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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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There’s A New Headset Connector In Town

Sony TRRRS Connector MDR-NC31EMSome time ago I published a backgrounder on 3.5mm headset connectors. It detailed a bit of history of the 1/8″ (3.5mm) mini-plug, from the Sony Walkman of old to present day. That evolution could also be described as from “Tip-Ring-Sleeve”  (TRS) to Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve”  (TRRS.)  That post has proven surprisingly popular.

It’s been said that the universe is continually expanding. That includes the universe of mini-plug variants. Today I got my first look at the next step in the evolution of the lowly mini-plug; TRRRS!

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Polycom VVX Series & USB Headsets

I love when things “just work.” This happens so rarely as to be noteworthy. What follows is a nice example with respect to my Polycom VVX-600 and a USB-attached headset.

This afternoon a plaintive beep in my ear told me that the battery on my Sennheiser DW Pro2 cordless DECT headset was nearly depleted. This when I still had a lot of my working day left. Looking across the room I saw a wired headset that I have been evaluating for some ZipDX applications. It was a Passport 21P Headset, fitted with a Plantronics DA40 USB Digital Adapter.

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Mini-Review: Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 Bluetooth Headset

plantronics-bbtgo2After my adventure with the Nexus 4 and an LG Bluetooth headset last fall I had pretty much given up on wireless headsets for listing to music while out and about. I resorted to using my trusty Etymotic Research HF5’s with a Bluetooth audio transmitter. That combination overcame the fact of the failed headset jack on my Nexus 4. However, I had unwittingly left a BT headset on my Amazon wish list, which resulted in a Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 BT Wireless Headset under the Christmas tree.

In truth, trying yet another wireless headset has me once again wishing that I had a dummy head. No, no…not the head of a dummy…let’s not get snarky, ok? I mean a dummy head with reference microphones, like the Neumann KU 100, for properly measuring headset frequency response. Such tools are beyond the scope of even an advanced hobbyist.

Over the past few weeks I’ve made use of the Backbeat Go 2 while walking the dogs and working around the yard. I’ve listened to various podcasts (Marketplace & Escape Pod are favorites) as well as music via Amazon Prime. In general, I find the Plantronics Backbeat Go 2  completely satisfactory for listening to music.  To my ears they’re much better than the LG HBS series.

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Some Guidance On Headsets

Passport_21_OTH_3_QTR_RightA couple of weeks ago, over at the Broadband Reports forum on VoIP Tech, there was a question posed about selecting the best low cost microphone for VoIP applications. This is a topic that I’ve considered at length. It has much in common with my background in recording and broadcasting. On that basis I weighed in with some opinion. As I my way, I probably provided a longer answer than anyone anticipated, or even wanted. After re-reading it a few times I thought it worth sharing here as well.

The original question:

I realize many problems people experience are due to a lousy mic that isn’t noise canceling or picks up sounds from a anywhere in the room. There are many ways to improve this. I like the idea of a pickup pattern that is very isolated in front of the mic and within a finite range so I don’t have to wear the mic but maybe this is asking too much. If the mic only picks up sounds very close to it, wearing it can sure avoid a lot of problems. Don’t know if firewire or USB3 is better than USB2 or if its better to run the mic directly into your mic input of your motherboard or audio card or something else. Latency is not our friend! VOIP is so sensitive to extraneous noise so this needs to be addressed and is dependent on the ambient noise of the user. Any recommendations? Few of us work in a soundproof office.

As a long-time and vocal proponent of headsets for office use this is right in my wheelhouse. For example…. https://www.mgraves.org/2011/07/can-you-hear-me-now-headset-vs-speakerphone-in-the-home-office/

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