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Would You Like Surround Sound With That?

by Tim Heneveld on June 7, 2012

image of conference room surround soundOn a recent project we sat down for the kick-off programming meeting, and I started working through my list of questions to help us figure out what types of AV functionality the client needed for the project. At one point the owner’s representative (who was not from the technology team) stated that they really just wanted a good quality system with “microphones, speakers, and surround sound.” This was a corporate boardroom, not a movie theater, so I asked what types of video content they would be viewing in the room.

The answer: None. Mostly just PowerPoint presentations. Any audio on those presentations? Nope.

After some more questioning and prodding, it turns out that they didn’t really need (or want) surround sound. The owner’s representative (like many people) has simply come to equate “surround sound” with really good sound. But in actuality, surround sound is a specific type of processing applied to a specific method of audio recording to help an individual feel like they are part of the scene portrayed on screen. Applying that same processing to a speaking voice through a sound system can actually reduce the intelligibility of the system, or simply be a waste of money of systems and components that are never used. That’s not to say that surround sound is bad or shouldn’t be used. There are many times and places where it is a fabulous enhancement to the viewing experience.

Fortunately we were able to deduce exactly what it was that client really needed before we designed the systems and bid them out to an audio-visual installer. At ABD, a big part of how we approach projects deals with getting the right information at the beginning of the project so that time and money are not wasted on technologies and equipment that never get used. We listen closely to our client’s requests and help them understand the big picture before moving ahead with the design.

Since we perform only the design (i.e., no equipment sales), clients trust us to give them the best, most objective advice on their audio-visual system needs. Our job is to do what is in our client’s best interests, even if that means designing a simpler, smaller system.

Tim Heneveld

Tim Heneveld

Tim Heneveld, CTS-D, has worked in almost every aspect of the Audio-Video and lighting industry. From System Design to Project Management to Studio and Live Engineering. Tim has overseen audio, video, and lighting systems as well as operations, and provided recording studio and live sound engineering around the world for recording artists of all genres. Tim is a Certified Crestron and Extron Programmer, and is the Senior AVL Design Consultant for Acoustics By Design, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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