Using Audio with Digital Signage – Good Idea?

While digital signage is mainly concentrated on visual imagery, using modern LCD and plasma screens to provide advertising, branding and promotional content, one feature of the television hardly used is the speakers.

Audio is rarely used for digital signage applications but why is this? Surely, as TVs at home provide sound, why can’t out of home TVs?

There are many difficulties and disadvantages of using audio in digital signage, and for many applications, audio offers very little advantage, but there some occasions when audio use is effective.

While most LCD screens have in-built speakers that provide the sound when we watch TV at home, these speakers are inadequate for large open areas full of people, the typical locations for digital signage.

TV speakers are very directional and only effective at close range, in open areas the sound bleeds off very quickly while having the volume too loud can create distortion. Using spotlight speakers provide a better quality of sound, albeit just as focussed, but the difficulty then arises of having to mount and install them separate to the display.

Even in smaller retail units, sound is not always advantageous, especially if the same audio content is being relayed over and over again. It can soon become monotonous and grating for consumers faced with the same jingles and audio calls for action, not to mention driving poor shop employees to distraction by the repetition.

For outdoor digital signage, the difficulties in providing sound are multiplied manifold. Outdoor areas are even wider and expansive, so sound bleed means that other than those standing right next to the device, the sound will be inaudible. Also, the housing of an outdoor LCD enclosure will further muffle any TV speakers inside.

Providing speakers outdoors is also more difficult as they will need protecting from the weather and vandalism.

For some indoor applications, sound can boost an effectiveness of a screen if used cleverly. Occasional sounds, spaced several minutes apart, used to attract attention can work if relevant to the product that is being promoted. But overdoing it can lead to repetition and annoyance.

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