buying a headset

I am looking to buy a headset so I can start podcasting with Audacity. I have Vista Basics and a PC. Does anyone have any recommendations about what would be good to start with? Thanks.

The recording quality of headset microphones tends to not be very good unless you spend a lot of money.
A headset may be good enough to get you started, in which case it is not particularly important what sort you use. Personally I would go for a conventional type (plugs into the microphone and headphone sockets of your sound card) rather than a USB version, but note that microphone inputs on many sound cards are also fairly poor.

You will need to check that your sound card is not applying “noise cancelling”, “AGC” (automatic gain control), “noise removal” or similar effects as these will mess up your recording. There is sometimes an icon near the clock that gives access to these settings (if they exist).

A popular choice for podcasting is to use a USB studio condenser microphone (such as the Samson CO1U) and a pair of decent quality headphones. This will be more expensive than a cheap headset, but the recording quality will be much beter. One small limitation of this set up is that you can not hear your voice through the headphones while you record, but that should not really matter.

Still here. Good. I first saw this post from home and I didn’t have the numbers.

I did the engineering acceptance for our Labtec 342 headsets. At least I think they’re 342s. The headsets do not have model numbers on them. I went through a bunch of different headsets and these were the ones with the best voice quality and the highest speaking volume. Given that you’re wearing them the right way, these units are far better than the others.

We have the one-muff and the two-muff varieties. The one-muff I believe mixes the stereo show down to mono for one ear. You use these when you need to stay in the room with other people. The two-muff ones are stereo. They’re not dreadful, either. We were happy to find OK headsets that don’t cost a billion dollars.

They have the best and loudest voice quality for a telephone call or an engineering lecture, not a theatrical music presentation.

Yes, the theatrical ones do tend to be more interesting for price–and support equipment requirements. The Labtecs do not need a sound mixer or a balanced line adapter.

Koz

Nice one Koz - for the price I’m tempted to get a set for the heck of it. The specifications are excellent for such a low price - I’ll definitely think about getting some of those after Christmas.

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Yes, well, I think I would take some of that with a significant dollop of salt, but the microphone produces (unless they changed it) significant level and a clear voice which is what we were looking for. I’m sure they sacrificed some room noise cancellation to get the increased level, but we didn’t care. Still don’t. One downside to aggressive noise cancellation, besides the frequency response problem, is that it makes microphone placement critical. This one doesn’t seem to care as much.

Our chronic problem is sound cards that got around the quality problem by being really quiet. No, dear, we really do need that 20dB microphone boost switch that the early sound cards had, and I don’t want the noise to go to the moon when I switch it in, either.

The latest application for these headsets is plugged into our videoconferencing machines. If you’re lecturing to many people in multiple locations, it’s good that your voice is clear and punchy and you don’t have to use the voice processing microphone console in your room. Each videoconferencing location has to listen to the combine air conditioning noise from all the other locations…

Koz

I’m sure you are right, which is why a recommendation from someone that has used one is so valuable.

Can that be switched off?

Generally, for thirty-five cents a headset, you don’t switch anything off. It’s built into the mechanics of the microphone boom. Actually, I think we paid $19 US for ours. Slightly less for the single muff design.

Another thing we liked about these is that the boom is flexible. Really. It bends like a goosneck lamp allowing you to put the little foam thing at the end right at the corner of your mouth where it should be. Most of the other headsets use a stiff boom and no matter what you do, it’s never in the right place.

I’ll see if I can make a recording and post it.

Videoconferencing is just this side of black magic. You can turn off the echo cancellation on any one of the microphones connected to the system, but that introduces-uces other-ther problems-blems. If you’re going to lecture, it’s far, far better to wear a headset.

Koz

Some electret capsules have “noise cancellation” built in, so I guess the headsets use one of those rather than additional electronics or software. Those capsules are often used in mobile phones, I’ve experimented with them in the past and they work surprisingly well.

I use a 30 cent headset for grabbing quick voice samples. As you say, rigid boom and the mic is always in the wrong place. (the noise level is terrible as well, but what do you expect for 30 cents - actually I think I got it free with something else :wink: ) I should be able to afford $19 after Christmas.

Yes please.

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http://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/labtec-test2.wav

This is an odd combination of connections. I wanted to record a control so that’s the Altec at the top. The LabTec needs computer battery to work, so I had to supply that with an external device. Still, both mics go through the same sound mixer and were recorded on my PowerBook G4 in Mac Audacity 1.2.6. They’re at 48000/16 and completely uncompressed, so the download is a little stiff.

That’s what they sound like in Studio One (thick feather duvet on my queen size bed.)

I’ve never done this through a top quality sound pathway, so we’re all hearing this for the first time. It’s no wonder people wearing this headset are much easier to understand in an internet conference session. Pretty bright, isn’t it?

http://www.kozco.com/lifesize/LifeSize_Sound.mp3

The “Little Pink Microphone” in this clip is one of the Labtec headsets. The control before and after is the normal conference sound module. They’re normally not that bad. You can do really well if you put them in the right place on the table during a conversation.

Koz

With a bit of Eq applied the LabTek doesn’t sound bad at all - taking off some of the top end reduces the noise a lot as well.
As a “rough and ready” test I used these settings for the Equalizer:

<curve name="labtec-mic">
		<point f="40.0" d="-24.0"/>
		<point f="60.0" d="-3"/>
		<point f="90.0" d="1.0"/>
		<point f="600.0" d="3.7"/>
		<point f="3000.0" d="-2.0"/>
		<point f="4000.0" d="-10.0"/>
		<point f="12000.0" d="-12.0"/>
		<point f="24000.0" d="-48.0"/>
	</curve>

I wonder if I shouldn’t try it again with a second pair.

I brought two home. A one muff and a two.

Koz