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Technology trends – echo cancellation systems

Andrew Brister 26 January 2011

If the audio is not right in conference room installation it can dramatically affect the usability and experience of the facility. Yvonne Womersley of Tukans explains the importance of echo cancellation systems.

In many conferencing installs the audio is not given the same level of consideration as the video. When the audio is not right it dramatically affects the usability and experience of the conference facility. The aim of a good conference room should be to make the equipment as seamless as possible and to make the meeting experience as natural as possible.

There are many issues that can arise meaning these objectives are not achieved:
• Straining to hear other parties in a conference because of low microphone levels
• Background noise from air con units, fans etc, over powering the speakers or making it difficult to concentrate
• Hearing your own voice echoed back into the conference room
• Having equipment that does not allow a natural two way conversation and cuts off when another person starts to speak.

All these things can make a conference call very frustrating and tiresome, meaning the user is less likely to want to use the equipment.

By using an audio conferencing unit such as the Ateis ECS (pictured) you can usually eliminate all these issues. The ECS (echo cancellation system) is a flexible multi input/output device that can be used with a video conferencing system or as part of an audio-only conferencing facility. All the system microphones and sound elements are feed into the ECS, enabling the required audio processing to take place.

Firstly, the ECS delivers true 20 Hz to 22 kHz audio which enables transmission of clearer more intelligible speech – important for teleconferencing. This wideband audio makes numbers and similar sounding syllables such as “s” and “f” easier to understand. The ECS also delivers full duplex conversations with no latency, including double talk. You can have a natural conversation where someone can interject and it will transmit both conversations. These are some of its basic teleconferencing benefits, but the ECS has far-reaching capabilities when you utilise the advanced audio, routing and signal processing contained within it.

The ECS is a comprehensive system which integrates compressor-limiter, equalizer, audio matrix and delay functions in one unit. With features such as automatic gain control, feedback killers, meters, generators and automatic microphone mixers the internal processing of audio signals can be fully programmed to suit each scenario, using the ECS to solve the problems highlighted earlier.

Audio, to and from the microphones, can be set at the appropriate level for the room and the distance from the participants. Echo and feedback created by the acoustics of the room can be eliminated, background noise from fans can be eliminated and signals can be mixed and routed to other areas for sound reinforcement.

Each ECS unit can have up to 24 inputs and 24 outputs, with 16 AEC channels and a telephone interface. An Ethernet port and RS-232 port enable software configuration and control. The Ateis NetLink connection enables multiple units (up to 32) to be linked.

By utilising the ECS it is possible to make teleconferencing audio be as natural and easy to comprehend as a face to face meeting.

Ateis has recently teamed up with York-based Tukans to distribute the ECS product into the UK. Tukans has vast experience in supplying video, sound and control systems to the teleconferencing and voice conferencing markets and Ateis is confident this will ensure more success for its innovative products in a competitive and specialised sector.

Yvonne Womersley is a director at Tukans

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