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Achieve Invisible Audio with the MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone

Associate Product Manager Rob Klegon discusses features of the MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone that allow it to deliver clear and invisible audio.
June, 27 2016 |

Corporate AV conferencing often happens in spaces that look beautiful but sound terrible. Companies spend huge budgets on lighting, seating, and projection, but for people on the other end of a videoconference, none of that matters if it sounds like the first trans-Atlantic telephone call.

Often, the solution has been to place microphones on the meeting table, preferably within arm's reach of every participant. But table microphones—even wireless ones—can detract from the look of the room and clutter the table. Overhead microphones sometimes work successfully with careful attention to room acoustics but were reserved for expensive custom installations. Early array microphones showed some promise, but they hovered awkwardly over the table and required lots of configuration and setup time.

With the MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone, Shure figured out how to make a great-sounding AV conferencing microphone invisible.

Meet the MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone

The MXA910 is part of the new Microflex® Advance™ system.  It goes on the ceiling, out of the way and pretty much out of sight. Unlike conventional microphones, its pickup is completely adjustable. You can aim it where you want it without physically changing the microphone's orientation. You don't need to touch it at all, in fact.

The MXA910 connects to your audio conferencing processor, videoconferencing codec, or PC-based videoconferencing software. It gives you the great performance you need without interfering with the visual aesthetic of the room.

The secret is the combination of state-of-the-art array microphone technology with the Shure IntelliMix® DSP Suite. IntelliMix is a robust set of signal processing tools—Steerable Coverage™, Automatic Mixing, Echo Reduction, and Equalization—that offer an unprecedented level of control.


MXA910 Ceiling Array in a ceiling


What's an Array Microphone?

An array microphone consists of multiple mic elements arranged in a specific pattern and combined together electronically.  The type, number, and layout of the mic elements plays a critical role in achieving the desired behavior from the array.  And it turns out that the DSP needs to do quite a bit more than just sum all of the microphone signals together and manipulate the phase, which is what most array microphones do.

With the right microphones in the right arrangement and the right signal processing, sound quality improves dramatically. For starters, you can achieve a much narrower polar pattern than is possible with a conventional microphone (even a shotgun type). This allows the mic to pick up the sound of a participant seated farther away without room noise overwhelming the participant's voice. Voices in all areas of the conference space sound clear, natural, and intelligible.

The width and placement of the so-called "pickup lobe" are also adjustable so you can easily match the microphone's coverage to the layout and seating arrangement of the room. Need a narrow pickup lobe focused on the CEO's seat? No problem. Want a wide lobe to cover multiple talkers? Can do.



Browser-based Audio Control & Automatic Mixing

What really makes the MXA910 special is that it is so easy to operate.

Instead of specifying angles and distances from the mic to the person talking, in the browser-based software, you adjust a pickup lobe by dragging it on a screen. No trigonometry required. We call this Steerable Coverage™. You can point the lobe at a specific location and accurately see the area that will be covered. There's also an Auto-Configuration feature during setup that will aim the lobe at a person talking.

The MXA910 can provide up to eight pickup lobes at a time, and they can each have different widths and be pointed in different directions. So, one MXA910 mounted above a meeting table can have pickup lobes pointed at every seating position, or you can use one lobe to cover multiple seats—whatever works for your space.

With eight pickup lobes, you get eight audio outputs that you can connect to an audio processor. Plus, there's a ninth output channel for the built-in IntelliMix automatic mixer. When someone speaks, it selects the best pickup lobe for them. The IntelliMix output eliminates the need for a mixer, and is ideal for connecting to videoconferencing hardware that only has one audio input.

IntelliMix also has a built-in echo reduction feature that reduces acoustic echo by preventing far end participants from activating local microphone channels. It's very effective as a front end to codecs with only a single channel acoustic echo canceler. There's a parametric equalizer for each audio channel, too, which is handy for filtering out room noise or compensating for acoustic anomalies.





Two More Benefits: Discreet Design & Dante™

The MXA910 connects to other AV hardware using the Dante digital audio networking protocol, so there's no tangle of cables accompanying all the technology in this array mic. Dante delivers pristine digital audio and standard Power over Ethernet over one Ethernet cable. The Dante protocol lets audio co-exist with other traffic on the network without slowing it down, so you can use your existing network to connect components in the same room or to distribute audio throughout your facility. (If you need to connect to a device that does not use Dante, we have Dante-to-analog audio interfaces, too.)

Fitting flush into a standard ceiling tile grid, the MXA910 is completely discreet and unassuming. It comes in two sizes (2 feet by 2 feet, and 60 cm by 60 cm), and it's even paintable to match the room décor.

Ceilings are sometimes not ideal spaces, though. First, it can get really dusty up there, so the MXA910 has an IP5X dust-resistant rating per IEC 60529. Sometimes suspended ceiling grids vibrate, so the MXA910 has internal mechanical isolation. If the space above the ceiling tiles is used for air distribution, the included FyreWrap® fire protective wrap system satisfies UL 2043 requirements and qualifies the MXA910 as Suitable for Air Handling Spaces. And in rooms that don't have a drop ceiling, you can attach the MXA910 to a standard VESA mount (like a projector) or hang it with wires.

If you want great AV conferencing audio that's invisible and easy to configure, then the MXA910 is for you.

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Rob Klegon
Rob is a Product Manager for Shure, with a key role in the team responsible for bringing Microflex® Advance™ to the world. In his tenure with Shure, Rob has worked on numerous microphone and signal processing products. He is also an avid percussionist.