As we approach the end of what’s turning out to be one of the weirdest summers on record, that nagging back-to-school feeling seems to “hit different” in 2020, as the kids would say. For many of our kids, it means virtual classes are back, and they may be here to stay for quite some time. Some of us are returning to work in the office, but for others, it seems like work from home is going to be the new normal.
If you have been working from home and attending meetings virtually, you’re probably familiar with the ear fatigue that can develop over the course of a call due to the fact that your coworkers sound terrible. Now, I’m not talking about the content of what they're saying, of course not, I’m talking about the sound quality. However, when the audio quality is that bad on the other end, it can be so irritating to listen to that I barely can pay attention to what the person is saying in the first place. If that’s you on the other end, you might have a problem. A speech intelligibility problem.
If you’re in sales, or you're in a job that involves a lot of presentations, maybe your employer sent you a great headset mic to use for virtual meetings. But, if you don’t have access to a high-quality microphone, and you work in a field where being clearly understood is crucial, then you may be at a disadvantage. Because now, maybe more than ever, the sound quality received on the other side of the screen matters. Whether you’re talking to clients, potential customers, or coworkers, how you sound is now a job-performance metric, whether people talk about it or not.
Also, if your child is middle school age or older, they are likely to be making a virtual presentation or two of their own over the course of the school year. For college kids, this may be an even more frequent occurrence, and speech intelligibility may be even more critical.
So, what does one look for in a Voice Over IP (VoIP) solution? Well, that depends on your virtual meeting habits. Are you mostly by yourself in a quiet home office while on your calls, or are your kids wreaking havoc while you’re making your sales pitch? If you or your child is a student, are you doing less talking and more listening to lectures for hours on end? Are you doing more advanced presentations, or even podcasts? Here are some suggestions for a few common scenarios.
The Zoom Presenter
Whether you’re in sales and marketing, own your own business, or are a graduate student in a class that requires you to make presentations, you can’t go wrong with the Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC Bluetooth Headset System. The Voyager 5200 connects to your PC, smartphone, tablet, or Bluetooth-enabled desk phone and allows you to talk for up to seven hours. Offering great audio on both sides of the call, this headset sports four adaptive microphones and proprietary signal processing that work together to reduce disruptive background noise, as well as a windscreen to ensure your voice comes through clearly, even if you’re outside. You can manage calls directly from the headset using the remote call controls, and the headset comes with a micro-USB charging cable and ear tips in several different sizes.
If you’re often on calls where you’re fighting background noise to hear well, look no further than the Apple AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro uses built-in microphones to detect and cancel out background noise, keeping you well isolated from the world around you, and also features an expanded mesh microphone port to improve call clarity in windy locations. If you’re an iPhone or Mac user, the AirPods Pro is a no-brainer due to its seamless user experience when used with other Apple products. It also works great with other Bluetooth-enabled devices like Android phones or Windows-based computers, but some advanced features, such as stopping play automatically when the earbuds are removed, will only work when paired with other Apple devices.
The Virtual Student
If you or your child is going to be taking classes all day at the computer, mostly listening, but may also need to speak to the class occasionally, the Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Headset is an affordable, yet capable option. It features an over-ear, sound-isolating earpiece design with a noise-canceling, adjustable boom mic, perfect for focused listening periods and delivering high-quality audio to the person on the other end. Connecting to your computer via USB, the cable is equipped with in-line mute and volume controls, plus the soft earpads and wide headband design ensure comfort throughout the school day.
If you’ve been asked to be a guest on a podcast, or if you just want to make sure that you sound as good as possible on the other end, the RØDE NT-USB Mini USB Desktop Microphone may be the choice for you. Featuring a high-quality condenser microphone capsule, the NT-USB Mini delivers warmth and presence for smooth, professional sound. Although it’s a sensitive mic, it features a cardioid pickup pattern, which rejects off-axis ambient noise for a tighter vocal sound.
It also comes fitted with a detachable magnetic desk stand with a sturdy base that absorbs knocks and bumps from your desk, helping to cut down on audible low-end rumble and thumps in your audio. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack for plugging your headphones in for monitoring, and a volume control to make sure you don’t miss a word.
Thanks for reading this rundown of easy options to make your virtual presentation sound better. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the Comments section, below.