I have written posts on this blog in the past with information about audio (and even video) for Zoom meetings, choosing microphones for various applications, and ideal acoustics for recording or broadcasting. Still, I continue to hear sound that is poor in some Zoom meetings, and in remote media interviews via cell phones or computer networks. Most recently I heard the governor of a state (not mine) give a press conference where his voice sounded so bad it was painful to listen to.
To guide people who don’t want to go back and read all of those more comprehensive posts I have listed below 5 short pointers to help you out for good sounding voice interviews and discussions:
1.When possible try to choose a quiet environment for talking. That means as free as possible from extraneous noise (air conditioning units, outside traffic, pets. etc.).
2. The ideal environment should also be “dead” acoustically. That means few audio reflections (what some people simply call “echo” but which is more properly called “reverberation”). Oddly enough, perhaps, a cluttered room with lots in furniture and objects to break up sound is better than a bare room with lots of flat walls.
3. For simple discussions and interviews (as opposed to serious professional narration of audiobooks, commercials, or news reports) the small microphone built into your cell phone or laptop computer can be very good, provided you are speaking fairly close to it. I have listened to even celebrity interviews where the interviewee is seated well back from a laptop computer with a microphone built into the lid or via a headphone that is sitting on a table well away from the person talking. That almost never makes for great sound, especially if the room has reverberation or outside noise. But speaking close to your cell phone or computer mic can often produce a very listenable sound.
4. An ideal solution for problem #3 is to use a good headphone with a built in microphone. These are made in various configurations for your cell phone, computer, mixer, etc. Some are wired and other use Bluetooth for wireless operation. I happen to use a fairly expensive headset with my cell phone — a Bang & Olufson Form 2 wired headset that cost me over $200 but I think is available much cheaper now. For general discussions and brief interviews, a $50 headset can often be sufficient. I would avoid the “no name” $20 headsets one sometimes sees on the internet.
5. Finally, watch levels (loudness). If your signal is too soft people will have to raise their volume to hear you and that will also raise the volume of background and electronic noise in the audio signal. If the level is too loud it will sound distorted. If at all possible, try to monitor your loudness levels with a visual meter built into your software or cell phone. Some cell phones and audio software have an “automatic” level setting where the software or phone tries to monitor your level within a reasonable range and set it correctly.
For more detailed information read the following posts on this blog:
Podcast 1: Stories in Sound
Podcast 2: Serious Production
The Unusual History of the Audiobook
Give Me Space
Ways to Mic Mike