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Other than the very considerable progress in sound quality as such, as well as general ergonomic improvements and relay facilities (the latter less relevant in run-of-the-mill private market conferences) our consoles do not seem to have changed much over the years.

The three refinements I've come across are:

  • Larsen effect fuse: sound would be discontinued when a peak in decibels was registered (and sound would resume a few seconds later, ie whatever had been said in the meantime would be lost)
  • repeat loop: if we missed something a button could be pressed that would take us back a few seconds (and we would stay behind real-time for as long as we kept the button pressed, ie we would have to wait for a pause to release it and jump ahead, hoping not to have missed anything)
  • original/relay overlap: a combination of settings would give us (methinks... or perhaps both on both but at different levels) original in one ear and chosen relay channel in the other (useful to keep track of original intonation, pauses and new speakers the pivot had not underscored)

Because I have a loud voice, I once had a LED sound meter built for me that would light up progressively warmer colours all the way to red if my voice went up, thus giving me a visual check thereon... and which also incorporated repeat/slow down buttons on my box and LED warning signs on the one I would place on the rostrum or head table (this before such feature made it to several models... although it rarely functions) which would work via the electricity wiring, same as baby monitors.

Any thoughts on any of these, why they did not go mainstream... and while we're at it, what would your wish list be?

asked 03 May '12, 09:25

msr's gravatar image


edited 03 May '12, 14:24

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

+1 I like the three examples.

(03 May '12, 12:29) Delete ♦

Taiden heard you! Their new console offers a 'repeat' feature for 2-6 seconds.

(14 Jan '16, 11:10) Gaspar ♦♦

Now, THAT'S a nice question! I think the most important feature would be what you referred to as the "Larsen effect fuse". As far as I know, some consoles already have limiters or other hearing-protection systems. The repeat button sounds like a nice idea - but I have a feeling I would be afraid of missing something else when using it. I'd actually rather ask my colleagues. Would you use the overlap function when interpreting or more out of curiosity? Sounds like cognitive overkill to me! The LED sound meter seems a far more sensible idea to me - also for colleagues with a rather "soft" voice. Does anybody here ever use those repeat/slow down buttons? AFAIK, they're not even active where I work. I feel it is almost always useless to ask speakers to slow down; it'll work for one minute and then they're back on track.

What I would like to see is an intelligent warning/management system for (in)correct retour channels. And if it weren't for the poor battery life, I would absolutely LOVE to use wireless Bluetooth headphones in the booth. Just dreaming...

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answered 03 May '12, 14:03

Alexander's gravatar image



Thank you very much, Alexander :-).

  • Some consoles do indeed have decibel fuses, but not many... and if you ask me the reason why it never caught on is because one cannot configure it: if my memory serves me right, admittedly loud sounds albeit non-traumatic would trigger them... and during rebooting the speaker would peacefully go on, while we could not hear him/her.

  • As to the repeat loop, one would not lose anything provided one chose carefully when to release it, ie a pause long enough to go back to real time.

  • The overlap function (which I only encountered on one type of console- the "black wafer" Sony) was very useful for the reasons I mentioned... albeit on rare private market occasions when relay was used, might well be too tiring in institutional settings with constant relay... but hey, it being there doesn't mean everyone must use it all the time :-).

  • As to my LED meter, I was rather proud of myself for having come up with the concept ;-) and it did serve me rather well, anyone interested is welcome to follow suit.

  • Repeat/slow down: some institutional systems provide for validation before the lights will go on (ie only a second booth pressing on the button will activate the system) and it wil light up before the chair, not the speaker... hoping that a warning (or repeated warnings!) by the former will be more successful than coming from lesser mortals :-).

