Conference interpreting microphones

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Conference interpreting microphones

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Conference Interpreting Microphones

Delivering clear audio is no small feat: there are many variables in play from the point where sound originates to how it is carried across the mesh of audio systems to the method of output. Clear audio for attendees and making sure everyone can receive translation without ambient noise and clipping is one of the many tasks language vendor techs perform during the event setup and throughout the duration of the event. Today we’ll talk about the origin of sound: conference interpreting microphones.

Integrated conference interpreting microphone

Bosch CDN IDESK
Bosch DCN IDESK

When it comes to microphones, they fall into three basic categories: the integrated microphone, which is attached directly to the interpreter console, the standalone microphone and a headset. Integrated microphones are conveniently packaged into the console itself: just attach it as you are setting up the event – and you are done. The problem with them is that they are uni-directional microphones, designed to capture sound only when spoken into from a specific angle. On one hand this eliminates ambient noise if another interpreter suddenly starts coughing or rustling papers, but on the other hand the interpreter working on this mic has to be conscious of where they are facing and keep their mouth close to the mic itself.

Since the mic is fixed, this means moving the station on the table, or hunching over if the desk is not tall enough or the console is fixed to the desk. In the heat of the moment, the last thing interpreter is thinking about – is where they are facing and how they are sitting. Interpreting is an exhausting mental work, and all attention goes into translating speech in real time. We have seen interpreters wave their hands, rock the chairs, spill over cups, face away and stare into a blank spot – all while delivering precise, real-time translation with impeccable tone and inflections.

Interrupting interpreter when they are “in the zone” and reminding them to speak into the mic – is the last thing you want to do. Technology should enable humans, and not the other way around. For this reason we recommend staying away from integrated mics if possible.

Standalone conference interpreting microphone

Shure microphone in a stand
Shure microphone in a stand

The second option is to connect a standalone microphone and set it up in a desk stand. Pretty much any industry-standard interpreting console will allow you to do this. Now, interpreters have a wider range of customization based on their interpreting style: they don’t have to move the console, and they can adjust the position and the height of the mic as they see fit.

However, the same problem persists: as interpreters start getting into the groove, all mic position goes out of the window. Unidirectional mics require you to be close to the membrane and speaking directly into it, otherwise the sound levels dramatically drop off.

Conference Interpreting Headsets

Sennheiser Interpreting Headset
Sennheiser Interpreting Headset

Finally, what we consider is the best approach – is the headset. Not only it allows you to run less cables (integrated headphone and microphone cable on the desk), it firmly stays with the interpreter, and once they position the mic the way they like, audio technicians can set the output levels to match up to passthrough broadcast – and you can be sure that no matter what’s going on inside the translation booth, the sound levels will remain where you want them.

It is worth noting, that it is useful to have gooseneck microphone handy just in case: some interpreters are very particular about what headphones they like, and they often bring their own headphones asking technicians to connect them instead. Connecting any standard headphone set is not an issue on most consoles, but now you are back to square one: what to do about the microphone? In case interpreters have only headphones, and not a headset, you can provide a gooseneck microphone with a flexible arm to act as a headset – it will stay fixed and keep the audio clear and free of ambient noise.

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Have questions about interpreting setup? We’d love to hear from you – leave us a comment or contact us today – our conference specialists will be happy to discuss your next event with you.

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