Zoom Audio for Two

people-looking-at-laptop-screen-image-from-shutterstock

Zoom Audio for Two: a reader asks…

I read and followed your previous article about using earbuds to listen to Zoom, which has helped immensely, thank you! I have a set of Skullcandy earbuds connected to an audio extension cord which is plugged into the headphone port of my desktop PC. If I’m listening to Zoom alone, no problem using the earbuds to hear better.  But if my husband and I are listening together, only one of us could hear through the earbuds, right?  Is there a way to connect two sets through the same wire if we got another set of earbuds?  I’m not sure it would work for each of us to take one earbud!  Also, my husband wears hearing aids, does that throw a monkey wrench into the solution? Second question, some Zoom sessions give us a weird audio echo making it hard to hear the other participants (we’re using speakers so we can both hear the audio). What can I do about that?

First off, sharing earbuds is not going to be satisfactory. Not just because you lose half of the hearing benefit of earbuds, but also because your husband will need the volume louder than you. Here’s what you need to do:

First, you’ll need another set of earbuds and audio extension cord. Here’s the links to those:

  1. https://www.amazon.com/Skullcandy-Noise-Isolating-Lightweight-Enhanced-Connectivity/dp/B004MWL1TQ and
  2. https://www.amazon.com/Auxiliary-Extension-Headphones-Speakers-Tablets/dp/B01N6RTS2B

Next, you’ll need two other bits of equipment: a headphone splitter adapter, and an inline volume control. Such as these:

Once you’ve got all that, connect ‘em up:

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  1. Plug the splitter jack into the headphone port on the front of the desktop computer.
  2. Plug the two extension cable jacks into each of the 2 ports on the splitter.
    1. Plug the inline volume control jack into the extension port for your extension cable.
  3. Plug the skullcandy earbuds in:
    • Plug your husband’s earbud jack directly into his extension cable port.
    • Plug your earbud jack into the inline volume control port.

Viola, you’ll hear audio through both sets of earbuds! Just don’t trip over those cords! Next, you need to adjust the computer volume:

  1. Leave your earbuds out, and have your husband wear his (with or without the hearing aids).
  2. Play any old Youtube video or music file, and turn up the Windows volume control till he’s comfortable and can hear fine.
  3. Then put your earbuds in and use the little wheel on the inline volume control to turn down the volume till you’re comfortable.

If your husband’s hearing aids are the in-ear type he’ll have to remove them to use the earbuds. maybe not for other types, he’ll have to experiment. My guess is if his hearing loss is moderate or less, it’ll be better to do without them and just turn up the volume on the computer as loud as possible.

I should note for other readers, you may be wanting to use wireless earbuds. That’s just fine, but recognize that most of those types of devices have a hard time switching between different devices, especially if there are multiple brands of equipment. Meaning, Apple Airpods work great switching between a Mac, iPhone and iPad, but have trouble connecting to a Windows PC. And other wireless earbuds may also have trouble connecting to other-branded computers. Simple and cheap wired earbuds are much more reliable and easy to use. In Zoom you’re sitting in front of the computer anyway, so the wire won’t be as big a deal.

echo-chamber-image-from-shutterstock

For your second question about Zoom echo, there are a lot of audio issues that are part-and-parcel with video conferencing. My recommendation is that no one should be using speakers to hear a Zoom meeting (webinars are usually ok because the sound is only one-way). Not to get all technical, but if the Zoom participants are sounding out your speakers for you to hear, your microphone is also picking up those participants. Instant echo! Zoom puts a lot of programming into trying to eliminate those echos, and does it pretty badly. As a result, conversations are often choppy, clipped, and frustrating.

That would all be solved if every participant on a Zoom call was just using earbuds to hear the Zoom conversation.

You using earbuds can help, but it seems like there’s always someone on a Zoom call that isn’t even thinking about this. It’s probably the same person who’s half off-screen, is sitting in front of a window (so you only see a silhouette), and forgets to mute their mic when they’re not speaking. I’d encourage you to tell everyone you Zoom with that they should be using earbuds or headphones!

Last point: For the most part, we can’t know how we sound or see how we look on-screen to others. Most people never test this out, and so Zoom calls are often more frustrating. I suggest each Zoomer spend a few minutes testing their setup – Start your own Zoom call, get a friend to join and then click the record button (record to your computer). Talk normally for a bit, and then end the meeting. You’ll see a zoom_0.mp4 file appear in File Explorer on Windows, or Finder on Mac. Double-click that to play it and you can see how you both actually sound and look. It should be illuminating!

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