Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Counting to Ten

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TNT

I’ve been plagued with low mic levels for my interviews for months. People say they have trouble hearing me. So I did a few things to deal with the issue. I ordered a Shure SM7b, which is the microphone you’ll see in about half of the radio stations around the country. It’s what Michael Jackson used when he recorded “Thriller”, so I’m pretty sure that won’t be part of the problem.

I also decided to try two gadgets that are supposed to be better for my signal than the Behringer mixer I have. The Tube MP Studio Preamp, and the Onyx Blackjack Audio Interface. The preamp, I’m told will boost the output from the microphone. All it did was add hum. And the interface becomes a soundcard for my PC that will provide better, digital sound to my recording software than the analog output the mixer currently delivers. Instead, all it did was give me very low microphone output and delete my previous and primary sound device/driver within Audacity. Maybe they work well in other configurations, but I couldn’t make it happen. And there was collateral damage.

I found that out when I went to Dragon, a transcription software that I use with Audacity. Audacity used to show that device as one of a series of selections when I opened it to use with Dragon. That selection is gone now and I’m pretty sure it went away after I installed the Onyx software. And, I guess that selection was also used by my telephone answering software because now, it won’t play the outgoing message I recorded. As an aside, I had also ordered a new USRobotics 56K USB modem that is supposed to work with this software and let me add high quality voice functions, but the modem I got was data and fax only. I have been wrestling with different modems for this software, called EZVoice, for months. Anyway, I had to dig around to discover USRobotics had a firmware update that added voice. I was about to send it back because I thought I’d ordered the wrong one. Turns out it was the right one but nowhere on the box did it say “voice” even though it did in the online description. Ugh.

Why do companies do that? Why do they design their installations to kill anything else in your PC that is even remotely like whatever it is you’re installing? They say it’s to prevent conflicts. But it seems to me it’s more about market share by eliminating the competition. And what if it doesn’t work and you have to uninstall it? You can’t go back to your old software because it’s been destroyed.

So, I uninstalled the Onyx software thinking that maybe it was blocking or hiding the original sound device, called “Line 10 – High Definition Audio Device”. When I open Audacity, it’s still not there. And when I go to “Sound” in Windows, it’s there for speakers and microphone; the Onyx is gone. But I can’t make the microphone or the speakers, under either the recording or playback tabs, enable the old software. I go a couple forums and figure out that HDAD is a Realtek product, a generic. So, I download it and reinstall it onto my PC (Thank you, Realtek). Meanwhile, I unplug all of the new stuff, repackage and rebox it while I dig around for my receipts. As pretty as this new stuff is, pretty don’t mean shit if it doesn’t work. At least my old setup worked, if poorly. This stuff doesn’t work at all and I tried every configuration I could think of. Annoying.

So now, everything is working as it was … no, I take that back. The telephone answering system with the USRobotics modem configured to Windows 7, works. Two small victories; a well done undo, and a voicemail system that finally works as designed.

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