I really wasn’t sure what to expect when the equipment started arriving. There’s the microphone, the preamp, USB interface and other stuff. They all came with nice little instruction booklets filled with phrases like…
As a class-compliant audio device, the USBPre 2 is limited to a maximum data rate of 24-bit, 48 kHz in Windows, Linux, and Mac OS versions 10.4 to 10.5.7.
Wow. I am confident with Ikea furniture, but this is a whole new level of grrr.
This post is about getting over the grrr… How I set up this equipment and my office area to optimize quality of sound. Because, client satisfaction is worth it.
My first step was to try to get the equipment to work as best I could – the leg bone is connected to the hip bone style. I also found some useful videos on YouTube. These resources gave me a general concept about how the devices work, but not really enough to feel confident to know what I was doing. The most challenging aspect came from one device – the USB interface.
The USB interface looks intimidating. By rough count, there are about 50 different settings available on just the front of my device, containing icons like ‘48V PH’ and ‘SPDF’.
One issue that I wasn’t able to fix on my own was getting the volume of my voice loud enough without extra noise showing up in the signal. I called up my friend who knows about audio equipment, and we dealt with this and all other parts of the equipment. This setting-up process also worked as a learning process, getting me to the point where I can independently adjust settings on the device on command. A very important ability during events, and one that wasn't needed in my pre-COVID life, because the technicians handled things like this during conference events.
One of the advantages of the setup I chose is that it does a great job of transmitting only the type of sound I want, such as my voice. Well, once properly set up. However, once we optimized the settings, there were still a few straggling problems, like a subtle echo while I spoke. Changes would have to be made in the broader office environment.
My home setting, with its open-floor plan and hardwood floors is not naturally a good environment for microphone equipment. Lots of sound bouncing off walls, floors, hard and square edges. Lots of external sound, like sirens and lawn mowers can come from outside.
So, I made a plan to move things around in my office.
First, the audio situation: Two bookshelves on either side of the desk to block outside sound, along with sound dampening materials packed inside, like books and shelf-inserts. A large rug covering the entire office area to keep sound from bouncing off the floor. Repositioning things on the desk to eliminate the effects of things like charging devices on the audio equipment.
May as well also deal with visuals while I'm at it. This included repositioning lamps for strong but indirect lighting, removing attention-grabbing items from the video background, and finding different ways to position the microphone to facilitate my needs to use my hands on the table yet also not impeding my profile in the video.
All in all, setting up the home-hub took a few days for learning, moving things around, checking and rechecking settings.
If you’re setting up your own at-home interpreting hub, I highly recommend asking someone who knows about equipment to help with setting things up. Without, I would have been working with sub-par performance despite the investment in high-quality equipment. And just as importantly, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get familiar with the devices so that I can change settings as-needed during a gig.