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Communications Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Wireless Microphone For Stand-up Meetings? 95

rolandw writes We have daily stand-ups and normally there is at least one person missing from the room. We relay via on-line chat but the sound quality is rubbish. The remote person sounds great via our speaker when they use a headset but they can't hear what is happening in the room. We need a wireless mic that copes with a large echoing room and will stop feedback. Can you recommend one? We're not an over-funded start-up so don't have an unlimited budget...
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Ask Slashdot: Wireless Microphone For Stand-up Meetings?

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  • by ashpool7 ( 18172 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:03PM (#49175721) Homepage Journal

    Microphones aren't magic like that. :-/

    • Shure 58 Beta
      • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:36PM (#49176047) Homepage
        That is not even close to the right microphone.

        They want to pick up multiple people wandering around a large room. That mic works best right in front of (measured in inches) the source of the sound.

        The right answer is to just buy a polycom phone. Why try to buy a microphone and configure software (since you want a sensitive microphone that picks up everything, but then you will want noise cancellation that blocks out half of what the mic captures) when there is already a product that does this incredibly well for a pretty low price. You can get one for $50 or less on ebay.

        • One trick that can work is the talking stick microphone. Use a regular wireless mic, and each person hands it to the next to talk. It may sound silly on the surface, but it can work well to also control the regular interuptive types that dominate these meetings. Not only a mic, but a talking stick as well.
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "Shure 58 Beta"

        So, high fidelity echo?
    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      Yep, you can improve acoustics a little with soft furnishings and plants for instance. Bonus is a better environment.

      Polycom isn't necessary. I work with two remote scrum teams who both try standing around a shared desktop in their rooms for their stand-ups via Lync. One of them has great audio, the other doesn't. Both are in large echoey rooms. The only difference in systems is their mic and room decoration.

      The team in the room we can't hear clearly have resolved the issue by doing all meetings from t

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:09PM (#49175779)
    Pretty much every company ever has already solved this problem with polycom (or similar) conferencing phones(ranging from a few hundred dollars on up)
    http://www.polycom.com/product... [polycom.com]

    Also conference phone numbers like Webex at all so lots of people can call in, if you need that sort of thing.

    This is not a new or unsolvable problem, this is "standard office gear" since the 1990s.
    • Or Google Hangouts works just as well, with a VOIP call in phone, using said Polycom VOIP models.

      Or ...

      Yeah, this is a solved problem. Someone needs to turn in their geek card.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Pretty much every company ever has already solved this problem with polycom (or similar) conferencing phones(ranging from a few hundred dollars on up)

      http://www.polycom.com/product... [polycom.com]

      Also conference phone numbers like Webex at all so lots of people can call in, if you need that sort of thing.

      This is not a new or unsolvable problem, this is "standard office gear" since the 1990s.

      Exactly, we have a 30 seat conference room with a polycom and 2 extension mikes. For company meetings, remote employees dial-in to the conference bridge, and the phone works surprisingly well, everyone in the room can be heard. (it does get confused though when more than one person speaks at once -- it doesn't know which microphone to use, so the two voices fade in and out)

      No need to ditch working solutions just because they are "old school" -- most of our remote users use some VOIP solution to reach the co

    • They even make a portable USB unit if you want some thing that you can carry around instead of fixing in place in the meeting space: http://www.polycom.com/products-services/voice/desktop-solutions/pc-speakerphones/CommunicatorC100S.html [polycom.com]
    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @08:18PM (#49176927) Homepage Journal

      Heh, I used to do multi-conference room / theater AV integration for large defense companies. The number 1 problem was always audio.

      1. Test. Test test test. You can get almost any cheap thing working well if you bother to test and tune everything BEFORE the meeting. The most expensive thing can fail for silly reasons if you don't bother to test everything BEFORE the meeting (usually because some executive schlupp dials into both the audio bridge and VTC MCU at the last minute). Then freeze the configuration. Yeah, good luck freezing the configuration with engineers and tinkerers running around.

      2. POTS sucks. Maybe some telephony devices are able to negotiate better than 8kHz 8-bit audio sampling if their codecs match up, but you're better off going with something with VTC-quality audio using H323. Most VoIP teleconferencing lines don't bother trying to beat POTS audio quality. So even if you have a nice Polycom phone that does good AEC and NC, you're still going to strain to hear what's going on.

