HOW-TO Matrix Intercom Systems

In Audio, Audio Product Reviews, home_pageby admin

by Christian Diehl

Intercom systems today come in many different shapes and sizes. When considering an intercom system, it is important to prioritize the things that are important. Make sure that you get the sound quality and scalability that you need!

In terms of sound quality, digital systems will provide the highest quality sound with virtually no hums or buzzes. In a quiet church environment, extra noise can be especially annoying. In a concert environment or during outdoor services, the ability to hear and be heard are not just instrumental to the success of the production, but often can be key elements in the safety of the production crew and audience alike.

Scalability is a completely different issue because it’s something that can be easily overlooked or disregarded. Yet, in an effort to make your productions better or to service and reach more people, it is often necessary to grow your intercom system. The ability to do so without spending a lot of time, money, and spirit is the essence of scalability.

Matrix intercom systems allow more people to have more individual conversations and offer additional features including comprehensive customization options, conferencing, and IFBs. They also typically offer interfaces such as analog 4-wire connections for connections to other things like walkie-talkies or other intercom systems, and GPIOs (switch closures) that can be used to remotely trigger a variety of production elements or tasks such as dimming lights or operating a buzzer for cueing.

When you’re looking at matrix intercoms, there are several other factors to take into consideration. Some of these include the number of users, ease of use, remote control options, connectivity options (fiber, coax, etc.), network connectivity, customization, keypanel types, ease of programming, and whether rental systems are readily available for those once-a-year big events.

Keypanels are the user interface to the matrix, and these also vary widely. They can be rack-mounted or desk-top systems, and they can range from simple buttons to multicolor, multilingual touch screen displays.

Digital matrix intercom systems that rely on audio networking via AES67 or AVB as their backbone have recently become available. For many, these terms can be a little bit scary. You might be thinking, “Do we really need to be thinking about audio networks at our facility? Are we big enough to really need an audio network? Are we equipped to deal with it? What’s the learning curve?”

A networked solution provides an extraordinary degree of connectivity and convenience while also facilitating universal connectivity, convenient exchange of audio signals to and from audio consoles, and more signals per wire.

With audio over IP (AoIP) audio networking, your new matrix intercom system will use the same RJ-45 cabling that you are currently using to provide IP connectivity to everyone. Same wiring, same connectors, and same tools. If you choose AES67 connectivity, it is likely that your current infrastructure will work just fine. If you choose AVB, you may need to upgrade your switches. But, other than that, using your installed IP network for your intercom eliminates the need to run any additional cabling and has no adverse effect on your IP network performance. For many, this benefit alone could yield significant cost advantages over pulling in new cables — and even more so in a facility where installing new cables would be difficult or even impossible.

Analog partyline, digital partyline, analog matrix, digital matrix, non-networked and networked solutions can be combined to build a solution that fits your exact requirements. However, there are also single-box solutions available that provide the power of a small networked digital matrix with the simplicity and mobility of digital partylines. A complete appraisal of your current and future communications needs is the first step.

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