Conferencing Microphones, compared

As we spend more time working remotely, having good audio on Zoom and other remote meetings matters more.

Some of us develop strange hobbies. One strange hobby for me has been to try out and collect recordings from a selection of headphones, headsets and other devices used for video conferences.

Given the current situation, where a lot of people are looking to improve their audio, I thought I’d share my collection with a broader audience.

Dedicated Microphones (best quality)

These were tested through my M-Audio 2×2 interface. All were mounted on a microphone arm.

LESSONS LEARNED: The big learning here was that in my environment, condenser microphones pick up too much background noise. I ended up going with the Rode PodMic and had to add the FetHead to get the gain up to a reasonable range for my interface.

Note that the recordings are all mono (left ear) because my audio interface sends input one to the left channel.

ProductForm FactorRecordings, NotesPrice (est)
Audio Technica AT2020XLR condenser microphonerecording$100
Marantz MPM-1000XLR condenser microphonerecording$60
MXL 770XLR condenser microphonerecording$80
MXL 990XLR condenser microphonerecording$75
Neewer NW-800XLR condenser microphonerecording$20
Pyle PDMIC58XLR dynamic microphonerecording$15
Rode PodMicXLR dynamic microphonerecording$100
Dedicated Microphones

Phone Headsets (purpose-built for calls)

These are purpose-built devices for conferencing or use in call centers.

LESSONS LEARNED: How they hook up is important. Bluetooth audio is often bad, so is reliability. Wired (USB) is best, DECT (like the Jabra Engage series) or a proprietary bluetooth dongle (like the Sennheiser MB Pro series) provides are a good middle ground. So: Wired >> DECT/proprietary BT >> bluetooth.

ProductForm FactorRecordings, NotesPrice (est)
Sennheiser SC30/SC60USB wired headset (mono/stereo)recording
awesome for the price
$40
Logitech H650eUSB wired headset (mono)recordingdiscont.
Sennheiser MB Pro 1/2 UCbluetooth wireless headset (mono, stereo) with USB donglerecording (USB dongle)
recording (bluetooth)
discont.
Jabra 9470 DECT wireless headset with USB, bluetooth and desk phone connectivity (mono)recordingdiscont.
Jabra Engage 75DECT wireless headset with USB, bluetooth and desk phone connectivity (mono/stereo)[coming soon]
great option!
$300+
Sennheiser SWD 5000 SeriesDECT wireless headset with USB, bluetooth and desk phone connectivity (mono/stereo)[coming soon]
great option!
$250+
Phone Headsets

Headphones (good for music, but mixed results for calls)

Their primary purpose is to listen to content, but they include microphones, and the quality varies wildly.

LESSONS LEARNED: Results are very mixed, and some of the cheaper options are downright unusable. But even products like the Sony WH-1000xm3 do poorly here, because call quality is not their primary focus and the microphones are optimized to enable the ANC feature.

ProductForm FactorRecordings, NotesPrice (est)
Apple AirPods Probluetooth earbuds with ANCrecording
best form factor
$250
PowerBeats Probluetooth earbudsrecording$250
BeatsXaround-the-neck bluetooth earbudsrecording
recording in car
great value
$100
Sony SBH-80around-the-neck bluetooth headsetrecording$100
Apple EarPodswired earbuds, included with many apple productsrecording$30
CQM JR-E103 IEMwired IEMrecording
unusable
discont.
Xiaomi Piston 3wired IEM, now 1More Pistonrecording
decent
discont.
Sennheiser Momentum On-Earwired on-ear headphonesrecording$100
Sony WH-1000xm3bluetooth ANC over-ear headphonesrecording
horrible
$350
Anker Soundcore Liberty Airbluetooth earbudsrecording
unusable
$75
Headphones

Other Devices

These do not fit into any category, but may meet your needs.

LESSONS LEARNED: Many devices pick up a lot of room noise, due to compromised mounting (i.e. embedded in a laptop with a fan) or distance from the participant.

ProductForm FactorRecordings, NotesPrice (est)
Antlion ModMic USBwired add-on to existing headphonesrecording
sounds really good
$80
Logitech BRIO webcamUSB 4k webcam with built-in microphonerecording
not great
$200
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910USB webcam with built-in microphone (similar to C920)recording
not great
discont.
MXL 404USB desktop microphonerecording
good for groups
$80
Jabra 510USB/bluetooth desktop conference speaker/microphonerecording
great for groups
$140
2019 16″ MacBook Probuilt-in “pro” microphonerecording
low frequency hum from laptop fans
$$$
2018 15″ MacBook Probuilt-in microphonerecording$$$
Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Displaybuilt-in microphonerecording$800
iPhone Xbuilt-in microphonerecording$$
Other Devices

Conclusion

So there it is, my little collection. My hope his this collection is helpful to somebody. If you find it helpful, please leave a comment! Please note that the links to Amazon are all affiliate links.

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