      3. Speakerphones suck. Most of them don't bother doing good AEC and NC. Get a good bluetooth or USB headset. Gaming teamspeak headsets are relatively cheap. As long as it's digital, so they don't introduce any analog amp noise from the system.

      4. PC/laptop microphones suck. I don't know why no one bothers to test them to the same level as your average cheap dumbphone speakerphone. They pick up all kinds of system electrical noise, and rely on software to do any AEC or NC, which adds more latency. About a quarter of the people in our daily standup have laptop microphone fails on Google Hangouts or Skype each day. Most end up dialing back in from their smartphone when that happens.

      Anyway, all that said, our current standup room setup consists of a Google Hangouts room on a permanently-fixed Mac mini with a $50 "Blue Snowball USB Condenser Microphone" and Logitech USB camera attached to it (the USB audio coming in from the Logitech camera was deemed insufficient, even for the small room we had it in.). For remote participants, I've had good experiences with extended use of the $200+ Jabra PRO 9470 Mono Wireless Headset, which is switchable between PC and POTS/VoIP phone use, but a simpler/cheaper bluetooth headset would probably work just as well paired with smartphone/PC.

      And set up an echo server for everyone to test their setups. https://support.google.com/cha... [google.com] . Or at least go to http://www.onlinemictest.com/ [onlinemictest.com] or something. Did I mention you should test?

      I'm also looking forward to someday playing with Amazon's Echo thingy someday, since for $200 it seems to have a lot of the technical audio features of more expensive audio conferencing systems:
      http://www.amazon.com/oc/echo/ [amazon.com]
      assuming it will be able to act as a simple bluetooth speakerphone instead of only for all of the other AI junk they're cramming into it.

      • 4. PC/laptop microphones suck. I don't know why no one bothers to test them to the same level as your average cheap dumbphone speakerphone. They pick up all kinds of system electrical noise, ...

        The problem usually isn't the microphone. It's the way it's wired (per the standard) and the way the desktop/laptop is powered.

        PC microphones are wired UNbalanced: They have a signal and a ground wire, rather than the + and - signal wires and everything-but-desired-signal cancelation of the balanced wiring setups t

        • Or bypass the problem completely by using a USB microphone. These digitize the audio right next to the microphone proper, with everything floating at the same voltage so nothing substantial is picked up betwen the air pressure sensor and the A-D converter.

          Bluetooth headsets work great for this, too. Most current generation laptops already have the bluetooth central-role radio onboard. Or get a cheap low-profile bluetooth dongle.

        • Laptops typically use power supplies that are not grounded, so they don't require a three-prong outlet. This usually ends up with the stray capacatance [SIC] to BOTH sides of the line wiring capacitively [SIC] coupling equally to the laptop "ground". That means the "ground" of the laptop is at half the line voltage - about 60 volts of AC (a rotten approximation of a sine wave plus lots of other junk it picked up at an assortment of frequencies).

          Last I checked, laptops don't run on AC power, and they of course have a ground as that is the negative side of DC. In house electric, you actually have two grounds. The round connection (in the US) is your house ground, it is generally connected to a pole hammered into the ground beside your electric meter. The Neutral (usually the black wire) is also a ground, it is grounded near the step down transformers in your neighborhood.

          There are noise problems with laptop mics, but they are more from the space

        • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

          Ha, thanks, awesome insight coming from "Ungrounded Lightning"!

          On some of the systems we put a neutral current eliminator to try to "fix" the 60Hz buzz coming off of improperly grounded computers. I think it was overkill for what we were doing, because by that point we had given up trying to use internal audio cards for some of our rackmount computers and were using SoundBlaster Live! USB audio dongles where we couldn't use digital audio, which made most of our system noise problems go away. But it would

      • "it seems to have a lot of the technical audio features of more expensive audio conferencing systems:"

        Except audio conferencing.

