You want how many microphones?


“You want how many microphones?”

I’ve found myself asking clients that question on many occasions. Big board meeting. National membership meeting. Round-table committee discussion. Meetings where there are 30 to 100 people who all need to be able to hear and be heard.

I’ll be honest -- you cannot have 50 microphones live at once in one meeting room without digital processing and expect to not have feedback. There’s no way one sound technician can manually keep track of who’s speaking and who’s up next and keep it all going smoothly. It’s not going to be pretty. And think of how many cables you’d need!


Luckily there’s a solution that lets everyone have a mic, prevents feedback, and keeps technicians from ripping their hair out.

It’s called an Audio Discussion System, or alternately known as a “Congress” or push-to-talk system.


A push-to-talk system in use at a business meeting.

A push-to-talk system in use at a business meeting.

A Discussion System can come in multiple styles and feature sets, from installed systems with voting, speaking order tracking, translation, and video displays (as is used at the United Nations), to wireless systems with multiple zones, to simpler portable systems with basic push-to-talk microphones and fewer frills.


All of these systems offer simple wiring, as most allow the mics to daisy-chain around the table. They also have a central processor that both limits the number of simultaneous mics that are turned on as that processes and adjusts the audio on the fly, preventing feedback and excessive room noise in recordings and conference calls.


Each mic unit has a push to talk button on the mic base, and in many of these systems the base contains a small speaker, allowing all the participants to hear each other clearly without external speakers, and all can all be plugged into external sound systems for reinforcement, conferencing, or recording.


These systems provide a solution for events where everyone needs to be heard. They are typically used with audiences seated around a U-shape or hollow square table arrangement, with all the participants around the room facing in, or with rows of delegates in classroom style or tiered seating all facing a central dais or head table. They can be used with one mic station per seat, or spaced between alternating seats, with one mic for every 2 people.


We typically recommend that no more than two people share a discussion mic, because the bases are daisy-chained together. With a wire running in each direction, it’s best that they not be picked up and moved so the cables from the other units won’t be pulled too much.


If you are planning a large board meeting, or you’d like a large group to be able to have a round table discussion, with or without an off-site teleconference, a multi-mic discussion system is a solution worth exploring. We carry a range of these systems, and we’d be love to chat about your event. We’re in California, but if you’re curious about how these systems work, feel free to drop me a line no matter where you are -- I love to geek out about AV technology, especially if it helps folks find solutions to their event technology problems.