How To Choose A Mic And Headset For Conference Calling
There’s a lot of mic and headset combinations on the market, with a wide variety of price tags, but which is going to do the job without breaking the bank?
To begin with, when choosing a headset be sure to get one with a mute button (with a flashing light or sliding switch to save confusion as to whether you’re live or mute). It’s very handy, and no one wants to listen to someone else breathing or typing and you don’t want to caught out by talking to a colleague or swearing at your cat in the middle of that important client call.
Essentially there are 3 types of headset mics. USB, Analogue, and Wireless. Separate headphones and a desk mounted mic are another alternative but are old fashioned, add more cabling to your computer, tend to be less controllable, pick up every bump and knock of your desk and it’s much better to have your mic in front of your mouth at all times to cut down on ambient interference.
Analogue headsets have 2 x 3.5mm plugs on the end, one plugging into your microphone socket and the other into the headphone socket on your computer’s sound card. Most are ‘noise canceling’ (reduces unwanted ambient sound) with a unidirectional microphone (picks up sound from directly in front of it, i.e. not the surrounding office). Handily they also connect easily to other devices, like recorders or MP3 players, so offer other options for usage.
Obviously these plug directly into your computer’s USB port. The headset cable will invariably have a ‘box’ somewhere along its length, most likely containing your mute switch, which is in the analog to digital (and digital to analog) converter. This means you don’t need a sound card as it takes the digital signal from the USB port and converts it into an analog signal (audio) and the other way around turning the spoken word into a digital signal via the microphone. If you want to use your headset on other devices you can’t, only on computers with a USB port. Most USB headsets, especially on PC, are plug-and-play nowadays.
Bluetooth and Wireless Headsets
This is a far more expensive option, but grants the user more freedom to walk about and move freely. Usually these require a USB powered dock, which also charges the device, and/or a USB dongle to transmit and translate the Bluetooth signal. They are ideal for laptops as smaller (packable) units are available and work with most laptops native Bluetooth abilities. Wireless headsets come in a variety of styles including behind the head, in the ear, over the head, mono and binaural (uses two mics to record 3D sound).
In general with headsets it’s best to go for a model with a wider frequency response, noise cancellation, a mute button (with indicator), and unidirectional mic. Check what sockets you have available on your computer. Don’t buy things with features you won’t use, but spend a bit more money if you need to (like if you’ll be using it on a laptop while mobile).
Follow these simple guidelines, and those important conference calls will be painless.