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headphones with microphone - microphone hiss

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I had these headphones with a microphone. They worked great. The only problem was that I didn't want to wear them for more than an hour or two cuz they would make my ears hurt. And some podcasts would run longer than that.

I did have two other headphones that were more comfortable, but one had an ear that didn't work and the other had an ear piece falling off.

They were all five to ten years old.

I thought to myself it would be really nice to have one good set of headphones with a microphone. I shopped around a little and it seemed like they would be about $60 to $75 for "gaming headphones".

At the same time Kelda needed something similar and she came by and we recorded podcasts. I gave her my good headphones with the microphone so we can make lots of good podcasts in the future. And then buzzed out to get a long term solution.

First headset: I recorded the audio part of a video and there was a huge amount of background hiss. Lots of fiddling and it wouldn't go away and it was way too much hiss for the videos. I took them back.

Second headset: I figured the first ones were only $60, so I went with $100. Same problem with hiss.

Third: Different brand from a different store. same problem.

Fourth: Different brand, but this time it says "studio quality". Same problem.

Before returning #4, I drove to "guitar center" about a half hour away - only to learn they don't have anything like that in stock.

I then ordered two different ones over the internet, both being studio quality from different sources. One was "yamaha" and one was "koss". Both seemed like hi fi brands.

The headset I gave to Kelda was a USB headset. Headsets 1 through 4 were audio jack headsets. When I returned #4 I picked up a USB headset. This would be the fifth. No hiss, but they do have an electronic hum/buzz in the background - quieter than the hiss. With a bit of fiddling I can sorta mask most of it in the videos. I went ahead and finished the video with this.

The two headsets arrived in the mail. Both had hiss.

I tried the built in microphone on the laptop - it has more than a hiss - it sorta records all the sounds of the laptop fan and hard disk and everything.

I found an old external microphone - it has hiss.

I returned the two mail order headsets.

When i edited the video for today and added the bit at the end I was reminded of how I would like to get one good do-it-all-headset so I have less crap to pack around when I travel. What would be great is the old headphones with the only modification being that they were more comfortable and cupped my ear in case I tried to listen to stuff on an airplane.

I had no idea this would turn into such a huge deal.

My guess now is that my fancy pants laptop has a crappy sound card. And somehow, that old USB headset had good electronics in it.

I'm hoping that somebody out there knows much more about this sort of thing than i do and can direct me to one more purchase and i will be all done. I don't relish the idea of burning through a dozen more headphones or ending up with a bunch of different things to lug around with me when I travel.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
thinking about this:



http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005QUQP7G/rs12-20

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I just read a review of the above that said that the microphone has problems.
Matt Walker


Joined: Nov 27, 2011
Posts: 153
Location: North Olympic Peninsula
    
  20
Paul, the problem is your whole signal chain is suspect. Like you surmised, the laptop soundcard isn't going to give you the quality you want, and most usb devices are consumer grade at best. If I were you I would get a mid grade digital recorder. There's a million options out there, depending on what you want to spend. It will improve the quality overall of your productions though, and you could use it for the "talent" in your videos and have a separate audio track which you could mix in. Also pretty handy for listening/editing podcasts on the go. Here's a starting point....

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=480163&Q=&is=REG&A=details



http://www.permsteading.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So, I suspect that won't work well with recording skype calls.

How does it do when I try to record directly into my video editing software?

Matt Walker


Joined: Nov 27, 2011
Posts: 153
Location: North Olympic Peninsula
    
  20
That one can be a usb microphone as well, so it should interface well with your video software. As for Skype, I'm not sure. I think you could find a method that would work but it might not be the way you do it now.

The next model up in that line is a full fledged soundcard as well as portable recorder, and there are lots of other brands and features out there. Just a different approach to a solution for you to consider.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think the sound quality on the podcasts is fine now. Even with the existing headset. The great thing about the headset and podcasts via skype is that I don't have to think about the microphone. I turn my head every which way and it is all recorded equally.

The problem I am currently trying to solve is when adding narration to videos. And, simultaneously, I would like to just have less stuff.





paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
New headset showed up yesterday.

This one had an "external sound card".

After hours and hours of tinkering, here are some weird things I found out.

- if I use the external sound card, I get the hum but if I bypass the external sound card and plug directly into the laptop I get the hiss.

- after gobs of research on the internet, I go into town and get a "ground loop isolator": which makes the microphone not work at all. I also try the ferrite core stuff, which makes no difference. I also try a usb hub with external power which makes things worse.

- one suggestion was to unplug the laptop. made no difference.

And then I made a really odd discovery. If I hold the microphone about a tenth of an inch away from my laptop keyboard, the hum goes away and everything sounds fine.

This works if I do the same with my monitor.

But for both of these, it's really hard to talk into the mic while the mic is barely not touching something like that.

Eventually, I found a USB hub (no external power) that if it is active, I can hold it on the microphone and then microphone then works just fine.

My guess is that there must be a household current of 60hz that the microphone is picking up. But with the other devices, they are giving off a signal that is more random and will cancel out the 60hz harmonic if you get the microphone close enough.

An interesting note: one site talked about how recording studios should avoid fluorescent lights.



paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So I bought a ground loop isolator from radio shack. No sound goes through.

I bought another via amazon - it seems to be wired backward. So i connected gender benders to each end. No sound goes through.

This is getting really ridiculous.
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 396
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
Wow it sounds like you should be a test engineer

I would just find someone out on the web who does what you are doing and has good results, and ask them what they use.

I don't do any podcasting but I do a fair amount of field recording. Here is what I use (click on photos for more details):



Sometimes I do binaural recording with this mic plugged into the Sony:


I used to record from this mic/preamp into my camcorder:



However copying audio off the camcorder tape is a hassle which is why I got the Sony (which records to internal memory and/or MicroSD card). The built in mics on the Sony are very good, very low noise.

