What happens when the technology at your office gives out? In our new Replacing Office Technology series, we’re answering common questions from IT departments about how to replace the smaller technology systems that tend to need replacing more often than others. Today’s focus is on replacing office speakers — both in-ceiling and computer speakers.
As consumer technology progresses in audio quality, IT departments are starting to realize what professional sound quality in the office should be.
But that doesn’t mean they know how or why audio is good or bad.
As the roll of supporting “AV” has blended into the unified communication world, IT has more of a stake than ever in speaker replacement decisions and spend.
Here are some tips for replacing office speakers, both in-ceiling and for computers.
Answer these questions first
Scott Gantkin, Senior AV Account Executive at USIS AudioVisual Systems, advises IT decision makers ask themselves these questions when new office building speakers are needed:
- What is your audio content? Just like in video – content is king.
- What are the acoustics of the space?
- What is your playlist? What’s your audience?
- Where can we put speakers that will play with poor acoustics in landmarked and acoustically challenged environments?
All these questions lead to proper speaker selection and placement – but this also comes at a cost, and you’ll need to understand why sometimes (for example) $100 speakers won’t work, but $500 speakers will. If your AV partner or technology advisor doesn’t explain this, you likely won’t be able to gain approval from above.
That being said, most of the top audio brands will have something to fit almost every budget.
“For ceiling and conference room speakers, I would partner with an integrator with a lot of experience and turn my needs into a working system within my budget,” says Anthony Dimino, Engineering Manager at McCann Systems.
If you’re completely on your own, remember that every office environment is different, so the reviews you see online might not apply to your space.
Making the decision
After narrowing down options to a few products that will work for your room and budget, it’s important to set up a product demonstration if time allows and if you’re using an integrator for the project.
Stakeholders should be present during the demo, ensuring they’re ultimately comfortable with the product before they buy, and that any pressure is taken off IT if something does go wrong later (an unlikely base to cover, but a better safe than sorry).
One key benefit of working with an integrator is that they can bring their vendor partners. Vendors are often the best thought leaders in their respective tech categories and can offer package deals, post-installation follow-ups, and other benefits.
They also are available to help educate your stakeholders, further insuring the best possible outcome.
“We are specifically hearing requests for higher quality audio system and less bleed into other areas,” Gantkin says.
“But beyond those high profile public spaces, we also have clients requesting that we design new (or upgrade to) higher-fidelity full range speaker systems as compared to more budget-friendly 70v distributed audio speakers. The focal point has now changed to vocal clarity and performance over getting as many speakers at lowest cost.”
Replacing office ceiling speakers vs. computer speakers
When replacing ceiling speakers, there are a few factors you need to consider.
From a technical standpoint, you need to make sure the new speakers will work with the existing amplifier and wiring, or those will need to be replaced.
From an architectural standpoint, you will need to confirm the new speaker can fit in the old speaker’s existing footprint so you can avoid patching and making new holes in the ceiling.
Finish may be the most overlooked factor, according to Dimino.
“Does the speaker’s color and style match the look of the room, and will [you or your boss/stakeholders] be happy with that look?”
Getting the best price on office speakers
The best way to figure out the best value of an office ceiling speaker solution is to first determine the use-case.
“Audio can range from showcase landmark systems that greet tens of thousands of people a day, to a simple sound-masking system on a trading floor. Understanding what the use case is first will help the clients’ integrator partner guide them towards the most cost effective solution. In some instances, the $100 (or even $50) speaker is a far better solution than the $500 speaker,” Gantkin says.
Find our RFP templates for all your technology project needs here
Shaun Barkman, Global Account Manager, AVI-SPL says IT departments should consider creating organizational standards.
“The efficiencies gained when a solution is able to be implemented the same way in the same application across you company will save time and money. This also allows you to leverage volume and drive a partnership with you vendors which could lead to better pricing, and support.”
Using a sound bar with a built-in mic and camera may also be a better solution for computer- and meeting-related speaker needs.
“Products like this are cheaper than buying separate components and are also easier to install,” Dimino says.
“It’s essential to partner with an integrator because these products do not work for every scenario and could cost more money in the long run when they don’t.”