Audio innovations that sound intriguing for schools

Crestron’s FreeSpeech wireless microphone system has a feature designed to save instructors from potential embarrassment.

Innovative new speakers, public address systems, and sound amplification systems that make it easy to set up and control the audio in classrooms and other locations were among the many audio-visual products highlighted at InfoComm 2011 in Orlando last month.

For instance, Outline North America demonstrated its Mini COM.P.A.S.S. line of portable speakers. COM.P.A.S.S. stands for “Compact Polar Adjustable Sound System,” and these speakers are stackable, networkable, and fully adjustable. Each speaker contains a digital signal processor, and the bellows move in a range from 60 degrees to 150 degrees—allowing users to steer the sound away from a wall and control where the signal goes with remarkable precision.

At InfoComm 2011, Outline also debuted a new browser-based application that lets users manage the Mini COM.P.A.S.S. speakers from an iPhone, iPad, laptop, or other mobile device. The app lets you control the volume, delay, bass, and treble of each individual speaker, and you can control the angle each speaker is set to as well. When you click on a designated speaker in the application, the speaker itself lights up, so you easily can see which device you’re controlling in a line array.

Peavey Electronics demonstrated several portable PA systems that are useful for setting up audio for outdoor events, or in places that don’t have a full sound system. They range from the $299 Messenger system, which provides “audio in a box,” to the TriFlex system for under $800.

The Messenger system is contained in a suitcase-size carrying case. Its top tilts up and can be used as a lectern by the presenter. It puts out 100 watts of sound through up to four audio channels. The TriFlex system, which generated a great deal of interest at InfoComm 2011, consists of an amplifier on wheels and two raised speakers on tripods.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that schools, colleges, and others using wireless microphones operating on the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band must change the radio frequency or buy new equipment. The FCC’s decision was part of a larger effort to clear the 700 MHz band for use by cell phones, digital TV transmissions, and emergency communications—but it also affected many schools.