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  • David Olson

Three Verticals of Audio-Visual Systems

By: David Olson, MCH Consultant


For any given field, someone will always assume your personal gear somehow relates to your professional career. If you’re a mechanic, they will imagine you to have the most tricked out car available. If you’re a doctor, they expect your family to be the healthiest. If you’re a union member, you must know where Hoffa is buried. Okay, maybe not the last one.

For those in the Audio-Visual industry, someone will undoubtedly ask if you have the most amazing, earth-shaking surround sound system and ginormous, viewable-from-space television.

Many presume that we frequently work in the realm of residential AV, but the reality is that Residential AV Systems only comprise one of three primary AV industry verticals. Furthermore, a vast majority of a Residential AV system is more about home automation and control of lights, shades, and temperature rather than the size of a display or quality of the speakers. Also, because you're wondering...many of us have fairly modest home setups, and usually not nearly as earth-shaking as the system appears to be in the Maxell tape ad, above.

The second AV industry vertical is Commercial AV Systems. Commercial Systems consist of subsections including education (classrooms), libraries, corporate office spaces, boardrooms, conference rooms, civic centers, courthouses, and training spaces. Commercial AV Systems are usually built around non-technical user operations. A teacher, administrative assistant, or clerk needs to be able to hit a button that activates the system in a simple, straight-forward manner. There are certainly exceptions, but those are the basics of the operation of these systems; touch of a button and go!

The last AV industry vertical is Professional AV Systems. Professional AV systems typically require technicians to operate every aspect of the system. These systems might turn on with the touch of a button and recall presets similar to a Commercial AV System, but someone has to be present to turn up the volume for the mic to be heard. Professional AV Systems are commonly found in amphitheaters, performing arts centers, houses of worship, large lecture halls, sporting venues, and theaters.

There’s nothing inherently better or worse about any of these verticals, and often they overlap. For example, a Performing Arts Center will have a conference room and distributed AV system so Professional AV Systems will cross with Commercial AV Systems. A large modern home might have a formal office space with a video conferencing system normally found in a commercial office space so Commercial AV and Residential AV crossing in a single project. All three types of AV Systems are important for their intended usage as well as for the specific needs of the end user.

Diligent selection and application of these systems is crucial to successful results. Manufacturers generally make a broad range of specific products that work in all the verticals, but often a given product will not work across the board for all uses. For example, dual 12” line array speakers would not be suitable for the rear surrounds of a home theater room both aesthetically and cost-effectively.

Consult an AV professional experienced in design when employing a system for your project. A professional AV designer will know the ins and outs of residential, commercial, and professional AV systems, ensuring a cost-effective and efficient design specific to the end users' goals.

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