  • Get one, mmaybe two real wireless microphones from Shure or someone like that -- think "audio equipment catalog", not "computer equipment catalog". Get the cables to hook the base station up to standard microphone input. Pass the mic around to whoever is talking; it doubles as the "currently speaking" token (and you only have one person at a time talking at standup, right?). Make sure you have lots of spare batteries (presumably rechargeable) in a convenient location.
    • by bigmo ( 181402 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @08:52PM (#49177201)

      I hate to admit it but I am an AV guy, for a very long time. Passing around a wireless hand held mic (or even one with a wire if you can't afford W/L) is the only good solution. A cheap mic 4" from your mouth will sound better than an extremely expensive mic 4 feet away.

      A fairly decent W/L mic from Shure is a bit less than a grand (a really good one is about $4000). You can get a W/L mic from a cheapo audio catalog for a few hundred bucks, but if you really can't afford a decent one, I'd suggest getting a decent wired mic - maybe a hundred bucks tops. It's not that big a deal to pass around a wired mic if you're at a conference table and if the room is big, get several and put them on stands so people can walk up to them and ask questions or whatever.

      If the problem isn't big enough to warrant spending much of anything, just have the main presenter use a mic & repeat any questions.

      By the way, if you don't like how much newer mics cost, tell the FCC to stop selling off the white space frequencies that W/L mics use.

    • Get one, mmaybe two real wireless microphones from Shure or someone like that -- think "audio equipment catalog", not "computer equipment catalog". Get the cables to hook the base station up to standard microphone input. Pass the mic around to whoever is talking; it doubles as the "currently speaking" token (and you only have one person at a time talking at standup, right?). Make sure you have lots of spare batteries (presumably rechargeable) in a convenient location.

      Passing around a real mic is exactly what I am hoping to do. I was asking /. for recommendations for such a mic! Looks like I've got to check out Shure and Blue Microphone's offerings. Many thanks for your comments!

  • 1: Stop doing "stand-ups".

    2: Use a wired mic (or several). Alternatively, use the wired phones you likely have at your desks.

  • Wireless headsets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rowls ( 225157 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:16PM (#49175863)

    What about equipping all meeting participants with a wireless headset (headphone with mic). A base station in the room would connect to each headset, and transmit audio to remote participants. I also work for a company with many remote employees. When all meeting participants are at their desk using headsets, people are easy to understand, but as soon as some of the meeting participants are in a conference room with a speaker phone it becomes very difficult to hear people. As a result we do a lot of meetings from our desks even though many of us are in the same building and could benefit from a face to face meeting.

    Does any device like this exist at any price?

    • by ashpool7 ( 18172 )

      Well, if you're willing to wear a bodypack, they make all the components you can put together for this setup.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:18PM (#49175891)
    Is your room a natatorium, or a broom closet? How many people? Around a table, or classroom seating? Have you tried a proper conference room phone (not a regular speakerphone)? Is your phone system analog, digital, or IP (for the latter two, the solution may depend on the system in use)?
    • Yep, you got it. The acoustic space is key. If it can be controlled.

      As a side note. I believe many artifacts can be controlled for or eliminated in the electronics. Price range may be out of his league. Prices to correct a room can also quickly get out of hand.

      As somebody else says, though, do experiments (test, test, test). A one foot movement of the mic in any particular direction can make audible improvements.

    • It is neither a swimming pool (yup, I had to look up "natatorium" and it's an indoor swimming pool) nor is it a closet. It's a room 8m by 4m with 4m ceiling in the middle of a grade 1 listed former royal palace in the middle of London. The people - 6 to 10 - are standing around the end of the table. We have tried a polycom phone through our Asterisk based VOIP phone system but that requires people to sit down and it has even worse echo. I can't fix the room because I need special permission to even drill a

      • You can fix the room without drilling holes in anything.

        The really cheap ghetto solution is to buy bales or rolls of rock wool, just leave them in the plastic, and stack them in the corners of the room. Ugly, smells a bit funny, and not everyone likes the idea of being in the proximity of bare rock wool, but it works.

        More expensively you might get something like Auralex Promax [dv247.com] stands and put them in the corners.

        It kind of sounds like you might all be on the same side of the microphone, or at least ha
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        One easy thing which can help with room echo, but not require modifications would be to buy or build stands on which you can drape cloth or hang curtains.

