This week comes with a very practical test.
I compare five (5) microphones and three (3) cameras, of which two are webcams and one is a camcorder.
Audio and video are crucial for Zoom calls. And Zoom calls are essential in times of Covid-19.
Audio Test Setup
These are my five microphones:
- Audiotechnica AT 2005 USB, came as a bundle with a microphone stand (from Amazon, click here)
- built-in microphone of a very old Logitech Webcam C170 (click here)
- built-in microphone of Logitech Webcam B910 HD (from Amazon, click here)
- Sennheiser Headset PC 8 (from Amazon, click here)
- a cheap no-name lapel microphone with USB plug (“Fifine” brand, from Amazon, click here)
I have written up a test text that I read aloud into the respective microphones, the file with the txt is here This is test no text 050122
My room is about 8 sq meters big, and I have closed the curtains in order to reduce the echo. Behind me is large book shelf that reduces the echo as well. The walls left and in front of me are essentially naked. The aircon is switched on, in cooling mode at 26°C, no swing, the blades are horizontal. Lowest blowing rate.
The audio is recorded with the free Audacity software, and I do a noise cancellation on the signal, followed by a compression of the audio signal. The “noise reduction” effect in Audacity works best if you leave a few seconds silence in the recorded audio that serves as a reference for the background noise that is later removed from the recording.
Ways To Characterize An Audio Signal By Others
I let about 10 independent listeners vote about the five microphones, asking them “from zero (0) to ten (10), how would you rate the sound quality of this recording?”.
A more thorough approach would be to ask four questions:
– “from zero (0) to five (5), how readable is the audio signal of this recording?”
– “from zero (0) to five (5), how much echo is in the audio signal of this recording?”
– “from zero (0) to five (5), are there any other distortions in the audio signal of this recording?”
– “from zero (0) to ten (10), how pleasant is it to listen to this recording?”
Audio Test Results
this is the long recording, 03:41 minutes long.
this is the short recording, only 01:03 minutes long.
And the clear winner is the Sennheiser Headset PC 8, followed by the Audiotechnica AT 2005 USB. The Fifine lapel microphone was third. The two webcam microphones are simply not acceptable.
What I also found out is that my office has an inherent echo. I will find some ways to reduce that echo and publish a new article about my achievements.
Video Test Setup
These are the three cameras
- a very old Logitech Webcam C170 (click here)
- Logitech Webcam B910 HD (from Amazon, click here)
- Panasonic Camcorder HC V777, on a cheap aluminum tripod (from Amazon, click here)
I have recorded the two videos of the webcams with the free Logitech Capture software (click here). The video of the camcorder was recorded on a 64GB memory card.
The recording has been done in front of my bookshelf, with an extra lamp at the left side of my face (as seen from myself) and with daylight from the right side of my face.
I have done some cutting with the Camtasia software (click here), but no other changes have been made to the video recordings.
Video Test Results
Here is the test result, 02:38 minutes long:
As one of the results of my video tests, I have put my old Logitech C170 webcam into retirement.
And I found out that the recording quality of the Panasonic Camcorder HC V777 is so unforgivingly good that I will not buy a better webcam. I will stay with my Logitech B910 HD webcam.
What I also found out is that
a) I need to use makeup, especially when I record videos with the Panasonic Camcorder HC V777, and
b) I need to improve my lighting system in order to obtain a nicer distribution of light in my face.
I will find some ways to reduce that and publish a new article about my achievements insofar.
Call To Action
Do the same tests with your own equipment.
You do not yet need to buy completely new equipment, it is sufficient to improve your equipment step-by-step.
Tip: you get the biggest impact by buying a better microphone.
Martin “home office” Schweiger