Typography, Web Design, Motion Design and Animation
I thought I would solve some microphone challenges that Mac users face, based on my recent experience, and based on my ensuing web search for a solution. (I can’t believe I didn’t know this in more detail. Now I, and five of my friends at Best Buy know the difference.)
Background: I want to record some screencasts for students that deal with some potentially tedious software procedures that I find myself going over with them multiple times. Then I can put these video files in Blackboard, our course management software, and the students can watch and re-watch a video of my screen, with me narrating as I go, as I instruct them how to accomplish the task, such as connecting Dreamweaver to a server. Such a headset device is also used a lot for Skype and gaming.
So, I went to Best Buy to buy one of those headset/microphone combos so that I could get a good recording of my voice as I narrate the screen capture. After being persuaded by the Best Buy guy, I first bought the Microsoft LifeChat LX-2000. It was $30. It says right on the packaging “PC/Mac, (10.1 – 10.5)” so I hoped it would work fine with Mac OS X 10.6.x, too. It’s an analog headset so it comes with two 3.5mm connectors, such as the one seen at right: one for the microphone jack and one for the headphone jack. After being assured by the Best Buy guy that it has to work, because it’s printed on the packaging that it works for Macs, I took it home and tested it.
So, I brought it home and the headphones worked fine, though they were really uncomfortable. But the microphone didn’t work at all. I went into the System Preferences > Audio and changed the Input to “Line In” instead of the default “Internal microphone” as required, but nothing. So I did some web searching. Here’s the answer:
The little jack on the MacBook Pro is a “Line In” jack, not a “Mic In” jack. It seems that PCs typically have a “Mic In” jack and Macs have the higher-quality analog/digital minijack “Line In.” In order to get a microphone to work with the Mac’s line-level “Line In” jack, it needs to be powered. The “Line In” jack requires more power, which the typical low-end “passive” microphones apparently can’t supply. One solution is to plug the microphone into a mixer or some type of pre-amp, then plug that into the Mac.
Another solution is to skip the 3.5mm minijack connector scenario and go with a USB solution. So, I went back and related my findings to all the Best Buy guys who were around and they were completely surprised. I had them show me a USB headset/microphone combo and then I asked them to open it up and test it. So, five of them (including the Apple representative who assured me yesterday that that Microsoft mic would work fine) and I gathered around the little Apple area of Best Buy and plugged the first microphone into the Mac with the expected results (nothing). Then, they opened up the new headset, plugged it into the USB port, selected it in the audio preferences, and the microphone worked instantly. The new one is a “Logitech ClearChat Pro USB” and costs $52.99 at Best Buy.
The reviews on this headset aren’t great, unfortunately. Many reviews say the microphone just stops working after a short time and the computer will refuse to recognize it. So, I bought the $10 warranty that will allow me to return it for two years. This was a big pain that I really think the Best Buy guys, especially the in-store Apple solutions guy, should have known about. Lesson learned: don’t trust the packaging and don’t necessarily trust the Best Buy guys, because they aren’t actually trained in every single device in the store. Do some research online and read the reviews, and you’ll have good luck. Probably.
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