        A directional microphone can help, if all the people are at one end of the table, so it can be positioned and pointed at the group. I wouldn't expect miracles, though. What's needed most is a system with good echo cancellation. Polycom's in my experience are pretty good. But, they make models for different size rooms. You might find a model with remote mi
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You don't need a new mic, you need better cables.

    I recommend Monster or Audioquest for the ultimate in high fidelity audio performance.

  • What you are looking for is a "boundary microphone", also known as a "Pressure Zone Mic (PZM)"
    • by elrs3 ( 1438793 )
      For example, one like this: http://youtu.be/xjO_FM3Gej0 [youtu.be]
    • I remember trying to use PZM's when they first become popular for theater. Turned out not so good, as it amplified every footstep and thump on the stage. Since there's usually half a dozen thumps sitting around your typical conference table, PZM's might be contra-indicated.

      • by elrs3 ( 1438793 )
        No microphone is immune from thumps and bumps, and I hope that the OP's meetings aren't as active as a theater production; I suggested PZM because it should better handle the acoustics of meeting room than the current mic.
    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      I set one of those up in my old office, it was great 'cos I just basically forgot it was there.

  • You will never fix this problem with a technical solution. Either completely virtualize the meeting using formal telepresence, or acknowledge that people won't be able to attend and have a meeting without them.

    If you absolutely must do it the way you are doing, just buy a used Polycom and be done with it.

  • either get the microphone closer to the person speaking (e.g. handing a microphone around) to tune out most of the room, or make the room sound better (curtains, reflection cancelling wall panels, ...).
  • Get management to pony up for real AV gear. The problem is your gear is garbage and not designed for the use. There is no magical CHEAP thing you can buy.

    Now get a biamp or BSS DSP and 4 boundary mics hanging from the ceiling on some 18" diameter glass plates... I can make a meeting room cover all voices in there perfectly for video and teleconference.

  • A $10 microphone won't be much good for a variety of people. OTOH ask where is the signal degradation happening? If you don't know then find out.
  • I was recently looking for a solution to a similar problem; speech-recognition from any spot in a living-room with a air-conditioner and lots of PC-fans running 24/7.
    The only thing I could find that that was not a conference phone but still had speaker-tracking and echo-cancellation was this:
    https://www.acousticmagic.com/... [acousticmagic.com]

  • I'm almost always the only person joining our team meetings remotely. I could barely hear people in the room. I searched for a hardware our small startup could afford. I decided to give a try to Highfive [highfive.com]. The wide camera video feed is a nice plus to an outstanding sound quality.
  • Any of the Sennheiser or Shure wireless packs.

    Countryman E6 type headset. Best every

    For $700-$800+ you've solved the microphone problem. Look for used, maybe save half.

    Maybe a Shure BLX14, $300

    An Audio-Technica System 8 might satisfy your needs, $200 +/-

    Then go fix your speaker placement and EQ the room. The Countryman likes a slight cut at 600Hz for vocals, choose the capsule cover carefully. The A-T mic I don't know well.

  • We do daily stand-ups between 2 locations. At one end which is a large office, we have a MXL AC404 USB conference microphone on a table that people stand or sit around. People around the table sound great, and it is omnidirectional, so it doesn't matter where people are. If someone goes off to scribble on the whiteboard and is 8 or 10 feet away from the mic, you can hear him or her, but it doesn't sound as good because it gets a little soft. If you keep an eye out on Amazon, or use camelcamelcamel, you can
  • You need two things:

    1. On your end, a flush mount PZM. Mount this in the center of your table.
    http://www.crownaudio.com/medi... [crownaudio.com]
    http://www.crownaudio.com/medi... [crownaudio.com]

    2. They MUST use headphones (not speakers) on the other end, or you will get massive feedback.

  • This problem was solved in 1965. Just get a Cone of Silence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cone_of_Silence). Just be sure you don't get it from a "discount place".

  • Saw this on kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com] Might be interesting...
  • http://en-uk.sennheiser.com/sp... [sennheiser.com]

    Works for me (on linux) - good pickup for a medium-sized room, good sound (though you can use it just as a mic).

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