Category Archives: Insights

How to improve your audio in this #wfh atmosphere

In these bizarre times in our world, many of us find ourselves relying on our computers for communication. Like anything in technology, there are hurdles and difficulties. The camera is too dark, too bright, choppy connection, audio is fuzzy.

Here at MXL, we want to share information on a solution to improve communications when working from home or just catching up with friends and family over a video conference.

Common issue/question:

Why does the microphone on my laptop or computer sound so bad and echoey?

At MXL, we often get customers looking for an upgrade in their web conferencing experience. We constantly hear things like “the sound is always so echoey” or “everyone sounds so far away.” We even had a customer ask, “Do computer manufacturers just not care about good audio?”

There are many reasons why users have these kinds of experiences, and we’ll try not to bore you with too many details. Typically the microphone in a computer is there to pick up audio; that is it. It’s a function and less about the quality of that function. This is similar to a steak from a sketchy roadside diner vs. the best cut of meat you have ever had from your favorite steak house.

In addition to microphone quality and steaks, the main issue with built-in microphones has to do with physics and something called Critical Distance. In a simplified form, Critical Distance is the distance at which the reflections and reverberations of a direct sound, equal or exceed the volume of the direct sound from the sound source.

Example: When you start to hear more of your voice bouncing off the walls in your office than direct sound, this is what can make it sound like someone is in a bathroom when they are on a web chat.

In a 10×10 room (bedroom or office), the critical distance of a sound to a source can be as short as 9.6″.

Unless you are sitting with your face pressed against your computer screen, you are likely more than 9.6″ from the microphone. Your computer microphone is going to be picking up as much if not more indirect sound (the echoey bathroom sound) than the direct sound.

How do we solve this? Get the microphone closer to you by using an external USB microphone.

MXL AC-404The AC404 is a USB boundary microphone. A boundary microphone uses a flat surface to avoid acoustic issues and enhance the audio (this is an oversimplified explanation). Using an external microphone also allows you to place a microphone right in front of you instead of far away at the top of your laptop screen.

In addition to those benefits in a mic like the AC404, we are using high-quality capsules, components, and circuitry, all tuned for the human voice to enhance clear communication.

For all of these reasons, many people already use external microphones or headsets for web conferencing for work or just catching up.

The MXL AC404 is plug and play with pretty much any computer capable of running a video conference. Adding an external USB microphone to your workspace should be hassle-free, and you’ll impress everyone with your improved audio quality.

MXL offers a few versions of the AC404; the differences are primarily cosmetic. Here is some info about them below:

 MXL AC404 – The base model AC404 mic

MXL AC404 White – The base model AC404 mic in white

MXL AC404 LED – LED version of the AC404. You can change the LED color with a dial under the base. Very cool for gaming.

MXL AC404Z – AC404 for Zoom applications, and it comes with a few accessories that integrators and installers prefer.

If you arent using one already, an external microphone can significantly improve the audio quality of your voice on web conferences, recordings, and presentations. Be sure to check out the AC404 and some of our other products.

MXL AC-360-Z Zoom Microphones installed on ceiling

South African AV Installer Mounts MXL AC-360-Z On Ceiling for Complete Sound Coverage

The integrator was able to treat two, 36-seat board rooms and one classroom hall with ceiling-mounted AC-360-Zs for Zoom Room integrated meetings. Here’s a closer look at the install:

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Three Types of Mics You Need To Know

Microphones, whether you know it or not, are essentially transducers, meaning they convert one form of energy into another. Microphones take acoustical energy and convert it into electrical, but the way this process happens changes depending on which type of microphone you’re using. Here’s a closer look at the three main kinds of microphones, and how they convert live sound into electrical signals:

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Benjamin Wright's Storied History with MXL

Benjamin Wright’s Storied History With MXL

The multiple Grammy-winning producer and composer has been a big fan of MXL Mics for more than a decade. Wright first gained notoriety for arranging strings for smash hits like Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” and “Rock with You,” and he continues to work with top pop artists today, recording strings for Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience album and Ty Dolla $ign’s Free TC. Here’s more on how MXL plays a big part in this music legend’s career.

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Secure Your Legacy With Great Production

Here’s a TV trivia contest. What TV show has been on TV everyday since it’s first episode ran? I think we can all guess the answer…”I Love Lucy”, which premiered on October 15, 1951, and is still running right now, somewhere in the world. There are two reasons the show has been so popular for over 60 years. The first is indisputably great content. The scripts, and acting on the show are timeless. Even in black and white, set in America in the 1950s, the comedy routines are timeless, with Lucy pulling off some of the greatest gags ever written. The second reason we all take for granted. Great production. We watch the show, and don’t even give thought to the magnificent picture and sound quality that remains today.

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Connecting the Classroom

I was recently invited to present at a conference for tech managers in higher education by Infocomm. It was a very interesting and enlightening day. In the room was a collection of tech managers from universities small and large. In some cases, the person in attendance was the lone member of the tech staff at their university. Generally, those were small campuses. In the case of USC itself, they had a full staff, as the campus is quite large.

I presented on the Connected Classroom, since that is a hot topic for today. Campuses are starting to share their lectures and classes in order to:

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A Group of Dedicated Educators

Media teacher

I was invited to present audio solutions for video to a group of high school and middle school educators this past week. The group, located in Los Angeles, CA, is a consortium comprised mostly of Los Angeles Unified School District media instructors. The group is called MELA (Media Educators of Los Angeles). My contact there is Antonio Manriquez. Antonio serves at the Executive Director, as well as Video Production teacher in the Hollywood High School New Media Academy.

Programs like the one at Hollywood High School are popping up in high schools all over the country, and I suspect the world. I have been meeting with more and more of the instructors of these classes, and some of the students. It is a dedicated and focused group of people working on supplying the world with the latest content, using the latest production techniques.

The thing that impresses me the most about these educators is their level of devotion to the art of content creation, and their commitment to their students. The particular group of educators I met with at the MELA meeting (about 30 of them) battled L.A. traffic, at the height of rush hour (which is world class jam packed) in the afternoon after teaching all day. They came from all over the L.A. basin, driving as much as 30 miles to attend. This is not a paid or required activity. They have taken it upon themselves to belong to this group to further their skills. They review the latest technologies, trends, and products. There is an open discussion about the challenges they are all facing in their classrooms.

In the new world of unlimited access to the public through IPTV, YouTube, and social media sharing, there is an unquenchable appetite for content. This translates directly into jobs and careers which the students can enter if they have the right skills. These young people will shape, and in some cases already are shaping, the new media
landscape. It’s really encouraging to see these teachers helping their students enter this field, giving them the tools they need to be successful.

We all know that information translates into knowledge. And knowledge turns into power. That means that these students have the power to shape their future through video production. At a very early age, they are stepping up to become the media leaders of our world.

I was proud to be invited to speak to this group. They were hungry for new information on products they can take back to their students, to help make the best videos they can. It was a great way to spend my evening. What I learned was that we as a society are in good hands. These students are our future. And to see such hard-working educators guiding their learning activities made me confident that we are going in the right direction.

Technology for the sake of itself is just noise. When you have a dedicated group of people using this technology to bring the world important messages, you have the recipe for a bright future.