Do small rooms need an audio system?

By Russ Gentner

In this article, Russ Gentner examines this question, Do small rooms need an audio system?

Our industry focuses mainly on audio systems for large spaces.  It is quite obvious that if you have a room that sits 1,000 people, you’re going to need an amplified sound system to get audio to the participants.

Not so obvious are small rooms.  Take for example a training room that is say 40 feet by 30 feet.  Generally, there would be no sound system put into this type of room. Clearly there might be an LCD/LED screen with audio or maybe a small conferencing device.  But, it’s unlikely you’ll find a wireless microphone and an audio mixing system. 

But does a small room like this really need an audio system?  Maybe that’s why there isn’t one in the room!  This is a good point. But, consider the fact that say 20 individuals may enter that room and spend 6 to 8 hours in a day going through training.  The MARRS report and several other studies (conducted for K-12 classrooms) show that the ability to understand the material increases dramatically when we raise the SPL of the instructors voice.  The same studies show the instructors ability to instruct improves as well.  This is why hundreds of thousands of classrooms across North America  have an installed audio amplification system (the educational  term coined for these systems is “soundfield”).

Now, it shouldn’t be of much surprise that if we put a wireless microphone on someone that people will be able to better understand what’s being said.  Even if we raise the gain by as little as 3dB, there is a noticeable improvement in comprehension. The point is that we generally don’t even consider such systems in small rooms.

So, I’m here to suggest that maybe our industry needs to take a closer look at this opportunity to help our customers.  How many rooms are out there that our customers could benefit from by adding a sound system that not only includes a wireless microphone but also provides mixing of the many audio sources that are part of meetings and trainings (computer audio, DVD, MP3, teleconference, etc.).

Just as the soundfield market has grown for classrooms, maybe sound systems for smaller rooms can be new product category for our industry.