Building Blocks 18: Mic Techniques 1

I recently decided to change my approach to my Building Blocks series.  I had been waiting for the enhancement system reboot to begin doing character builds, but have decided instead to break character builds down even further to component parts.  What do i mean by that?  My intention is to have several series of blogs that focus on things like stats, feats, spells and enhancements – the building blocks of character builds if you will.  Since that’s a bit of a change and to give myself time – and because i was interested in writing the following series – here is a series on Mic Technique!

Mic Technique pt 1: Sound Quality

Voice chat is a very powerful and useful tool for playing DDO. It allows for communication without having to type which renders your keyboard useless for manipulating your avatar. It also requires people to read it (which is surprisingly unreliable).  However, poor mic technique and set up can result in massive irritation of your fellow players.  There is perhaps no quicker way to get squelched than to open your mic and proceed to blast everyone’s ears out.

Voice chat in an MMO is essentially a network of sound reinforcement systems (your computers sound system is a simple version of such a system) linked together.  So everyone’s mics are integrated into the game’s sound system and then transmitted to each set of speakers in the party.

When we are talking about sound reinforcement (that is the process of transmitting sound through a system) there are several parameters that we are interested in, but the 2 we are primarily concerned with for our purposes are quality and intelligibility.

Quality refers to how good the sound is.  Does it sound like nails on a chalkboard and cause everyone to cringe at it?  If a persons voice pitch (like that kid, yes THAT one) causes your ears to be unpleasant we would say that the sound of their voice has poor quality.  Of course this is a subjective parameter and sometimes sound is made intentionally poor quality to achieve an effect (the annoying kid, like Steve Urkel, or sound effects that are intentionally shrill to throw the audience off or into an unsettling state).  Sound quality is important to us because we want others to be able to listen to us without cringing at the sound of our voice (which usually leads to squelching).

Now unless you are running your sound through a mixer before piping it into the game there isn’t a lot you can do to improve the quality of your voice.  Your choices are basically get a new mic or manipulate your room.  As an example of how a room can change the quality of your voice, talk with someone on the phone and have them go into different rooms (a heavily tiled bathroom or laundry room is a good choice).  If you listen to DDOCast the sound quality of Sig’s mic changed noticeably after he started using a “mic box” with his new mic.  You may also have heard the same band in 2 different venues. While they were probably using different systems, the different venues will have different affects on the sound.  You’ve probably heard discussion of a room’s acoustics (the receptivity of the room/venue to reverberate or “echo” sound), this would be one such example.

Different mics have different characteristics and can drastically affect sound quality.  If you have ever been to a concert, you may have noticed that there are several different mics onstage.  This is because different mics pick up sound better for certain sources.  Now as far as gaming mics go, they are all designed with the voice in mind, but higher quality mics can improve your pick up and sound quality and may react differently to your voice pitch.  However, it’s probably not worth the cost to buy a bunch of mics looking for the one with the best sound quality, especially when there are other, more controllable variables that we can use to adjust sound quality that will have a greater appreciable effect.  Most of these variables relate to how you set up and use a mic, which I will discuss later.  For now, understand that different mics and environments can affect sound quality.

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