Almo Spring E4v: How to UC & See Into the Future

Almo E4v Day One Feature

Last year, AV/IT distributor Almo Professional A/V pulled together a top-rate virtual experience for resellers and tech managers. E4v is a digital version of Almo’s in-person E4: a regional, industry-education-focused show that typically features Almo vendors and their offerings. This week’s event, the spring E4v (“v” for “virtual”), marked Almo’s third full E4v Evolution, the first of 2021.

We’ll be recapping each of the three spring E4v days on rAVe [PUBS]: the first about UCC and pro audio; the second about emerging technologies and corporate AV; and the third about distance learning and digital signage. To kick off the day, a friendly new event emcee, Mandy Beckner of THE rAVe Agency, introduced the day’s lineup.

Spring 2021 E4v Schedule (March 9):

  1. The Future of UCC – Rooms, BYOM, Collaboration Boards, Bars and Carts (Gary Kayye, THE rAVe Agency)
  2. C into the Future (USB-C) (Joseph Cornwall, Legrand | AV)
  3. So You Think You Know Everything About Audio Gain Staging? Improving system performance and customer satisfaction at no extra cost (Tom Kehr, Almo)
  4. NSCA Roundtable — UCC Hybrid (Tom LeBlanc, National Systems Contractors Association; Jen Sigmund, Barco; Tom Spearman, Diversified; Cory Allen, Almo)

Our roundup of the unified communications & collaboration (UCC) and pro audio part of the show — part one of three in an E4v recap series — is below. Hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

The Future of UCC – Rooms, BYOM, Collaboration Boards, Bars and Carts

After the day’s intro, at 11:07 a.m. EST sharp, THE rAVe Agency Director Gary Kayye kicked off the first feature session of the spring E4v. “The Future of UCC – Rooms, BYOM, Collaboration Boards, Bars and Carts” gave viewers and E4v attendees a chance to level-set. Where is UCC is now? How far has it come? Where are we today in a return to work and life as we used to know it?

E4v Gary Kayye

Referring to schools and workplaces, “A lot of categories are actually back in a big way,” Kayye led. For instance, as of March 2021, 68% of schools in North America are already back in person in some capacity. Amid a vaccine rollout, most schools will be going back, fully attended by students and teachers, soon — meaning we will need to add a lot of new technology this summer. A new stimulus package from U.S. president Joe Biden could mean a lot of money up for grabs by AV and IT.

So what will people do in corporate spaces? Kayye asked. How will we come back and reconfigure our offices? One distinction should lie between “meeting rooms” and “meeting spaces,” he added. In the workplace, people will want to come back and be able to collaborate everywhere, at any time. Rather than building more rooms, it’ll be about building more meeting spaces. Building new meeting spaces within open office areas is an interesting dilemma that AV — yes, AV specifically, which is good for us — can solve.

There will be a lot to think about over the next few months, like learning the ins and outs of spatial acoustics, learning how to put everything on the network via AV-over-IP, etc. Thankfully, these are all topics that Almo business development managers (BDMs) can help resellers solve.

C into the Future (USB-C)

How much do you really know about USB-C? What does a USB-C connector (different from USB 4, which is, instead, a protocol of standards) really impact?

Turns out, “It impacts everything,” said Joseph Cornwall, an “AV technology evangelist” for Legrand | AV. Our guide for this session, Cornwall was ready to share his knowledge from working in the commercial AV industry for more than three decades.

USB Type C Is the Whole Package

How did USB-C become such a powerful machine? It’s robust — more powerful than virtually any connector we have ever seen in AV. It’s how we charge just about everything. Virtually every smartphone, tablet, laptop, monitor, desktop, computer, docking station and mobile device sports a USB Type-C connector. Thus, we need to get comfortable talking about USB-C technology, Cornwall said. There are plenty of market opportunities: The USB Type-C component market is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.7% through 2027.

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It takes a quick understanding of the USB of the past — USB 1.1, 2.0 and 3.0 connections — to understand the USB of the future. For one, everything is now symmetrical, no matter which end of the cable you’re trying to plug in (they’re the same).

USB Type-C, both platform and OS-agnostic, is “the shape of things to come,” Cornwall said. And the technology is still changing and evolving! If you are involved in AV design, integration or sales, you really need to know about USB-C and tangential technology like electronically marked cable assembly (EMCA) and billboard devices.

We didn’t know there was someone out there who was so animated and passionate about USB-C in the context of AV. Cornwall proved us wrong Tuesday — and it was impressive.

So You Think You Know Everything About Audio Gain Staging?

I never miss an opportunity to hear Tom Kehr, another AV industry veteran and excellent educator, speak. If anything to see what tricks he has up his sleeve; his presentations are always entertaining and out of the (Zoom) box.

Tom Kehr presentation spring E4v

See what we mean?

Kehr’s session Tuesday centered on audio gain staging and how to improve system performance and customer satisfaction at no extra cost. Why do we want to do gain staging correctly? Because, for one, we want to avoid that annoying clipping sound — when a system or device can no longer provide an increase in output with a corresponding increase input, Kehr explained. Square waves can also build up heat, and built-up heat in a loudspeaker is obviously a bad thing.

Presented in this session were two easy methods for setting gain structure in your audio system, as well as avoiding distortion and getting maximum signal-to-noise. Kehr explained how to use the generators and analyzers available to you for setting and verifying levels. He covered the audio signal path and how to set your inputs properly for mic and line-level sources.

I won’t pretend to do Kehr’s deep-dive into gain structure justice in just a short wrap-up. But there’s no doubt we always appreciate his presentations. E4v attendee Michael Gunderson agrees:

“I always learn a lot from you Audio Master, #ObiTom!”

Get the full look at this session by registering to watch the spring E4v on demand.

E4v Day One: A Day Learning How to UC & “See” Into the Future

Before wrapping up the day, we were excited about a roundtable with the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) and panelists Jen Sigmund, Tom Spearman and Cory Allen. The timely topic: UCC and hybrid spaces.

NSCA panel day one

We also made sure to catch the Solution Centers of E4v, which included what the show called expert insights (offering one AVIXA CTS RU per four videos watched), classes and featured products. Tuesday’s two featured Solution Centers were UCC and pro audio, including sessions like:

  • Gain Staging and Eliminating Induced Noise (AVNation’s Tim Albright and Harman’s David Tewksbury)
  • The Collaboration Board Is FAR From Dead (rAVe’s Gary Kayye and Avocor’s Dana Corey)
  • After You Sell All That Tech, Why Not Sell Training, Too? (rAVe’s Gary Kayye, Almo’s Brian Rhatigan and OFFICEPRO’s Aaron Udler)

Almo Solution Centers

If you missed day one of the spring E4v, check out the recordings and catch day two on Wednesday, March 10. Sign up here: https://e4evolution.com/.