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Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:34 pm
by mhenrichsen
Most Sundays my non-US branch meets in homes of three branch members due to space constraints in the meetinghouse in our city, and legal restrictions on the size of gatherings at unregistered meeting locations. While we conduct thesacrament at each location independently, we use a teleconference bridge line to connect the three locations for the remainder of our Sacrament meeting. The teleconference is conducted using 3 Polycom soundstation2 teleconferencing consoles.

Sharing most of the sacrament meeting allows us to have a more normal sacrament meeting, and it works well except for a couple things. We are meeting in people's homes, and the Polycom system is not a soundsystem. The shape and furnishing of the rooms have a significant impact on the audibility.
1. Members sometimes speak as if the microphone for the phone were a mic in a standard chapel. And even when a speaker is projecting and enunciating well in the home they are speaking in, the Polycom even at full volume is sometimes still not capable of making the audio easy to hear at the back of the living/family rooms used for our meetings. While I could encourage the members to speak up, the variation in capability is significant.
2. Polycom conference phone consoles are equipped with omnidirectional microphone capability, so that they can pick up all participants within 10 feet in a conference room. They are very effective at picking up all the noises young children make during talks and prayers.

While there are now web-based conferencing systems that could easily be connected to directional microphones, and even provide video, internet signal quality here is often intermittent so we are not ready to switch away from a POTS connection.

What I think I need:
Amplification of the speakers and of the telephone audio.
A telephone/teleconference console that has only directional mics. Preferably two that can be muted separately, so that the piano can be heard independently at appropriate times.

But I don not know how to identify which equipment I need.
If you can help identify the right equipment, or if you have a better idea of how to do this please speak up!


Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:00 am
by russellhltn
Does the Polycom allow for external mics or speakers?

Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:41 am
by mhenrichsen
It has a single RCA jack which can be activated for either audio out or mic in, so that can solve the amplification issue.

Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:22 am
by michaelfish
Most Polycom conference phones have an audio out connection for connecting external speakers. Simply run the appropriate cable out of the receiving phone to an amplifier and quality speakers (or self-powered speakers) placed several feet away from the phone and directed towards the back of the room (or where they are needed). Be sure to mute the phone receiving the meeting so amplified sound does not cause feedback.

The better the sound is going in, the better the sound will be coming out so your concern about the phone's omni-directional mics can definitely cause issues. Polycom conference phones are great for picking up sound from many participants around a conference table but with one speaker, such as in a church service, the feature lessens sound quality.

Using a directional microphone for the one speaking will tremendously improve sound quality so a Polycom conferencing phone may not even be necessary at the source. IMO, a standard microphone connected to a mixer (or microphone pre-amp) fed to the POTS with an EJ-10 crab would be better. However, Polycom does make some directional boundary microphones which which you could place closer to the speaker but something within a few inches to a foot would be best.

Here's an alternative suggestion: I purchased a used Symetrics TI-101 telephone interface for $50 for sending building audio over POTS for backup audio and home-bound receiving over a conference bridge. The TI-101 units have been used by radio stations for years to conference telephone calls from listeners and direct audio from a radio DJ's mixing board for professional sound quality over a POTS. The unit optimizes the sound level and has a limiter to prevent overdriving the telephone line. This unit could be employed instead of the EJ-10 for a more professional solution.

Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 12:13 pm
by russellhltn
Which model Polycom do you have? I'm wondering if there's something deep in the user manual that will help. I don't think the Polycom uses a true Omni directional, but rather a set of switched mics to pick up the sound. If that switching can be turned off, that would help.

Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:38 am
by mhenrichsen
The polycoms are all Soundstation2.

Re: Improving Sacrament Meeting Teleconferences

Posted: Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:26 am
by russellhltn
The best idea I can come up with is to place the unit closest to the "stand" and use the audio out jack for a speaker to cover the rest of the room. I believe there is a mute button, and I'd suggest that sites that are "receiving" use that to prevent noise from getting into the system.