Living With the Tech: The Sennheiser DW Pro2 DECT Headset Five Years On

It’s not often that I can say that I’ve been using a single device daily for over five years. The Sennheiser DW Pro2 DECT headset, which I reviewed in 2011, tops that very short list.

Sennheiser DW Pro 2 & Clients

This past week I’ve paid a little special attention to the headset. It’s long been connected to the Polycom phone on my desk. It’s been witness to my transition from a Polycom SoundPoint IP650, to a VVX-500, and onward to a VVX-600. It’s also connected to my desktop computer.

In general, the DW Pro 2 is still performing well. I have noted some curious things about it over time, including a couple new things just in recent weeks.

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….and then there were four. Conference Phones.

Phoenix Audio Spider MT505 360pxHaving recently made it known that a spate of conference phone’s were being considered hereabouts another company has asked for an opportunity in that gladiatorial exercise. So it is that a Phoenix Audio Spider (MT505) has entered the fray.

I guess that I’d better get down to business before someone else knocks on the door and the task grows even larger. This effort will not be comparative. Each device will be considered individually.

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 not identified. Since the device was not responding to the OS no driver could be assigned.

I filed a trouble report with Blue Microphones, who responded a day later with a list of questions. They wanted to know if I’d tried a different USB cable, or a difference computer? Of course, I’d done these things. I tried with my desktop, laptop and a Mac Mini…heck, I’d even powered up an old HP 2140 netbook so I could try the Yeti with Windows XP.

No Joy. Beyond being unrecognized by the hosts, the Yeti itself was unresponsive. The microphone mute button was on, and could not be turned off. After a few emails the Blue support team determined that the Yeti was in fact deceased. If I could show proof that it was within the two-year warranty period they’d replace it.

As I recall I received my Yeti as a Christmas gift in 2011. So, he was almost four years of at at the time of his passing. Sadly, beyond the warranty period.

The Yeti had a particular role in my operation. It was the full-bandwidth microphone that I used when recording narration for the tutorial videos that I occasionally create. While I didn’t use it all that often, I do need something to fill that role.

However, I’m not rushing to acquire another Yeti or Yeti Pro. My most recent examination of microphones for telecom, podcasting & production, has me considering something much smaller. Ideally, I’d like to try a headset that features a full-bandwidth microphone element. This has turned out to be a rare bird. Perhaps I’ll revisit stage microphones like the Countryman E6 or the inexpensive Pyle-Pro PMHM2.

Replacing the Yeti will have to wait until after the holidays. Perhaps CES will reveal some new alternative that will prove interesting.

As microphones goes the Yeti is a fearsome creature, but they are apparently short-lived.

P.S. – YouTuber extraordinaire Marques Brownlee recently began a new series on “YouTube Gear” by recommending the Yeti.

A Better Understanding of the Microsoft LifeCam Studio Webcam

Microsoft LifeCam Studio 300pxOver the last couple of years I’ve been exploring the realm of webcams. Along the way I’ve encountered some confusing things involving the Microsoft LifeCam Studio. To be more specific, some have claimed that it’s capable of delivering 1080p video, while Microsoft’s own information suggests otherwise. My recent experiments using vMix have shed some light into the actual capabilities of this inexpensive little webcam. I thought them worth sharing.

“You cannot change the laws of physics, Captain.” – Montgomery Scott

Remember that a USB 2.0 connected webcam is bandwidth limited to delivering a maximum of 480 mbps (60 Mbytes/sec) to the host computer. Because of this fact, and given that the video frames from the webcam are uncompressed, the USB 2.0 link can only deliver 720p30.

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Logitech’s New PTZ Pro Camera

astra-overview-main-imagePerhaps you recall last year when Logitech launched their CC3000e Conference Cam? We had them as a guest on VUC 490 to show off their new gadget. The entire audience was impressed with the device, most especially the camera portion. It seems that last month they launched the camera alone as a new product, calling it the PTZ Pro Camera.

With MSRP of $799 the PTZ Pro Camera delivers 1080P video over USB 2.0 using an onboard H.264 UVC encoder. It’s capable of SVC when used with a suitable capable client, like those from Cisco, Microsoft or Vidyo.

Apps not able to use the onboard encoder will be limited to accessing 720p30 over the USB 2.0 link. That includes Google’s Hangouts since they use VP8 instead of H.264.

Although the camera is exceptional in its price class, that class is rather limited. There quite a leap from the $100 USB webcams with a fixed lens to the entry level PTZ cameras from HuddleCamHD, Vaddio or VDO360. Things approach $1k very quickly, which makes their pricing strategy for the PTZ Pro Camera potentially quite sensible.

My own experience with the CC3000e shows that it can deliver excellent video, but it’s not without its quirks. The auto focus cannot be defeated, and occasionally hunts to find the focal plane. Also, the single preset camera position, basically a “Home” is limited. It would be nice to have a number of positional presets, as most other PTZ cameras provide.

Finally, I wish that there was more (ok, really…any!) support for remote control of the PTZ mount.

In a casual look around the web I see that many AV dealers are starting to list the PTZ Pro Camera. Prices listed vary widely, which suggests that it’s not yet shipping. Amazon has the PTZ Pro Camera listed at $978.  MacMall is the lowest at $681, but that could change once there’s real availability.

I really don’t mean to sound down on the PTZ Pro Camera. I actually like it a lot. I expect that Logitech will do quite well with this new offering.

VUC #472: Vaddio’s Huddlestation

Vaddio Logo & HuddlestationWhile it’s true that I live in Texas where football is elevated in status beyond almost everything else, in this case the “huddle” is not about football. Vaddio is a manufacturer of audio & video conference hardware based in Minnetonka, MN. Best known for their range of PTZ cameras, they have a diverse product offering that addresses media applications from broadcast to places of worship and corporate meeting spaces.

This coming Friday, January 17th, Vaddio will be joining the VUC to introduce us to their new Huddlestation. The Huddlestation is a new product that aims to address the needs of smaller meeting rooms for video conference capability, while also tapping into the BYOD trend. It’s essentially a USB-attached camera+sound bar+microphone module for use with a HDTV. You may recall that I have mentioned it once before.

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