How The Performance of Your Wireless Microphone Systems Impacts Employee Engagement: The Value of Crystal Clear Vocal Audio

Author: Gina Cunsolo

Is Good Audio Important in Conference Meetings?


Question for you: what is the most memorable part of a conference call?


If it’s a good, productive call, you remember the discussion. You remember the connection made with your employees or coworkers, the satisfaction you felt when you shared your ideas with your peers and they responded with enthusiasm, the impressive way your coworker made a difficult concept seem easy, and the shared laugh at the end of the call.


What’s one thing you don’t remember? The good audio.


Here’s the thing: good audio is one of the most underrated aspects of a business meeting; particularly a virtual or remote meeting. Similar to a successful tech team on a musical production - you only notice them when something goes wrong. When we’re on the call and the sound is good, we don’t even notice. We’re simply noticing the person speaking to us and engaging in the versation. In fact, this is precisely what’s supposed to happen. Audio solutions for conference meetings exist to create the stage for productive conversations.


However, when there’s unclear or broken audio, that’s the only thing we notice. Rather than remember the ways our teams collaborated effectively, we only remember how hard we strained to hear our teammates clearly.


Once we all first started working from home, we realized this quickly. “Can you hear me okay?”, “Can you hear my dogs barking in the background?” and, “Can you hear my kids yelling at each other?” became commonly heard phrases. Each of us rushed to purchase noise-canceling headphones and personal Bluetooth Speakerphones for our remote meetings, in order to have audio solutions that fared well with our new work-from-anywhere lifestyles. 


However, now that more and more offices are returning to the office, there’s a new challenge upon us: making sure employees in the office are heard as clearly as employees working from home. This can be particularly challenging when employees are joining on both sides. The remote employees are each outfitted with their own personal mobile kit, while the employees in the office are forced to crowd around one microphone or speaker - or, worse, hide in their own personal offices and join the meeting siloed.


When meeting participants are not heard or are straining to hear others clearly, employee engagement severely suffers. Rather than effortlessly contributing to discussions, we now exert unnecessary effort simply to listen and comprehend. Just as good audio has been proven to help students learn, good audio also helps employees effectively collaborate and solve problems.


The question is: how do we make sure all parties contributing to these work meetings have access to crystal clear audio?


In order to answer that question, we must consider the different factors that contribute to good audio. One in particular is one we don’t consider often enough in professional environments: microphone design. 


Does Microphone Design Impact Audio Quality?


Microphone design significantly impacts how voices are heard and how clearly ideas are communicated. We understand this in other realms. Take music, for example. Ask any studio engineer: there are thousands of different vocal microphones for different use cases. Some microphones are better suited for male voices, some are better suited for female voices. Some are better suited for instruments! Drums, guitars, pianos, and strings can all be mic’d differently, depending on the volume, tamber, environment, and so many more factors. All instruments require different kinds of microphones in order to optimally amplify or record it. 


Other examples of different microphone use cases include television. Anchors utilize different microphones depending on whether they’re sitting in the studio, out on the street, recording live from the crime scene, or, sitting in a sound booth at a sports game. Or, how about theater? Go see any Broadway show and you’ll quickly realize that the lead characters are mic’d differently than members of the ensemble - and that some mics on the stage are for objects, not just voices. 

Again, while it may be obvious that other use cases, such as news anchors, musicians, and theater actors all use specific kinds of microphones in different ways, it’s usually less obvious when thinking about the microphones we use in the office. Now that we’ve explored the different ways microphone design affects specific use cases outside of the office, let’s turn our attention to mic design for office microphones. For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at three different microphone designs in depth: omnidirectional, directional, or gooseneck.


But before we get there, let’s cover the difference between wired microphones and wireless microphones, and how these differences affect sound quality and employee engagement.


Are There Any Benefits to Wired Microphones?


Wired Microphones have gotten a bad reputation over the past few years. Many consider wired microphones to be a nuisance, as wireless microphones are more flexible when used in the office. However, wired microphones are still valuable, particularly when considering the topic at hand: microphone design. When asked about how to ensure good audio in any office setting, Tim Mackie, field systems engineer at Yamaha UC, in a recent webinar entitled “Why NOT Wired Mics?”: “Give every participant in the room their own microphone and put it as close as you can to their mouth.”


Yamaha’s RM-TT wired microphones utilize directional designs to amplify people who are speaking, thus getting the microphone as close as possible to the mouth. 


Available mic options for Yamaha’s RM-TT include:

  • Unidirectional

    • Unidirectional microphones pick up sound from a specific area. Directional mics are designed to minimize unwanted background noise and have the highest pickup sound from the front.

  • Super-Cardioid

    • A Super-Cardioid microphone is most sensitive to sounds coming in front of the mic, rejecting sound coming from the side. In order to be heard clearly, the speaker must remain consistently directly in front of the microphone.

  • Hyper-Cardioid

    • A Hyper-Cardoid microphone is a more intense version of the Super-Cardioid Microphone. Its pick-up pattern is more narrow and focused.

  • Omnidirectional

    • Omnidirectional microphones allow the user to capture the sound in the room evenly. This mode does not restrict direction or active microphone elements.

  • Bidirectional

    • The Bidirectional microphone creates two cardioid pick-up patterns opposite each other. When placed on the center of the table, the microphones clearly capture what is being said on both sides of the table.

  • Toroidal

    • Toroidal pattern is an advanced setting for the omnidirectional behavior, reducing sound capture from the top of the microphone. This blocks out noise like air conditioners, ceiling fans, and projectors. 


Oh, one more thing: Yamaha recently announced an updated firmware to the ADECIA solution, specifically the mute functionalities of the RM-TT. Check out the press release for more information! 


What is an Omnidirectional Microphone?


