Every Impression Matters – Home Office Setup

This blog post started out as “maybe I’ll post a list of my home office setup” since I’m periodically asked about it and audio quality in particular – especially the orange microphone. 😉 Polishing it up to put in a blog post felt more worthwhile than regularly resending the same rough email.

If you’re looking for that list, feel free to jump down to the bullets below. However, posting this got me thinking about “why” I’ve spent so much time on this over the years.

Simply put, my goal is to communicate well….plus I’ll admit I like to tinker (something common for many of us in IT I think). Over 12 years of working from home, I’ve slowly but surely improved my setup with a recent focus on video and audio quality to up my game in WebEx/Zoom meetings, webinars, and recordings in general. Previously I’d focused on general productivity.

In particular, I’ve noticed that mediocre audio and video quality is the norm on WebEx/Zoom meetings (and that’s not meant to be insulting to anyone). There’s a ton of research on the power of first impressions as well as the power of good audio quality to help with effective communication + persuasion. Overall, I consider this to be an investment in both my personal productivity as well as my overall effectiveness. If I’m always seeking to improve myself in other professional areas, why not my equipment as well?

Ironically, most of what I’ve done isn’t all that expensive – it’s within reach financially for most people that work from home IMHO. Amazon Free Returns are your friend as well.

To be clear, I’ve paid for this myself – no sponsorships/free items from manufacturers. For evaluating Amazon review quality/fakeness (sadly Amazon reviews are NOT reliable), I like fakespot.com and camelcamelcamel.com is great for watching price trends & setting alerts when a price drops.

Here’s what the setup looks like from where I sit (although you can’t see some items).

Yes, I cleaned my desk. And yes, that’s a Cal Ripken baseball card in a custom Lego baseball card holder (courtesy of my son). I also highly recommend fidgetland.com fidgets.

And here’s what it looks like when I’m on calls with video on…or in this case, recording an internal, non-formal video.

Without further ado, here you go.

  • Microphone ($60) – ATR2100-USB
    • Excellent sound quality for the price – this does require your mouth to be within 1-2 inches for good sound quality. For me this is a net benefit as insures noise from kids at home won’t be heard on work calls. I can also play Zoom audio through my computer speakers and this won’t pick it up at all.
    • I’ve looked a LOT at alternatives (Rode Podcaster for instance) but keep coming back to this. The directional audio pickup is a real positive for me.
    • Review that convinced me with audio samples – https://marco.org/podcasting-microphones
    • https://amzn.to/2ucGCJ1
  • Microphone Arm ($15) – basic but works just fine. Mounted on the side of my desk so can swing the microphone out of the way when not in use.
  • Windscreen ($2-6) – pretty much whatever you want – matching the color to my company’s color (Pure likes orange) is fun to do.
  • Webcam ($50) – Logitech for 1080P and general higher lens quality. I’ve had comments that this is noticeably sharper than built-in webcams.
    • There’s even a cool “Camera Settings” Mac app that lets you “RightSight automatically moves the camera and adjusts the zoom to comfortably frame meeting participants.”
  • Lighting ($10 each) – super important for video. I replaced the previous BR30 70-watt equivalent bulbs with these for better and more light. 1800 Lumen (120W equivalent) BR40 LED.
  • Webcam mounted on Acer 24” monitor ($199 each) – “2K monitor”. Not needed but it’s the right height and 2560×1440 is a good value for the money. These were $199 when I bought them and make it quite wonderful to have 3 monitors at home.
  • Backup Sennheiser USB headset ($40) – almost as good audio quality for travel or alternate use. Also used by some podcasters.
  • Anker Wireless Charging Stand ($15) – supports 7.5W iPhone charging. Much more convenient than a cable and the low profile fits well.
  • MPOW Headphones ($30) – very cheap, very good for listening to music. They fit tightly yet comfortably to block out sound when need to focus.
  • Under-Desk Headphone Mount ($12) – goes perfectly under the side of the desk to hold the Sennheiser and MPow headsets
  • Laptop Stand ($25) – inexpensive but works well.
  • iPad Stand ($15) – iPad used as alternate device, for Zoom, for white boarding remotely.
  • Logitech Crayon ($50-60) – less expensive than an Apple Pencil but has same tech for drawing on an iPad minus the pressure sensitivity. I used carpenter pencils a lot in the past so prefer the shape – this is how I whiteboard on an iPad.
  • Backup Hard Drives – used to Time Machine since the laptop has a 1 TB SSD.
  • Airpods (gen1) – great for listening to webinars, calls when need to wander around the house but don’t have to say much (no real noise cancellation).
  • Plantronics Voyager 5200 – best headset I’ve used of many over the years. This is what I use when don’t want to be tethered to a wire at home (I pace while taking) or when traveling. Great noise cancellation and battery life – I’ve had good success with buying these and others from Amazon as “Used – Like New” to save a few dollars.

Things I’ve considered but haven’t done yet are…

  • Standing Desk – I’ve got a desk set from when I was in college that is really solid. Disassembling it would be a major task – maybe some day.
  • Better Chair – the one I have is decent but not super adjustable. Haven’t figured out yet if I just need to sit straight or a better chair would keep me from slouching.
  • Super-wide monitor – right now for Zoom meetings it’s really nice to have video full screen on one monitor, shared documents on another, and the third for notes/other use. Having a single superwide and closing the cover on my MacBook Pro is tempting.
  • Other Microphones – I’ve spent more time than I should reading up on other podcast/amateur quality microphones (Yeti Blue, Rode Podcaster, etc.). So far I keep coming back to the ATR2100.

I’d love feedback from anyone reading this (comments below or @andriven on Twitter). While I’m fairly happy with my home office setup right now, I’m also continuing to iterate. 😉

One thought on “Every Impression Matters – Home Office Setup

  1. Pingback: Random Short Take #29 | PenguinPunk.net

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