Headsets, headphones and audio setups for video conferencing, zoom, teams and co.
"Which headset do you recommend?” is one of the most frequent questions we are currently asked, and we want to get to the bottom of the question and possible answers.
A good sales consultation usually starts with a needs analysis, which for us on the subject of headset/headphones goes something like this:
- What did you use your headset for?
- What is your experience so far?
- Do you use the headset at several workplaces and when traveling?
- Do you talk a lot or do you mostly listen?
- Are you using the headset in a place with a lot of ambient noise?
- How long / how often do you work with the headset per day and per week?
- How important is the look to you? How inconspicuous should the headset be?
- Do you have sensitive ears, are you aware of hearing restrictions?
- Do you have particular preferences for a technology or brand?
- Do you also want to listen to music with the headset?
Speaking and hearing are quite individual
As you can see, general recommendations are not appropriate. The bad news first: We don't know an optimal system. Every headphone puts a strain on the ears, both mechanically and acoustically. The alternative with loudspeakers eliminates the mechanical stress, but new problems arise: You need very good acoustic conditions in order to be able to work well without echo and feedback? the workplace becomes a recording studio.
The listening and speaking experience is an individual matter. It is best to gain experience with different systems. For example, some feel comfortable and safe under a closed noise-canceling headset that completely shields them from the outside world. Others desperately need a mono headset and require some room awareness to hear and speak safely. Professional setup for videoconferencing We see that with increasing demands – such as simultaneous interpreting – a setup with a separate stand microphone is often used. This requires a trained handling. If you work untrained, e.g. if you do not pay attention to the distance between the speaker and the microphone or if you set the microphone to the wrong level, you may create more sound problems than improvements: Popping noises, reverberation, feedback and a fluctuating voice volume can be the result.
Microphone and speakers in the laptop versus simple headsets
Our comparison tests between the quality of the installed audio technology in laptops and the quality of simple headsets (headphones with a microphone boom) were always clearly in favor of the simple and cheap headsets. The sound quality is usually not that bad in the simple headsets, we see the differences in the headsets mainly in the build quality, and the wearing comfort. Established manufacturers also usually offer spare parts, service and warranty.
Bluetooth? D rather not
Many of our customers attach importance to the highest quality and least tiring transmission. It is then quite especially – but actually always – a wired headset is recommended. Any form of wireless connection creates limitations and can cause quite significant losses in sound quality and comfort in case of connection problems. If Bluetooth headphones are used with a talk connection, the audio quality is downgraded to such an extent that we do not recommend using them. Sure, especially with in-ear headphones, the discreet look and great flexibility is unbeatable. If it has to be Bluetooth, then you ideally do not talk and listen via one device at the same time; one transmission direction alone (usually listening) increases the quality enormously. An additional microphone is then necessary.
The battery capacity of wireless devices should not be underestimated. This is because it is often used up faster than hoped – and usually in the middle of the important call, of course. Bluetooth also provides additional latencies (delays of about 150 to 300 milliseconds are common here). For simultaneous interpreting in particular, however, we try to keep this latency as low as possible to ensure lip sync and thus the best possible speech intelligibility.
Different types of headphones
This is where it becomes clearest how individual and important the feel-good factor is with the chosen setup. For example, an in-ear headset is absolutely inconceivable for many, but the most pleasant solution for others. Hearing care professionals clearly recommend the cone headphone (over-ear). The diaphragm is further away from the eardrum, so the pressure on the eardrum (at the same volume) is significantly lower!
A headset that very much cuts off ambient noise quickly tempts you to shout into the microphone instead of speaking – this is exhausting for the speaker and listener. This is one reason why headsets with only one earpiece are often preferred. Another aspect is the perception of one's own voice. When wearing in-ear headphones, one's own voice is virtually only perceived in the head. This often leads to an oppressive feeling and the impression of pressure on the ears.
Setup for interpreters
For professional simultaneous interpreting, well-known manufacturers offer special headsets (e.g. Shure IH6500). When interpreting, users, associations and manufacturers optimize the optimal conditions. The minimum is compliance with ISO regulations, in particular the frequency response required by the standard and the use of a limiter/compressor for hearing protection.
In our interpreting studios, professional over-ear headsets with a separate microphone are the standard, but we always offer the option of using your own headsets or headphones.
Try it out, gain experience. A certain amount of effort and expense is necessary, unfortunately. How do the headphones rest, how heavy should they be, what do you feel comfortable with? Find a setup that you feel comfortable with and that allows you to speak and hear as naturally as possible. If you talk and listen a lot, you should be able to switch, so have a spare set on hand.
Do not overload your ears, take breaks. Wearing and using headphones are generally not considered harmful. It becomes critical if you listen too loudly. And video conferencing, if done improperly, can cause critical noise interference and thus Acoustic Shock. In general, avoid excessive stress on your ears – especially continuous stress.