoint system provides the tools required to deliver crystal clear presentation audio to listeners, whether they are in the same room or on a call thousands of miles away.  The presenter’s voice is delivered to every corner of the room, so the audience can hear the message as it was intended to be heard. Audio from laptops, mobile devices, DVD players or just about any other audio device can easily be added and played back to listeners.  With ListenPoint, you can focus on presentation, not whether or not you will be heard!
  
If you would like to learn more about this solution, please see our white paper entitled, “Audio Solutions for Multi-Purpose Meeting Rooms” at https://www.listentech.com/listenpoint-interactive-white-paper.

Considerations for ListenPoint® Speaker Placement

Placement of speakers within a room is crucial to providing good audio coverage. It is important that all listening areas of the room have sufficient and equal audio coverage. This blog post will cover key points that need to be considered before installing your ListenPoint® Speakers.

 
Key Considerations:
  • Type of speaker
  • Location/Coverage
 
Type of Speaker
Two types of speakers are available with the ListenPoint product:
 
Ceiling Speaker – Ceiling speakers are designed to be installed in rooms when space above in the ceiling is available (approximately 12-14 inches, 30.5 cm – 35.6 cm ). The speakers direct audio downwards onto the needed coverage areas. If the required ceiling space isn’t available, then a wall mounted speaker is the best option (see below). Listen offers either a 6 in.,15.2 cm or 6 in., 15.2 cm plenum ceiling speakers.
 lpt-a104
Wall Mount Speaker – Wall (or surface) mount speakers are designed to be installed in rooms where there is little space above the ceiling or ceiling structure doesn’t permit for installation. The speakers direct audio outward from the walls towards the needed coverage areas.
lpt-a106s
 
Location/Coverage
Location/Coverage of speakers is based on the type of speaker. Follow the type of speaker that you have determined to best fit your room.
 
Ceiling Speaker – Ceiling speakers have a conical dispersion angle. This information is important during room design for proper speaker placement.

Because speakers may be different, here is a general rule of thumb to follow during your speaker placement survey:
 
Ceiling Height = Distance between Speakers
 
This rule generally will give a room equal audio dispersion. Placing the speakers closer together may make some areas louder that others while placing the speakers further apart will cause “dead” areas.
 
As an example, if you have an 8 ft., 2.43 m ceiling, generally the space between ceiling speakers should be no more than 8 ft., 2.43 m apart. This allows for proper room coverage and assurance that all seating areas will have similar audio levels.

The greatest challenges with any calculated formula of speaker placement are obstructions. There could be potential barriers that hinder putting the speaker in the ceiling at an optimal coverage placement point or obstructed the cable run between the speaker and the Room Module. Either of these scenarios will force a speaker placement change. Keep in mind that goal of overhead speaker distribution is to have equal coverage throughout the room. If there are barriers, place the speakers in a nearest option.
 
Below are some diagrams showing the placement of ceiling speakers:
listenpoint-ceiling-speaker-placement

Wall Mount Speaker – Much like a ceiling speaker, a wall mount speaker has a horizontal and vertical dispersion rating. These should be followed when preparing the room for speaker placement. Wall speakers can be installed at the head of room and/or sides or back. In large applications, the delay between a front and back of room speaker could be an issue, but in small rooms, such as a classroom, there should be little delay in the room. As a best practice, the speakers should be aimed at the ear of the room participants and spaced approximately 8-10 ft., 2.43 m –  2.04 m apart.
 
Below are some diagrams showing the positions of wall speakers:
listenpoint-wall-mount-speaker-placement

Once you have finalized the placement of your speaker, please refer back to the Installation Guide to finish the install.
 
The considerations in this blog post are points Listen Technologies believes will make your ListenPoint system a quick, easy, and professional installation. Please note that these are just suggestions that cover a basic room install and might not be useful for your room. For more information about your specific installation please contact me at +1.801.233.8992 or 1.800.330.0891.

M1 Flexible Connectivity

Today’s technology is advancing rapidly. Most people have a personal device that can provide content on demand.
 
Expanding web services such as Skype, YouTube, WebEx and GoToMeeting keep us connected and are now accepted in many industries and vertical markets.
 
