Use It or Sell It

I don’t spend nearly as much time in video conferences as many of the people around me do, but even after we figure out what normal is anymore, it’s likely to include a lot of telepresence. I have been mildly dissatisfied with some of my gear for these gatherings, but it has recently occurred to me that I already have excellent alternatives.

The first annoyance is my dissatisfaction with my older-generation little earbuds. They have an elegant design, but they are persnickety. I think keeping the case in my pocket has introduced grime in the connector and inside the case as well, but where else am I going to put the case if not my pocket? I’m not buying a fanny pack to carry around my too-hip earbuds. And beyond that the buds have this slick, “I know when I’m in your ear” feature that doesn’t always know when one or the other is in my ear.

I have another set of headphones, the over-ear type, that I really like. I can save swearing at the sleek little ear buds for when I’m on the workout machine, and wear the superior cans the rest of the time. The only catch: no microphone. My laptop has a microphone, but it turns out I have an even better solution.

I have an actual microphone. A pretty good one, in fact, purchased roughly 25 years ago. Maybe 30. I’ve been paying to store it and I’ve been dragging it along with me ever since, but I’ve hardly used it. (it was bought as an expression of commitment for a project that failed to launch.) It is a condenser mic, but it has a battery if you are in situations where you can’t provide phantom power. It turns out somewhere along the way I also picked up a little tube preamp to supply phantom power and provide knobs to twist. Used even less.

All I need to get that rig up and running is a cable that has XLR on one end and USB on the other. That’s not as simple as it sounds, because on the microphone/amp end of the wire the signal is analog, while on the computer end the signal is digital. So it’s not just a cable but an a/d converter. But those converters are out there. You can pay as much as you want, or twelve bucks.

Also, I will need a desktop microphone stand, or a Tinkertoy set.

But the bottom line is that I have utter overkill for the microphone requirement. And if I don’t use that microphone now, what the hell am I holding on to it for?

But it doesn’t end there. There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when my employer introduced their new line of laptops this year. Sure there is much excitement around the new chip (I have no information about it that you don’t, but it sounds pretty dang awesome), but the laptops still have the same barely-adequate cameras their predecessors did. Back when the new lineup was finalized, that probably didn’t seem like such a big deal.

Software has improved the quality of the video from these laptops, but for a company that makes a big deal of the awesomeness of the cameras (plural! working seamlessly together) on their phones, they sure seem to be slacking on the laptops. (My uninformed opinion is that this will change when FaceID come to the laptop line.)

My “office” corner is fairly dim, and I like it that way, but it doesn’t work so well in virtual meetings. If only I had a better Web camera! Like, that Canon right over there. Huh. And then with the 50mm at a fairly wide aperture the background back-lit liquor cabinet would just be an interesting blur, rather than a testament to what I have become. Turns out Canon rushed out software to make many of their cameras work with many of the conference platforms. All I need is… the cable to connect the camera to the computer.

I am two cables away from having a pretty high-end conference station. Because I TOTALLY NEED one. And hell, If I can’t justify owning that microphone now, it’s time to let go.

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6 thoughts on “Use It or Sell It

  1. Are you sure you still have all the stuff? I saw an episode of Storage Wars where a unit with contents you describe was purchased for $300 then self-estimated at $1000.

  2. “background back-lit liquor cabinet would just be …., rather than a testament to what I have become.”
    Your best line so far in 2021.

  3. I have an A/D converter (old, cheap when it was new, and quite compact) that hasn’t been used in years. Quite honestly, I suspect its limitations would rather undo the pluses of your nice mic, but at least you’d get to use it. The converter expects two channels of input, via RCAs, so I think you’d need something like this:

    https://www.amazon.com/Splitter-Unbalanced-Duplicator-Y-Cable-1-6feet/dp/B07J5X2369/ref=asc_df_B07J5X2369/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=317609719188&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4348084840970812056&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9032160&hvtargid=pla-600699940058&psc=1

    If you’re interested in the converter let me know and we’ll work out the details.

    • Thanks for the offer, but it turns out that cable you linked to is two bucks less than an XLR->USB cable. And while I can’t speak to the quality of either, the audio is going to be mashed up and streamed over the Internet at lowest possible cost.

      The only thing stopping me: I have realized I own a cheap-ass little headphone-mic rig that cost me about the same as that cable. I used it to record podcasts of some of my stories, an I ended up running the signal through a shitty adapter because the compression that resulted made me sound more story-like.

      But there is a certain cachet to being in a meeting with the big cans over my ears and the big ol’ mic and shallow depth of field. so I might spring for the cables anyway.

  4. A couple of notes about the microphone: It’s an AKG C1000, and the newer, presumably better, version costs half what I paid for mine, NOT correcting for inflation over thirty years. It gets mixed reviews, but it seems to come down to “this is often the first microphone people buy, and most of them don’t know how to use a microphone.” So it seems like the poor reviews are more about the newbies that buy them rather than the mic itself, which is an interesting problem to have as a company.

    The microphone came with an instruction manual that was pretty much, “Don’t talk straight into it or you’ll get plosives. The sound from a flute comes out here.” That sort of stuff. Maybe if a few more people had read that booklet, the mic would hav a better reputation. But what can you do? If you court the newbie, you’re going to get noobed.

    I imagine something like the following:

    Engineers: We have created the perfect first microphone for a studio newbie. It has a wide range of uses, can work in a variety of environments, and we can build them at a reasonable price.

    Marketing: That’s great! But… how are we gong to keep all those newbies from tarnishing our brand?

    Marketing Intern: Maybe a booklet? With pictures?

    Marketing: … I’ve got nothing better. Let’s do the booklet and welcome all those people into the AKG family.

    I’m not going to confirm this, but I bet these days AKG has tons of video and other online content to help people use their products properly and effectively. Me, I’m more of a booklet guy.

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