According to the dictionary, the prefix “omni” refers to “all”, or “of all things”. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that an “omnidirectional” microphone is a microphone that receives sound from all directions. 


In the age of remote work, we’ve come to prefer “noise canceling”, rather than “noise enhancing” - or, an audio solution that can pick up sound from all areas. Think about all the times we’ve taken conference calls from noisy places: from our grandmother’s house, where the house phone is ringing in the background, or our parents’ house where their noisy dog barks whenever the mail carrier walks by, or even our own apartment while a siren blares outside. We’ve all learned the hard way: in order to ensure our coworkers hear us clearly, the background noise shouldn’t be amplified along with our voice; it should be canceled.


Though not conducive to noise canceling, the omnidirectional microphone is still useful in office environments. Now that the Hybrid Model is becoming increasingly popular and more and more employees are working a few days from the office, office spaces need to be outfitted with appropriate microphones for different rooms and working styles. In huddle rooms, for example, where you have multiple meeting participants, an omnidirectional microphone can help prevent “mic crowding”. Simply place an omni-directional microphone in the middle of the room, and it will pick up sound from any participant who speaks. This way, the remote participants will be able to clearly hear their in-office coworkers. 


Now, you may be wondering: can an omnidirectional microphone be a wireless microphone?


The answer is yes!


What Are the Benefits of an Omnidirectional Microphone?


An omnidirectional microphone, specifically an omnidirectional wireless microphone, improves employee engagement in several ways.


First, without being constrained to wires, the omnidirectional microphone can be placed wherever the employee desires. And, if the employee can work how and where they want, they’re more likely to engage and participate in calls and meetings. For example, some of us prefer to walk while we talk. Whether it’s via an at-home, under-the-desk treadmill, or simply pacing around the office while on a client call, omnidirectional microphones allow the liberty to walk and talk at the same time - without distracting background noise of the treadmill belt or the swishing noise of holding a microphone and bopping it up-and-down like your arms do when you walk. 


What is a Directional Microphone?


A directional microphone is just like it sounds: a microphone that picks up audio from a particular direction. On Yamaha’s RM-W Wireless Microphone, the difference is delineated by the design. The dots indicate where the microphone is, and thus where is the greatest level of audio pick up. Directional microphones can come in many different forms: wearable microphones or tabletop microphones, to name a few.


What are the Benefits of a Directional Microphone?


While an omnidirectional allows for amplification for multiple areas, directional microphones can provide a more focused sound. This is particularly helpful in crowded spaces with background noise where noise from all directions isn’t welcomed. It’s also helpful for employees who may have a softer voice - when the directional microphone is close to their mouth, it’ll be easier to hear without the employee having to strain their voice to speak louder than other sounds.


How does this concept influence employee engagement? Let’s think about it this way: How many times have you tried having a conversation with someone in a loud space? It isn’t the most pleasant experience - especially when you’re forced to repeat yourself multiple times. Eventually you alter what you want to say in order to be heard, or give up and stop talking altogether.


It’s equally frustrating for the person on the other side of the conversation struggling to hear. No one wants to admit multiple times that they’re having a hard time hearing; asking their counterpart to repeat themselves multiple times. We, as humans, value connection, and when we struggle to hear our colleagues, we break our connection.


What is a Gooseneck Microphone?


A gooseneck microphone is seen most frequently on podiums in lecture halls or courtrooms. It comes in a few different sizes, (Yamaha’s RM-W Wireless Gooseneck Microphone, for example, comes in 6 inch or 12 inch). It looks just like its namesake - a long, thin, curved arm, and a small top. This is the microphone that will get closest to the speaker’s mouth and will offer the most direct, focused sound. Though you won’t find gooseneck microphones in too many modern offices, they are actually incredibly valuable ways to amplify single voices.


What Are the Benefits of a Gooseneck Microphone? 


Because the gooseneck microphone provides such a high-intensity, focused sound, it’s the most ideal solution to ensure your employees are heard. One use case for the gooseneck microphone? An all-hands meeting, when the CEO has to give a lengthy quarterly update, she or he can be heard clearly by all. Or, for your in-office employees who may either speak with a foreign accent or a low voice, the strong pick up of the gooseneck microphone provides an advantage and helps ensure that they are heard and understood by their colleagues. 


One more thing: remember, earlier, when we mentioned the employees who like to walk around while they’re speaking in meetings? Yamaha’s gooseneck microphones are wireless - and wireless means more freedom! For the employee working from the office who can’t help but pace around the room during meetings, feel free to give him or her the gooseneck wireless microphone. With 20 hour talk time, only 3 hour charge time, and the ability to stay connected to the wireless access point from up to 50 meters (or 170 feet) away, you can be sure that everyone will remain fully engaged.


Charging Wireless Microphones


This brings up another aspect of wireless microphones that can make or break employee engagement: battery charge.


When wireless microphones use batteries that don’t last very long, employee engagement suffers. If employees need to constantly monitor the battery light that indicates its power level, they’re not paying attention to their colleagues - or, if they’re speaking, they might lose their train of thought. Likewise, if the battery dies mid-call, the discussion - and the momentum - gets interrupted. When the call finally starts back again, everyone’s flustered. “Where were we?” 


In order to combat this disruption and threat to employee engagement, Yamaha’s wireless microphones don’t just have a long talk time and short charge time via the charging station - they also offer the option to be charged via USB-C cable! Employees sitting at their desks can continue to use their wireless gooseneck, tabletop omnidirectional or tabletop directional wireless microphones by simply plugging them into their laptop or USB-C adapter. 


Overall, without a doubt, audio performance impacts employee engagement. By making sure you have the correct microphone design for your use case, you can set the stage for crystal clear audio and uninterrupted meetings. Contact the experts at Yamaha UC to talk about how to set up your employees for success!