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Audio Review: TOA TS-770 Series Conference System

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Self-explanatory system makes conferencing easy.

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TOA Electronics has introduced its TS-770 Series Conference System with the notion of affordably facilitating multiple-mode remote conferencing. In addition to chairperson and delegate mic/speaker units, the system can also accommodate a standard telephone line, a mobile phone, and VoIP or other IP communications using a computer. The system is intended for use in non-permanent applications where a rapid and simple setup process is desirable. And although the system is portable to that extent and easy to set up, it can be expanded to a significant degree with as many as 70 remote units (including multiple chairperson units) on a single TS-770 central unit, via daisy-chaining. Moreover, multiple central units can be employed, facilitating system expansion up to 140 or 210 units — likely exceeding the requirements of most contractors or integrators. Another focus of TOA engineers was to maximize the quality of sound and to bring in the usual accoutrements of such a system, such as chairperson control over the proceedings and archival recording capacity. I test-drove a system consisting of a TS-770 central unit, a TS-771 chairperson unit, a TS-772 delegate unit, a TS-773 microphone, a TS-774 long microphone, and a TS-775 remote delegate interface.

The TS-770 central unit is a rectangular black box with controls and I/O that are simple and straightforward. There are simply three knobs and three switches on the front panel. The three knobs control the line level (that of the various chairperson and delegate units that are connected), the level of a mic connected to the TS-770 front panel, and the level of an auxiliary input also featured on the TS-770 front panel. There is a multiposition switch that limits the number of delegate or chairperson microphones that can be heard simultaneously (zero, one, three, or six). A second switch establishes an automatic microphone timeout of 0, 20, or 40 seconds, which automatically shuts off microphones at the determined interval after the speaker stops speaking. A third switch facilitates the turning on of all connected units. This allows the contractor to establish that all units are successfully connected to the central unit at the time of setup and also to facilitate an open conference in which all mics are intended to stay on permanently. There are also two LED indicators on the front panel — one to indicate the aforementioned “all mic on” mode, and the other to indicate that the unit is receiving AC power.

The rear panel of the TS-770 is also simple and generally self-explanatory. It features a pushbutton power switch and IEC power input along with an expansion switch, which is used to determine whether that particular unit is the main unit or an expansion unit. The TS-770 ships with a plastic binder that must be deliberately removed in order to move the switch from “main” to “expansion.” This is a nice feature to prevent the unintentional jostling of that switch. There are three pairs of RCA jacks facilitating connection to as many as two expansion units — two audio inputs, two audio outputs, and two control connectors as well. The TS-770's two main inputs from delegate or chairperson units are also featured on the back panel, in an 8-pin DIN format. Recording outputs are found on the rear panel, in the form of a 1/4in. unbalanced jack and a pair of RCA jacks. I presume that the existence of the pair is a courtesy to facilitate recording on both channels of a stereo recording device, despite the fact that the system is monophonic and the signal would be identical on both channels. (Alternatively, two recording devices could be connected.) The final feature of the rear panel is a switchable equalizer I/O loop. A pair of RCA jacks facilitates the export and re-import of the unit's audio to an equalizer in order to eliminate feedback in a conference room. A switch determines whether the equalizer is inserted.

The TS-771 and TS-772 units (chairperson and delegate, respectively) are also very simple and easy to use. Each has an integrated connection cord; a 4-pin mic connector; a loudspeaker; a mic-in-use LED; a talk key; a volume-control knob; two mini-jack outputs for headphones or recording; a line-connection terminal for daisy-chaining; and a control-output terminal, which provides a control signal linked to the mic-in-use indicator. The chairperson unit also features a priority key — which, when depressed, sounds a chime and effectively locks out all other mics, placing priority on the chairperson.

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