Now thinking about AV hardware might not be top of your list when considering the most exciting area of Hospitality, but get this right and the results will be appreciated by your guests and staff alike!
In this short article we’re going to take a look at some key elements of AV hardware, and consider how to choose, and then care for them, to make sure that your venue always sounds at its best.
Look after your cables
The key here is to always buy high quality cables and look after them. Make sure that you regularly replace all of your cables as they are the most likely point of any AV failure.
All of your mains power cables need annual PAT testing to ensure that they remain safe to use. However, even between tests if they become damaged or start to show signs of failing they will need to be replaced immediately.
A key thing to remember is: where possible use a cable. It’s always better and more reliable than going wireless.
The different types of jacks
The illustration below looks at the different types of jacks you might come across when dealing with everyday technology.
The headphone jack on many devices (mobile, tablet & laptop) used to be a simple 3.5mm jack with three poles; left, right and common (TRS). However many of these simple jacks have now been scrapped, with some new phones having no dedicated headphone socket at all.
In addition, most devices and adapters now have 3.5mm jack plugs with four poles; left, right, common and microphone (TRRS). However a standard 3 pole jack does not always work on a 4 pole socket! We have also included a TS jack in the illustration, as not all adapters will allow for all combinations.
It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need to know is that in order to be able to cater for all of your guests’ devices, your meeting and conference facilities will need adapters!
An illustration to show the different types of jacks:
You can easily buy adapters to service 3 pole to 4 pole jacks. CGA recommends that you buy cables with low profile plugs as these will normally fit through most phone cases.
If you need to connect a device to a line level input on RCA or Phono, with a TRS or TRRS socket, you can also buy cables that go from a 3.5mm jack to a pair of phono RCA connectors. A note of caution. Most audio input plates are set up for a line-level input. If you are using a headphone output for a device, this will be too loud on full capacity and it should be reduced to 75%.
Reducing laptop noise
Many laptops also have a 3 pole, 4 pole jack issue, which is often compounded by a noisy power supply. This is most commonly spotted, (and can be eliminated), by disconnecting the power supply and using batteries, but this is not always practical. To reduce these problems you can buy an AV link ground loop isolator which you can simply plug in between devices to reduce down the noise and hum whilst preserving the sound quality.
Please also remember, if you are using the headphone socket on a device, it will be affected by the actual device’s volume controls as well as the system volume controls.
Microphone cables; less is more!
Always keep microphone cables as short as is practically possible without creating a trip hazard. Coil them up gently after use, but remember don’t force a coil or tie in knots as this will damage them and as with mains power cables replace them regularly.
HDMI is one of the least durable technologies available on the market, yet HDMI connectors have become the standard go to product.
HDMI relies upon 21 conductors making a good digital contact. The plug has no locking mechanism, the cable is fragile and the usable length drops as the image resolution rises. Not the best, most reliable solution!
CGA has helped its customers to eliminate most HDMI related issues by recommending they always:
- supply a new lead to a new client; either cost this into each event or booking or charge this as part of the use of the AV system.
- buy version 2.1 or higher grade HDMI cables, (go for the chunky cables!)
- buy cables shorter than 5m, as HDMI over distances longer than 5m at higher 4k resolutions, requires a really good and therefore expensive cable to work effectively and reliably.
- throw away damaged, questionable or used cables. Trying to fault find by swapping an unknown cable for an unknown cable is a waste of time
Please note that HDMI can take a long time to ‘handshake,’ (the time taken before an image appears). Domestically this can be 1-3 seconds, but with some hotel systems we have installed, (with processing ready for very high 8k resolutions and with long custom cable runs), it can be up to 12 seconds.
For best results:
- always use a known source and a new cable
- wait as long as possible to enable the handshake to complete
- don’t move or change anything during the handshake.
Laptops and other devices
Windows, Mac and other operating systems can often be as much trouble as the cables. Some need to have the HDMI enabled or configured and some need extra drivers, whereas others have poor sockets where users have pushed and pulled connectors in and out thereby damaging the sockets.
When big updates happen (new IOS, windows security, android) there is always a lag in hardware updates, especially with devices such as BYOD or BYOM and other wireless presentation packages.
The Laptop or device should handshake and agree on a resolution between the device and display, but if this does not happen, start at HD resolution 1920 x 1080 and move it up in steps. Remember, as we said above, there may be a potential delay of up to 12 seconds.
For best results, laptops prefer to have all the cables, (HDMI & sound), connected before you power them up so that any connected display or audio peripheral is discovered on startup.
If you are buying video adapters to convert one output connector or format to another, always buy the expensive, better-known brands, or for Apple and IOS, genuine Apple parts. Cheap copies are just that and won’t give you good, reliable performance and remember, replace all your adapters regularly.
If at first you don’t succeed try this:
- Connect all connectors
- Select the appropriate socket or input on the system.
- Then, whilst still connected, turn off your laptop or device, wait a minute or two and then restart with all peripherals and cables still connected.
It is often worth having a “venue or hotel” laptop that you know works on a system. Then, if you get a client device that has obscure settings or is locked down such that you cannot open the required settings, you can always give them this device to present from.
Always test the equipment the day before or prior to the event. If the delegate is staying on site the night before, invite them to test their laptop and presentation the day before. This will help them to relax and prepare for the presentation knowing that the tech works and leaves you free to deliver all the other wonders around the event and focus on your hospitality. It will also give you time to troubleshoot if necessary.
If a fault persists, contact CGA!
Don’t power down or restart the main installed system. Whilst this may cure the problem short term, it does not allow us to look at the cause of the problem and help us to prevent the issue from happening again in the future.
Look after your AV hardware and your venue will continue to sound great!