What is the best microphone for a council chamber?

The number one job of a microphone in a government council chamber is to capture the voice of a council member and to provide a clear intelligible audio signal to be amplified within the council chamber, sent out to remote participants, included in a live stream, and possibly supplied to audio recorders.

With the increased use of cloud-based meeting platforms due to the pandemic, the need for high quality audio has never been greater.

The most important factor in selecting the best microphone for your council chamber is making sure you select a microphone that will produce high quality audio. Ask any audio expert what the most important factor is for creating the highest quality audio, and the response will be “proximity”. This means the closer you can get the microphone element to the mouth of the person speaking, the better your quality of audio will be.

Microphones designed for this purpose are gooseneck microphones – which extend the microphone element from the table surface toward the person speaking, thus reducing the amount of space between the two. Most gooseneck microphones are equipped with a cardioid pick up pattern which focuses on sound coming from in front of the microphone while ignoring sound coming from behind it. Therefore, if used properly, the gooseneck microphone gives you your best chance at producing high quality audio. 

The next most important factor in selecting the best microphone for your council chamber is selecting one that is designed to reduce feedback while enhancing the experience for the council member. A conference microphone is a good choice because they are designed with a small onboard loudspeaker that provides a local sound field to the council member adding clarity and intelligibility to the proceedings. 

This loudspeaker is designed to mute whenever its microphone is turned on, creating what is known as a “mix-minus” effect, which allows you to set your microphone at the highest sensitivity level while greatly reducing the possibility of feedback within the chamber. Thus, using a conference microphone in your council chamber will assist in increasing the quality of your audio. 

One other feature of a conference microphone that assists with producing high quality audio in a council chamber is that it allows each council member the ability to turn their microphone on when they would like to speak, and off when they are finished speaking. 

Basically, what this function achieves is limiting the number of microphones that are live at one time, thus eliminating what we commonly refer to as “garbage audio” (coughing, rustling of papers, etc.). You experience the same concept whenever you join a webinar and the presenter asks everyone to mute their microphone (because we don’t want to be interrupted by your dog barking in the background).  Having all microphones live at the same time seem like a good idea until you try it in practice and have to live with the bad audio that results.  

Lastly, conference microphones offer additional non-audio related features that are commonly used in council chambers like electronic voting with display of individual voting results, request to speak functionality, automated camera tracking, and even all-in-one devices that include the microphone, loudspeaker, webcam, and personal video monitor.

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