I have been working from a homeoffice for over 10 years now. But when travel stopped due to COVID-19, lots of things have changed even for me. This article is the beginning of a short blog series where I’ll highlight some of the tools and practices that work for me.
While it was always an option, video conferencing and online collaboration over-night became the new default and it seems like these trends are not going away anytime soon. And given my role, I spend lots of time on meetings with customers, partners & colleagues. I remember the old days when “virtual meetings” were “conference calls” and audio quality was the least common denominator audio codec of the participants dialing-in to a bridge. I can’t imagine going through six months of crappy conference calls so I am very grateful for the reliable and high-quality platforms that Zoom and MS Teams have offered us in these difficult times. We left the dark ages of conference calls and audio is now typically transmitted over a broadband IP connection – so even when I join a Zoom meeting on my phone, I don’t even consider to click the “call-back” option to join the audio anymore. Even when being on the road, the Voice-over-IP stability and quality is outperforming traditional phone calls dramatically.
My personal experience has been that a better audio quality has a very positive impact on productivity & focus and also provides a more inclusive environment. If people have a hard time following a presentation or conversation, a virtual meeting can become more exhausting than necessary. And people with hearing issues might not even be able to fully participate in an active conversation with bad quality. Therefore, I consider it a courtesy to my fellow meeting participants to bring the best possible experience to the virtual conference table.
Before COVID-19, I used a pretty standard Jabra headset and audio quality was average. But I didn’t spent this much time on video conferences after all. So since I upgraded my homeoffice setup a few months ago, I received lots of positive feedback – and questions about the equipment I use. So here we are 🙂
Webcam: I am among the lucky ones that got a decent webcam when all this started. I use a Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro WebCam that is mounted to the top of my monitor. It’s a decent device – even though I sometimes have the impression the camera has issues with focus.
Light: my office has a decent sized window with lots of natural light coming in – but only on one side. So I put up pretty regular LED uplights in the other side of the room to get some better light coverage from both sides. And above my webcam & monitor, there is an Elgato Key Light Air because… well it’s there now and works. It fit nicely with my Elgato Stream Deck panel that I use for some desk automation – but that’s a different story.
Audio: the audio setup has been a little more complicated. I experimented with a few things over time and looked e.g. at several Blue microphones but wasn’t 100% convinced. Coincidentially, there is this company named “Sennheiser” (you might have heard of them ;-)) which has their global HQ not too far away from where I live. And since Sennheiser equips lots of major opera houses, live broadcasting events and artists like Ed Sheeran with high quality microphones for decades now, I was sure they must have something for upping my Zoom calls as well. And what can I say? It’s been love at first sight.
So a Sennheiser Handmic Digital is now part of my homeoffice equipment and I mounted this into a standard microphone arm. What impressed me right away is the fact that it’s super easy to use – the “plug and play” promise is not just marketing. My MacBook recognized the device immediately and I have not configured anything special. It’s just a new audio device. The digital experts from Apogee are providing the technology for the digital audio converter and pre-amp that consolidates potentially multiple devices into a slick and all-metal body. It comes with USB as well as a Apple Lightning connectivity. My dear and beloved travel companion for more than 4 years, a Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless, as well as a basic 2.1 Logitech speaker setup serve me well from an audio consumption aspect.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to reach out via Twitter for comments or discussions!