Analog or IP Network Audio? Tips to Choose the Right Option for Your Application

When incorporating the correct products for your application, it is key to consider how your audio and video systems can work together to deliver superior results.

Security systems today are capable of being customized to complement the necessity of every application environment. If your project has a large facility with high ceilings and vast common areas, for example, wide-angle security cameras and ceiling-mounted audio monitoring devices make the most sense.

If you need tight security around a few entry points, high-resolution surveillance cameras and separate two-way speaker/microphones are ideal.

As a professional security integrator, whether the aim is to increase security system capabilities, business revenue, or customer satisfaction, today, one thing is abundantly clear: Audio and video go together. When incorporating the correct products for your application, it is key to consider how your audio and video systems can work together to deliver superior results for years to come. Installing one without the other is no longer a preferred option.

The Evolution of Audio Technology

Audio monitoring technology has been viewed by the majority of integrators as a discretionary yet complimentary security sensor. Integrating analog audio devices as attachments bolstered security operations value, but the common standard only considered video.

Today, with the advent of IP network audio microphones — which offer professional designers, greater customization capabilities, as well as analytics software integration — audio monitoring devices are no longer a sideline technology.

Analytics such as sound activated decibel-level threshold alarming contribute to incident detection, loss prevention, crime deterrence and conflict resolution. IP microphones allow integrators more control over their system’s sensitivity, interface and operations. They deliver alarm verification, drastically reducing the problems associated with false alarms.

These systems also tie into contemporary structured cable and can operate independently or as part of a larger, more comprehensive solution. Whatever the need, these versatile devices can operate effectively.

Considerations for Your Deployment

Of course, IP network audio devices aren’t for everyone. If your physical security system utilizes primarily analog appliances, such as cameras, VCR or DVR, analog microphones are a better choice for the project. Standalone audio solutions, such as one-way as well as two-way talkdown features, still function well from analog audio solutions.

These are also “plug and play,” meaning they are easy to install and compatible with most hardware devices, like cameras and recorders.

In the end, the professional assesses the need of your particular security deployment, the physical security technology best suited and the long-term plans for your solution. Thus, when making the decision between analog and IP, consider these questions:

  • What kind of hardware do you already have deployed? (i.e., cameras, recorders, etc.)
  • Do you plan to incorporate your audio device as a standalone solution or as part of a larger system?
  • What is the most cost effective? Best value?
  • What technical performance do you expect your audio to meet? (e.g., judicial grade or simple sound capture)
  • Would your deployment additionally benefit from audio analytics? (e.g., instantaneous alarms, threat detection)

Best Practices for Installation

When it comes to planning your audio configuration, there are a few more considerations recommended to keep in mind. Beyond defining your audio needs, it’s important to determine whether your microphone selection will require line level or mic level capability based on the CODEC capability of your camera. (A mic level output is often in the range of ten thousandths of a volt, while line level output is about one volt).

Here are some tips:

  • Define your power and audio playback source: This involves selecting an audio base station. These can power your microphones, and also provide audio playback features and can interface with camera hardware as well.
  • Select the right form factor and features for your microphone, i.e. consider where the microphone will be placed, determine the ideal form factor that will perform best in your deployment. For example, location is very important as room acoustics can impair the quality of audio captured.
  • Know your local/state regulations for audio monitoring. Each state has a slightly different policy, regarding constituent consent. You can refer to this Audio and the Law map for more information or check with your local attorney for any specific concerns.

The benefits of customizable security systems are endless. Purpose-built security devices make it possible for integrators to meet every conceivable end user need, meaning everyone can sleep with both eyes closed. IP network audio technology can take it from here.

Richard Brent is CEO of Louroe Electronics.

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