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Solve Poor Customer Education Audio Quality for Less than $40

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on December 11, 2017

Customers are tired of poor audio quality, so why do we still give it to them. I am taking about poor audio quality on live, online training and poor audio recordings on self-paced eLearning. When customers join our live training or start on one of our eLearning course and it sounds like the speaker is sitting in a wind tunnel or worse, they hear every tap, tap, tap on the desk or crinkle, crinkle, crinkle of shuffling paper next to the speaker phone, it is such a distraction that it makes customers want to just hang up. Have you ever heard this feedback from customers? Have you every wanted to hangup on a conference call when the audio was so bad? 

Poor audio quality is an under appreciated epidemic that causes frustration and low customer satisfaction. And I am making it a personal mission to help as many people as I can, solve the poor audio problem. 

I find audio bewildering. It is complicated, and I have a huge appreciation for why audio experts are called sound engineers. But I am going to simplify things as much as possible and recommend a solution that will solve "most" of your audio problems. I have learned a lot about audio quality from producing a podcast, and when I started to apply what I learned to online training, eLearning recordings, and even video calls, I have a mind-blown moment. 

There are just three pieces of equipment you need to buy. This set up will improve your audio quality 10X (A qualitative estimate. Read: A LOT) for the following scenarios:

  1. Recording eLearning audio and/or recording walk-throughs.
  2. Live, online training when there is one instructor teaching a course. This set up does not work well if there are two instructors in the room).

Here is what you need to buy and why.

Dynamic cardiod microphone

I am no sound engineer, and I will not give a technical explanation. You don't want that anyway. Here's what you need to know. A dynamic cardiod microphone will only pick up noise that is very close to the microphone. You need to be very close to a dynamic microphone and speak directly into it. This is why background noise does not show up through the microphone. This is the good news. The bad news is that you cannot put a dynamic microphone on a desk in the middle of 4 people and expect the conversation from all four people to be heard. In order words, a dynamic microphone does not work like a conference call speaker phone.

Most of the people I know in customer education and/or eLearning design, buy a Blue Snowball or a Blue Yeti microphone. I have one of each. These are exception microphones. But they are not dynamic microphones. They are condenser microphones, which means they pick up all the background noise, and all of the white noise (hissing and humming) in the room that you don't notice with your ears. For a condenser microphone to work well, you need a quiet room (a real studio). For example, For the first 50 episodes of Helping Sells Radio, I used a Blue Yeti and recorded in my closet at home. All of the clothes handing on the walls made for a great sound, which is to say...it was quiet. 

I recommend you get a dynamic cardiod microphone. 

When to use a dynamic microphone: If you are recording eLearning or you deliver live, online training (Zoom, Webex, GoToTraining, etc) from a conference room or living room table, get a dynamic microphone. 

Dynamic microphones do not have to be expensive. Prices range from $14.95 to over $1,000. Probably higher if you are in the radio or television business. Get an inexpensive one. 

What I have: Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S, 3-pack. $39.99. What is $39.99 divided by 3? Hint: Not that much. 

ServiceRocket Customer Education Blog Fix Poor Audio

Cable: XLR to USB

Once you have the microphone, you will need to connect it to your computer. Dynamic microphones generally come with a 3PIN XLR input at the base of the microphone. All you need to know is that you will need a cable that connects from USB Male to 3PIN XLR Female, so that you can connect most dynamic microphones to the USB port on your computer. 

What I have: VALINKS USB Male to 3PIN XLR Female Mic Converter Cable Studio Audio Cable Connector Cords Adapter-3m/10ft. Any USB Male to 3PIN XLR Female cable will do. Price: $10.49.

Before you buy a dynamic microphone, make sure it has a 3PIN XLR so that this type of cable will work.

ServiceRocket Customer Education Blog Male USB to 3PIN XLR Female Cable Poor Audio Quality

Microphone stand

Since most dynamic microphones are stage mics, you will need a stand. I have two stands. I have a desktop, tripod stand and I have a suspension boom scissor arm stand. To be a bit mobile around the office or to take home, I have a small stand I can place on any desk and move it around. Fixed to my desk is the suspension boom stand. When I sit at my desk and deliver online training or do conference calls, I pull the mic in front of my computer and position it at my mouth. So I can take any kind of course or call at my desk and always sound great. Plus, I never have to hunt for a scare conference room again. 

I recommend you choose one of these stands. Two is a luxury.

What I have: Desktop stand: ammoon MS-12 Mini Foldable Desktop Tripod Microphone stand. Price: $8.50

SeviceRocket Customer Education Blog Desktop Microphone Stand Poor Audio QualityAnd Adjustable Boom Scrissor Arm: Neewer Adjustable Microphone Suspension Boom Scrissor Arm Stand. Price $12.50

ServiceRocket Customer Education Blog Neewer Boom Scissor Stand Poor Audio Quality

Total cost of good audio equipment

I purchased all of these items on Amazon. The total cost of this equipment for me is $36.32. How much do you spend on ear buds? On USB headsets? More that $36.22 I bet. And it does not sound nearly as good. Not even close. 

So I ask you this? What is the cost of bad audio quality? 

The side benefits of good audio equipment

When I talk about the audio equipment above and using it to solve bad audio quality in customer education, I don't mean to suggest this solution only applies to training. Not at all. If you have these three items, you will sound much better than everyone else with whom you interact on conference calls, video calls, webinars, podcasts, and any other remote meeting type that you do. People will comment about how good you sound. And soon, they will not tolerate well meeting with anyone in any other circumstance. True me.

This will happen. 

ServiceRocket Customer Education Blog Good Audio Happy Customers

As you can tell from my enthusiasm, I think everyone should spend the $36 to get this equipment. It has improved my life. And I am making it my mission to teach this to others. Here's how:

Hear it in action 

The best way to be convinced that you need to buy these three pieces of equipment is to experience the audio quality yourself. I am offering a demo. If you are interested, let's set up a video call. On this call, you will hear how good I sound, and you will be convinced. I promise. I don't sound good because my voice sounds good. I sound good because there will be no background noise. All you will hear is my voice. And to make things even more impressive. I will sit at my desk when we chat briefly. I work in an open environment, which you will see on the video. On our call, I will review the equipment type and answer your questions about it. I want to convince you because this discovery improved my life, and I know it will improve yours. 

I will take meetings between December 12 and December 20 in 15 minute increments. Go to my schedule, book a time that works for you and let's chat. Try it. You will be impressed.