Willamette University Eliminates Audio Frustrations for Remote Learners with Yamaha’s YVC-1000 Microphone and Speaker System

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Willamette University prides itself on “being a community of collaborative educators committed to rigorous education that cultivates an authentic engagement and promotes transformation of knowledge into action in ways that lead to lives of achievement, contribution, and meaning.” In keeping with this mission and prioritizing the health and safety of its staff and students, the school responded to COVID-19 in a number of ways. The school reduced its classroom sizes, modified their layouts to maintain social distance, and expanded its remote learning program. All these efforts required a high reliance and creative use of technology, especially video conferencing supported by high-quality, flawless audio.
 
The school has offered distance learning for many years, but with COVID-19, it required a greater number of classrooms to adhere to new safety guidelines. To meet this need, former event spaces and a theater were turned into make-shift classrooms. Although these spaces would be temporary, they had to sound just as good as their dedicated classrooms with installed AV systems. While video was provided with simple PTZ cameras, the question was what audio solution would be affordable, easy to install and operate, and deliver uncompromising audio to the far end? While this might sound like a tall order, the school didn’t have to look far.
 
Collins205.JPGDouglas Wenger, manager of technical support services, knew exactly what solution he wanted to use and had already tested it: the Yamaha YVC-1000 Microphone and Speaker System. More than five years ago, the school had a student who had utilized a remote transcriber for class that required the audio be picked up and delivered to the transcriber over audio conferencing. Wenger’s AV specialist had discovered the YVC-1000 after attending InfoComm, one of the premier professional AV technology trade shows.
 
The Zoom-certified Yamaha YVC-1000 uniquely features a separate intelligent microphone and full-range speaker unit that can be placed close to a display for naturally blended audio and video to enable full far-end comprehension. Yamaha's adaptive echo cancellation and other unique high-quality sound processing technologies developed over the years also help facilitate a stress-free conversation. When they tested the unit, they discovered just how well these innovations work to promote clear audio, giving the team all the assurance they needed.
 

“We first tested the YVC-1000 in our shop where we have this big fan. When we turn that fan on, it gets really noisy. The YVC-100 cancelled it out,” said Wenger. “I don't expect a fan right next to a mic to be able to cancel out that level of noise.”

 
Art300.JPGBecause the YVC-1000 allows for up to five microphones to be daisy-chained, it’s ideally suited to pick up the audio around the room or table. Another benefit is that the technology staff could tailor the number of mics used and where they were laid out within the room to optimize the audio for the room size and shape. The school deployed 36 units across several new remote classrooms. Depending on the size of the room, each room was equipped with three, four, or five microphones. The speakerphone’s scalable, easy-to-deploy architecture was perfect for turning the former event spaces as well as a 125-seat theater into a high-quality hybrid classroom in under an hour.
 

“Surprisingly, the theater room, though it’s a large room, sounds amazing,” said Wenger. “We set up four mics in the first row and every other row going up in the center. We were in the back corner of the room talking with our normal voice and the person on the other end was hearing us as clear as could be.”

 
During a training session for instructors, the system was setup alongside the school’s existing audio-conferencing solutions in order for them to learn all the systems at once. The session was in one of the school’s most acoustically challenging buildings. The room features 12-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and no acoustical tiles to help control the reverberation. The YVC-1000’s auto-tuning measures and algorithms were able to analyze the room environment and intelligently tailor the acoustic settings to the optimal level for the room. The automatic system warnings helped to ensure the microphones were well placed to ensure optimal audio quality.
 
The professors saw a noticeable difference in audio quality between the YVC-1000 and other products in the room. For the technology staff, its plug-and-play simplicity and auto-tune setup allowed them to set up the audio in under 45 minutes and focus more time on setting up the document cameras and PTZ video cameras.
 
In addition to natural sounding audio quality and ease of deployment, the new speakerphones require almost no input from the instructors. For rooms with an in-room PC, they can just get started. If they’re bringing in their own laptop, they simply plug the USB cord of the dock that the YVC-1000 is connected to into their device and they’re ready to launch Zoom.
 
YVC-1000-cutout-PNG.pngThe YVC-1000 is also capable of being paired with two external speakers and other microphone systems via an input jack. This gives Willamette a scalable design that will allow the school to redeploy the solution when it no longer needs surplus hybrid classrooms. For example, they can install them in Willamette’s conference rooms needing better mic coverage. This is a cost-effective, flexible alternative to installed audio solutions. As a result, the school has a much greater return on investment.
 
As increasing priority is placed on audio in the classroom, the YVC-1000 answered the question of how Willamette could help remote students feel as if they’re in class. Although hearing the professor is essential, the arising trend is ensuring far-end participants hear the questions and feedback between students in the classroom. With the YVC-1000 in place, remote students don’t have to worry about ever missing a word and professors don’t have to spend time repeating questions to ensure that everyone heard them.
 

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