The challenge is how to easily and affordably connect these devices and services so that all the participants are heard in the room or from remote locations.
 
ListenPoint solves that problem with the M1 wireless media interface.
 
The M1 allows direct connection to almost any personal device via the standard 1/8” mini jack normally used for headphones or popular ear buds.
I created this short video to provide an overview of the ease of bringing the audio from personal devices, Skype, WebEx etc. into presentations and meetings.

 

How To Connect ListenPoint To PC Skype

This blog post describes how to connect a ListenPoint system to Skype via a PC so that the Skype audio fills a room and allows all to hear via the ListenPoint speakers in the room instead of the laptop speakers.

The steps outlined in this blog to connect a ListenPoint® system to Skype™ via a PC focus on using the ListenPoint LPT-C6 Control Unit, the LPT A107 Audio Cable Kit, and a PC with Skype.The procedures listed here are to be used as a starting point with minor level adjustments to be made as necessary in both ListenPoint and Skype.

Connecting the Line Inputs/Outputs

 
1. Conference cable connectors and labels.
 listenpoint
 
2. Connect the input output connection labeled “A” of the conferencing cable (Euro Connector) to the Teleconference in/out labeled   “A” (Euro Connector) of the ListenPoint Control Unit.
 
listenpoint
 
3. Connect the Teleconferencing Out connection labeled “B” of the conferencing cable (Stereo 3.5 mm) to the microphone input labeled “B” of the PC (3.5 mm).
   listenpoint
4. Connect the Teleconferencing In connection labeled  “C”  of the conference cable (Mono 3.5 mm) to the headphone output labeled “C” of the PC (3.5 mm).
      listenpoint 
Configuring the PC
 
1. Once the connection is made to the microphone input, the PC will give a prompt asking if the connection is a Line In or Microphone.
a. Select Line In, this will allow audio from the ListenPoint CU to pass through into the PC.
listenpoint
 
2. On the headphone output, adjust the output to a nominal level using the volume control.
listenpoint
 
Configuring Skype
1. Open Skype
2. Select Tools Tab
3. Select Options
listenpoint
 
4. Select Audio Settings
5. Select your analog audio connections on both Microphone and Speakers
listenpoint
 
Configuring the ListenPoint Control Unit Using the Front Display
 
1. Press the power button to turn the CU on.
2. On the status window, scroll to and push to select “Aux Select”.
listenpoint
3. On the aux select window, scroll to and push to select “Teleconference”.
listenpoint
4. The Teleconference input is set to 0 dB which is a nominal listening level. Adjust the input if needed to increase or decrease the level coming from the PC.
listenpoint
 
Configuring a Skype Test Call
1. Select Tools tab
2. Select Options
listenpoint
 3. Select Audio Settings
4. Select Make a free test call
listenpoint
 
5. A new window will pop open that will allow you to hear and record audio using the ListenPoint system.
listenpointa. Once the window is open, a test call has been started and you will hear a female voice from Skype coming through the speakers describing what this feature is for and whatto do.
b. Adjust headphone level as needed to increase or decrease the audio. If you don’t hear the female voice, go back to the top to verify connections are made correctly and/or adjust levels as needed.
c. You will then be prompted to record your audio for playback. This verifies that audio from the ListenPoint microphones is going into the PC for the Skype caller to hear.
d. Speak into the ListenPoint microphone once you have been prompted. After the recording time you will hear your audio recording.
e. Adjust levels as needed to increase or decrease your audio. If you don’t hear the voice, go back to the top to verify connections are made correctly and/or adjust levels as needed.
 
 
Adjustments may need to be made to any of the input or output gains, based on your environment and application, but this will give you a starting point for making the connection successfully.

Using ListenPoint for Teleconferencing

One of the most important and beneficial features of ListenPoint is its ability to do teleconferencing. When we discuss this feature, sometimes people get confused. The purpose of this blog post is to shed some light on just exactly how ListenPoint does teleconferencing.

 
Example 1: Telephone Teleconferencing
It’s a daily occurrence in many organizations to connect two or more rooms together to have a meeting or a “conference call”. These calls allow people to meet and communicate. The most common way to do this is to use a Polycom SoundStation 2 (SS2).
 polycom-soundstation2
The SoundStation 2 has speakers to hear the people on the other end of the call and three built in microphones so they can hear you. ListenPoint is designed to work with the SS2 to enhance the sound of the call.
 
