This week for the second time in recent weeks I attended an event where sound equipment that had been provided by a well known and expensive venue was ill suited to its purpose. It has prompted me to consider why we are so tolerant of basic failings in matters of sound, when generally speaking we are not willing to do the same when it comes to what we eat or drink in the same environments. There are several conflicting arguments about how important listening is to our learning experience but most analysts do agree that what we hear is vital. For people who have impaired hearing, the availability of well designed and well maintained hearing loop is possibly even more important than the need for sound amplification is for all of us.
This weeks experience was in a prestigious Hotel in Sussex, which had provided sound equipment for the gathered group of business leaders to learn from one another. Food was also provided and the quality distinction between the lovely food and amateurish choice of microphone could not have been clearer for those of us who are involved in the work of sound reinforcement. Of course most people are not familiar with the difference between the wonderful Shure SM58 which is ideal for singers or and any one of the microphones that are better suited for use on a stand for people to come up and make short statements through. It was clear from the event that the microphone had been supplied by professional engineers who should certainly have understood the difference. What was clear to all present was that most of the contributors were not appearing to take advantage of the sound system that had been provided for them which was disappointing to all of us, yet the choice of microphone was actually the most significant issue. The wrong sort of microphone is as fundamental a problem as if the cook had loaded salt rather than sugar into some of the cakes. Had that been the case something would clearly be said, and an apology provided. However the people who run meetings often lack the confidence or knowledge to deal with the apparently more complex issue of correct microphone use.
What has surprised me in my discussions with people who operate venues such as the one described above, is the general lack of interest in getting the best out of this aspect of the venue from the management provided. The difference in cost between the microphones or loudspeakers selected for some of these venues and more suitable equipment is marginal. Yet the impact on those attending events would be significant. The same is the case when people choose not to use microphones in meetings where some members of the audience may well be depending on this equipment to hear the words and understand the meaning through the use of hearing loops. Asking people in the room if they object to microphones being put aside, puts intolerable pressure on those with impaired hearing to say something. We all need to increase our awareness of the value and benefit of using the right equipment in the most effective manner.