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Evaluating USB Headsets for Interpreters

This is admittedly a deep dive into a niche topic. It stems from work done for ZipDX, but is more technical than most audiences can stand. Nonetheless, those of you who frequent these waters may find it interesting.

plantronics-blackwire-c320-usb-headset.jpgWhy Do This?

One of the more fascinating aspects of my work at ZipDX involves the interpreters engaged in the use of our multilingual conference capability. These people, who are located all over the globe, are simply fascinating people. They have incredible skills with languages, and finely tuned sensitivity to the nuance of cross-cultural communication. It’s positively inspirational to hear them at work, and very gratifying to support them in their work.

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Crazybaby Mars Levitation Bluetooth Speaker

Crazybaby-Mars-SmallNormally I would not grace this sort of thing with my time or attention. However, I think that the Mars levitating Bluetooth wireless speaker from Crazybaby is a triumph of style-over-substance. That alone inspires at least a quick examination of the product. I’m curious to ascertain it’s raison d’etre.

Most of the active component of the device seem to be housed in the flying saucer-like part of the system called the “Craft.” It literally levitates on a magnetic field, 20mm above the base, when in operation.

When the device is off the Craft settles down on top of the base, which allows for “Wireless Smart Charging.” When turned on the Craft hovers above the base until the battery fades. It’s quoted as lasting 6 hours.

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The LifeSpan Of A Yeti

Last week my Blue Microphones Yeti became completely unresponsive. A USB-connected microphone, when I connected it to my desktop Windows reported that the device was unrecognized. Digging into the device manager on the OS, I found a device connected, but…

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A Microphone Deep Dive: Part 1 – Frequency Response

Last week, in response to Chris Koehncke’s blog post, I set about creating a couple of sample recordings to support my belief that a headset trumps a laptop’s built-in microphone. Along the way I came to a couple of realizations, or perhaps I should say remembrances, of things that I hadn’t thought about in a long while. There are numerous subtleties to the matter of microphones.

SONY DSC

Microphones, like most things, are built to address specific applications. There are microphones for recording studios. Microphones for stage performers. Microphones for board rooms. Microphones for mobile phones. Even a microphone for that cheesy tape recorder that you bought at Radio Shack back in the 1980’s when it was still a great gadget shop.

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Kranky & Krankier?

Statler and Waldorf

“Statler and Waldorf” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Chris Koehncke (aka Chris Kranky) recently posed a question in a blog post. He asked, “How good is your laptop microphone?” He then laid out an experimental series of recordings using different hardware. As an executive summary he offers, “Your current internal laptop mic is probably fine.” As you might imagine, I disagree…but there’s more to it than that.

In truth, it’s not that he’s wrong, but I think that he was asking the wrong question! The question he should have asked is, “How do I best convey my voice when using this laptop?”

The answer to that question is quite simple…use a high-quality headset, preferably one with a boom-mounted microphone. When participating in any kind of conference call, or video conference nothing can touch the quality of sound delivered by using a good headset. This has long been my belief, although I accept that it may not be a widespread.

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VU Meters For Windows

Some time ago I noted the availability of installable audio metering for Windows. Today I stumbled upon a similar free application called “VUMeter” that provides old school stereo VU meters.

VUMeter-basic-600px

The meters can be resized from 50%, 100% or 200% of normal size, where  normal size is 1500 x 300 pixels.

VUMeter-600px

They can be set to stay on top of all windows. They can also be set to display the signal from any available sound recording or playback device.

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