So, how does ListenPoint work with the Polycom SoundStation?
 
Answer: The wireless M1 Microphone/Media Interfaces of ListenPoint become additional microphones on the SS2. Thus, when you talk into a ListenPoint M1, the people on the other end of call can better hear you. And, since the M1s are wireless, the can roam anywhere in the room.
listenpoint-soundstation2
 
Do the people on the other end of the call come through the ListenPoint speakers?
 
Answer: No. They are heard only through the speaker on the SS2.
 
Example 2: Computer/VOIP Teleconferencing
 
With the advancement of computer and VOIP calls (such as Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.), now organizations can use these almost free services for conference calls. ListenPoint is designed to work directly through a computer to conduct these types of calls.
 
How does ListenPoint work with Computer/VOIP teleconferencing?
ListenPoint works just like a headset that is connected to a computer. The wireless M1s used on
ListenPoint are just like the microphone on a headset and the ListenPoint speakers are like the earphones on your headset.

 
Example 3: Advanced teleconferencing and videoconferencing
In those rooms where there is an integrated AV system used for telephone and videoconferencing ListenPoint is right at home. ListenPoint can be easily integrated so that the ListenPoint M1s and other audio sources can be heard at the other end of teleconference and the audio from the far end of the teleconference can be heard through the ListenPoint speakers. This is all done by interfacing through an integrated acoustic echo canceller (that’s part of the AV system) that eliminates the echo when far end audio is picked up on the near end and returned to the far end.
 
If you’re wondering how to actually hook up ListenPoint to do this, read on. Otherwise, thanks for Listening!
 
 
Installation Steps
Steps to hookup Polycom SoundStation 2 to ListenPoint for telephone teleconferencing:
  1. Acquire a single phono to phone cable.
  2. Connect this cable from the output of ListenPoint to the phono connector on the SS2 power supply.
  3. Go to the menu of the SS2 and set up the Aux connector for “wireless mic”.
  4. Done.
Steps to hookup a computer to ListenPoint for VOIP teleconferencing:
  1. Purchase a Listen cable kit (part number LPT-A107) or build a cable.
  2. This is a Euroblock to 3.5MM cable.
  3. Connect the cable to the teleconferencing input/output of ListenPoint.
  4. Connect the cable to the earphone and microphone connectors on the computer.
  5. Done.

Passion & A Pioneering Spirit

Pioneering a market is not easy, however in my opinion it’s a lot of fun if one is willing to put in the hard work and willing to stick with it.  

I remember early in my AV career at Gentner Communications (now ClearOne) we pioneered a new technology for teleconferencing. We introduced a complete installed audio teleconferencing system with an “echo canceller” before anyone knew they had a need for one. No one was asking for one, in fact the market seemed to be satisfied with the solutions that were offered. It wasn’t until they “heard” the system and truly understood what this system could do for them did they embrace this new solution. The system demo spoke for itself and the client could easily understand the increased productivity the technology would offer them.

Today I find myself facing a similar situation with our new product line ListenPoint. This is an amazing system that provides audio structure for small rooms, yet no one is asking for it. So, it will require a pioneering spirit and different sales approach… passion and a lot of hard work.  The great thing about ListenPoint is that it’s extremely affordable and can do so much in a small room setting. I’m motivated and challenged and ready to “pioneer” a new market. Not many are given such an awesome opportunity more than once!   It is my personal belief that pioneering requires passion.  The magic about working with passion is that the work seems easier if you’re working with passion, you simply don’t give up. Pioneering will require persistence and passion as it’s the passion that makes things happen. People can see it, feel it and are motivated by it.  When you’re passionate the people around you get caught up in it. 

Pioneering also requires a vision. Our vision at Listen Technologies is that ListenPoint will change the interactions in small room settings worldwide making smaller groups more collaborative, and creating effective dynamic meetings.   

This has been my personal experience and perspective; however I’d welcome learning from others. What has been your experience that you or others you’ve known have had pioneering new products, solutions or markets?
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