  • Finally, as to your wish list: intelligent relay mngmt... double-checking and relying on team-mates to alert one if anything is untoward will probably beat any further refinement (along the lines of inter-locking or some such) insofar as human manipulation will always play a part... and reliable 4-hour batteries (rechargeable over the lunch-break) for Bluetooth headphones cannot be that far off, I'd say :-), I remember when techs sniggered at my questioning them about wireless microphones "that's not professional equipment...!" and look around now!...

(04 May '12, 10:04) msr

Slightly banal but I would be more than happy if they could agree on a standard channel designation.

I know it is just a small thing but I do not understand why they keep changing e.g. the English and German channel. I only know of one equipment provider where technicians are explicitly instructed to use Channel 1 (left hand side) for the host country language (e.g. German in Berlin) and Channel 2 (or Channel B, whatever it says on the right hand side) for the target language. As for the rest, we literally play it by ear.

I know this is not rocket science but I feel it is as if hotels kept changing hot and cold water tap colors (red and blue) just for the heck of it. Of course you can cope without a standard but what is the point when a common standard can make everyone's life easier? If there is still time I usually ask the tech to change the settings on the console.

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answered 05 May '12, 03:44

Tanja's gravatar image


;-) A/1/left for national and B/2 for foreign/retour/right is indeed what should be the intuitive norm for a bi-active situation - although I suspect that languages written right-to-left will probably prone the reverse lay-out :-)- but I'm happy as long as one can change/ask that whatever allocation was made be changed... and my supply of self-adhesive labels does not run out :-)!

(05 May '12, 06:33) msr

Another suggestion which may sound rather trivial but could indeed be quite helpful: If each headset used in one booth had ear cushions of a different colour than those used on our boothmate's headset, we would not confuse our headsets so easily.

There are also consoles that take up an enormous amount of space in the booth AND where the headset-connectors are so large they add an extra 12 cm on either side. They get in the way of memory sticks to be used on the laptops etc.

Another problem with these very same consoles is that when sitting normally on your chair you can hardly see more than half the bottom line of the display that gives you the language channel information because the display is inserted about 5 - 8 mm deep into the console. To switch channels you must lean forward to see what you are doing.

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answered 05 May '12, 20:34

AlmuteL's gravatar image



Thank you very much, Almute. I'll share a trick of mine for those pesky consoles you must lean into to read the display: if they're free-standing, I'll lift their back up and slip my small hard binoculars case underneath... and if they're too big something else under the other end! I've never actually had any problems identifying "my" headset" because once I sit down before one console I'll stick to it for the rest of the conference (and when I put them down I do so on the console, around the microphone - having turned them OFF) but why not include some brightly coloured bit of wool in your booth kit (or 3, in different colours, and share them with one's boothmates) and tie them round the headsets? :-)

(06 May '12, 00:12) msr

Slightly off-topic but after having gotten up on a soapbox about channel designation in my previous post I thought I might also mention some of my favorite features already in existence:

  • The current Bosh consoles have a display which gives you the time your mike has been on in the top right corner (took me years to notice, yet it is a small but nifty feature. I think the technicians have to program it, though).
  • Also, if there are several booths and two of them are on the same channel amber LEDs start flashing on Bosch consoles in all other booths, too.

What I don't like about them: When you are "on air" the LEDs on your mike turn read (which, to me, is slightly counterintuitive but apparently it was "inspired" by radio and TV studios). There - I did it again, can't stop nagging;) As for the rest, Bosch seem pretty good, though.

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answered 11 May '12, 15:36

Tanja's gravatar image

643151821 never rant, Tanja...we're all entitled to vent! :-)

Both features you mention are indeed very useful, thank you very much for highlighting them.

As to red for ON, ie work, as opposed to stop, as the case is in traffic, what helped me to come to terms with it was construing red to still mean STOP... but applying to extraneous talk :-), ie as the case is for traffic, where everything stops while red light is on, so should non-work noise ;-).

(I hope not to be told to take this to a traffic or electronics organisation ;-)...)

(12 May '12, 08:21) msr
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question asked: 03 May '12, 09:25

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