If it were me, for Skype calls I would put the Sony on a small tripod on the desk in front of me, with my speakers on. It would pick up both voices fine. Obviously you would want to do this in a fairly quiet room.

For use in the field, I would just do the same thing. If you use it outside in the wind I would get one of these windscreens:




You can also record all your audio to your camcorder - that way you only have one device to carry around. Your video editing software can extract the audio track from the video. Most camcorders have pretty good mics built in. Or you could plug the mic from one of your headsets into the camcorder, but that would only record your voice (not the person at the other end of the Skype call).
              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
paul, 15 years ago, the same issue existed when recording directly into a cassette recorder. I recorded a guitar with the same mic going into a computer and then played it back and recorded it to tape. CD quality and hiss was removed. only point being that a constant hiss, hum, buzz can automatically be removed by software.

know you hated the mac, but...

Try audacity? Audacity Features
- Effects
- Remove static, hiss, hum, or other constant background noises.

You can also speed things up, so you can make that 45 minute podcast 22

Audacity Download page
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I now have the zoom thing. And the quality is MUCH better. Wow! Great for the videos.

So far, I have been turning it on, start recording, stop recording, turning it off, pulling out the memory card, finding my memory-to-jump-drive-contraption, putting the card into the contraption, plugging in the contraption, opening the folder, finding the new file, copying it to my directory for the current video, telling the video editing software to find it and put it in the right spot, and gently massaging it to be just right.

With the old headset, I would just push the "microphone record" button and then the stop button and then do the final gentle massage step.

I know that matt recommends against this, but I would like to just connect a cable and record using my video editing software and see what the sound quality is like. Mostly because it might save me a lot of fooling around.

I went and bought a cable and connected it and .... the computer doesn't seem to notice that anything exists. My first guess is that I need to dedicate an hour or two to figuring out driver stuff. I'm hoping that others have more experience with this and can utter magic words to make it a two minute thing rather than a two hour thing (with the potential to turn into a 20 hour thing).
Matt Walker


Joined: Nov 27, 2011
Posts: 153
Location: North Olympic Peninsula
    
  20
Hi Paul, glad to hear it improved the quality. That's great. As for the direct recording to video software, I recommend against it as there are more pitfalls, and while it might be easier in one configuration it can be a nightmare in another. Hopefully it will go smoothly for you. Here's some help, assuming you are on PC:

When you plug in the Zoom, make sure you select "audio I/F" on the display. It will then want you to select the kHz. More on that at the end.

Then, Control Panel>Sounds and Audio Devices>Audio Tab>Sound Recording>H2n or whichever Zoom you have

That should show up in the video software's audio input, although there may be some configuration in the software as well.

You will need to check your sample rate in the software and set that in the Zoom when you select "Audio I/F." Pro audio gear often runs at 44.1kHz, while pro video is often 48kHz. Check your video software settings and make sure the Zoom and the video software are set to the same frequency. Good luck, hopefully it goes smoothly for you.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Matt,

That worked!

I tried it on a video today and it was smooth and excellent. Not sure what the pitfalls might be.

I have been super picky about the sound quality of my voiceover for videos - and this is the best sound ever. In fact, the sound quality is so good, I cannot imagine it being any better!
Nick Simcheck


Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 57
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
    
    3
Just saw this thread, so this is too late to help you with the previous headset issues but at the same time might improve future recordings.


Most likely the hiss you heard was automatic gain control (AGC) compensating for not having a powered microphone. Simply put it's like when somebody is whispering into your ear and you listen so damn intently that everything seems much more loud, or sitting in such a quiet place that you actually hear ringing in your ears. One time I climbed midway up Pike's Peak (to about 8200') and it was soo quiet that I heard the sound of nothing for the first time in my life, it's kinda bizarre. I can't explain it, but nothing actually has a sound! Sorry didn't mean to digress...

You can solve this a couple of different ways, one way is a line booster which have the megaphone effect of taking something quiet and amplifying it. An elegant way is a powered microphone (the lav mic I told you about is powered by a button cell battery) which is in itself giving a stronger signal.

But what I really wanted to mention is the concept of automatic gain, and headroom.

Think of this as an engine, and AGC will rev the engine from 1000rpm to 8000rpm automatically to compensate for the required load, the downside being 8000rpm is pretty dang noisy. You can manage this by using a powered mic (reducing the load required) or you could take matters into your own hands and set the gain manually. Mentality of '1500rpms and it ain't moving, dammit.' but here you have to be able to monitor the audio levels to make sure they stay within "operating range" so to say.

AGC can have issues with headroom, which is a threshold that once passed will loose all the data. This happens when everything is really quiet for a couple seconds and the "rpms" increase and then a loud noise occurs, the "rpms" will lower to compensate but it's too late, the first little snippet of loud sound is gone, usually sounding like a crack or pop.

Those are some common issues to deal with when recording audio.


Also WAV doesn't compress audio, whereas MP3 does... Most listeners won't have the equipment or the ears to notice the difference though. Even more-so with 24 bit, I seriously doubt ANYONE can tell the difference. 44.1K is used for music, while 48k is uses for video, using the proper frequency can prevent issues with your editor.


5 Acres in Southeast Michigan, zone 5b/6a, sandy loam soil, 930' above sea level, winds from WSW/W/WNW, annual rainfall of 35", annual snowfall of 30". Previously orchard and pasture that was retired for approximately 25 years.

.30 acres in Central Florida zone 9b, SAND and nothing but SAND, 6' above sea level, near coast with varied winds, annual rainfall of 52". Large city lot, will be more of a "high density urban" project.
 
 
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