Years ago, I bought a Logitech C920 webcam. I can’t remember why I thought it was a good idea. We were in the process of setting up an online video-chat-based roleplaying game session1 and my built-in FaceTime camera in whatever laptop I had at the time must have not been cutting it.
Fast-forward almost 10 years. We still play our mostly weekly game via video chat and I’m still using the C920. Anyone who video chats with any regularity with a group of people knows the process is constantly plagued with audio issues. The issue with my setup is that it always produces echo. What type of echo? When any one other than me speaks, the audio plays through my external speakers and is picked up by the webcam microphone, and is rebroadcast to everyone else. Very annoying. There are multiple solutions to the problem:
- I can wear headphones and not use external speakers. This sucks if you are video chatting for a few hours and/or need to get up and move around at all.
- Use my MacBook Pro’s internal microphone. macOS seems to have the magic sauce built-in to cancel out incoming audio that is broadcast over the speakers.
I usually opt for #2. It’s somewhat annoying because my laptop is actually behind one of my screens, the mic is relatively far away, and sometimes the mic pics up a bunch of computer fan noise2 and other crap since those sources are closer than my mouth.
I’m thinking of getting a new computer, and have been eyeing a Mac Mini. Mac Minis don’t have FaceTime cameras, nor do they have built-in mics. So I started to poke around and try and figure out how to fix the issue. A little bit of research and the internet came back with the following possible solutions:
- Wear headphones… see above.
- Get a Logiech C615. Apparently the cheaper webcam has built-in noise cancellation that works better.3
- Use an external microphone.
#1 was already out, and I already have a decent webcam, so I wanted to avoid #2. That left #3, the external mic. Most of my friends in the group have external mics, Blue Yetis to be exact, though my brother has an EV RE20 and a professional audio interface. I didn’t want a big ass Yeti on my desk; I wanted something small. I also wanted a USB mic as I wasn’t looking to buy a recording interface at the moment. A bit of searching led me to the Samson Go Mic.
The Go Mic is tiny and hefty. It has an integrated stand that doubles as a clip. The mic is connected to the stand via a ball-mount mechanism for positioning, and the stand has a threaded socket for mounting to a microphone stand. I have it sitting on top of my monitor. It all folds up into a 1.5" x 3" x 0.5" envelope and comes with a little zipper case. Amazingly, it also has switchable patterns: omnidirectional and cardioid. And it was only $30!
After a bit of testing yesterday with FaceTime, it seems to have fixed my echo problem. It was reported to have sounded better than the internal mic and the C920 mic. I sit about 2.5 feet away from it; if I tried a little harder and positioned it closer to my face, it would sound even better. So the verdict is: Success! If you are looking for a possible solution to FaceTime/video chat echo on macOS while using an external webcam and speakers, this might work for you.
The only negative I have of this mic is that the USB connector:
- It is a USB mini-B and not the more modern micro USB.
- The connector is on the side of the mic, so when you use the provided cable, it sticks out the side and looks messy.
I remedied the second point by buying a right angle USB cable that plugs into the side of the mic but then routs to the backside of the unit.
My old group (my brother and our high school friends) are scattered all over the country. There’s no good way to play in person, and it gets us all together for a few hours every week to bull shit and hang out. ↩︎
Google Hangouts is murder on my processor. As soon as I get on, it pegs the fan. ↩︎
My pet theory is that the C615 has a mono mic and not a stereo mic like the C920 and that this somehow interferes with the echo reduction algorithm macOS uses. Another idea might be sample rate–the C920 input only goes to 32 kHz, while the C615, the laptop built-in mic, and the Go Mic all go to at least 44.1 kHz. ↩︎