Work from home: my homeoffice setup and gadgets

I have been working from a homeoffice for over 10 years now. But when travel stopped due to COVID-19, lots of things have changed even for me. This article is the beginning of a short blog series where I’ll highlight some of the tools and practices that work for me.

While it was always an option, video conferencing and online collaboration over-night became the new default and it seems like these trends are not going away anytime soon. And given my role, I spend lots of time on meetings with customers, partners & colleagues. I remember the old days when “virtual meetings” were “conference calls” and audio quality was the least common denominator audio codec of the participants dialing-in to a bridge. I can’t imagine going through six months of crappy conference calls so I am very grateful for the reliable and high-quality platforms that Zoom and MS Teams have offered us in these difficult times. We left the dark ages of conference calls and audio is now typically transmitted over a broadband IP connection – so even when I join a Zoom meeting on my phone, I don’t even consider to click the “call-back” option to join the audio anymore. Even when being on the road, the Voice-over-IP stability and quality is outperforming traditional phone calls dramatically.

My personal experience has been that a better audio quality has a very positive impact on productivity & focus and also provides a more inclusive environment. If people have a hard time following a presentation or conversation, a virtual meeting can become more exhausting than necessary. And people with hearing issues might not even be able to fully participate in an active conversation with bad quality. Therefore, I consider it a courtesy to my fellow meeting participants to bring the best possible experience to the virtual conference table.

Before COVID-19, I used a pretty standard Jabra headset and audio quality was average. But I didn’t spent this much time on video conferences after all. So since I upgraded my homeoffice setup a few months ago, I received lots of positive feedback – and questions about the equipment I use. So here we are 🙂

Webcam: I am among the lucky ones that got a decent webcam when all this started. I use a Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro WebCam that is mounted to the top of my monitor. It’s a decent device – even though I sometimes have the impression the camera has issues with focus.

Brio Ultra HD Pro WebCam
(Image from Logitech)

Light: my office has a decent sized window with lots of natural light coming in – but only on one side. So I put up pretty regular LED uplights in the other side of the room to get some better light coverage from both sides. And above my webcam & monitor, there is an Elgato Key Light Air because… well it’s there now and works. It fit nicely with my Elgato Stream Deck panel that I use for some desk automation – but that’s a different story.

Elgato Key Light Air
(Image from Elgato)

Audio: the audio setup has been a little more complicated. I experimented with a few things over time and looked e.g. at several Blue microphones but wasn’t 100% convinced. Coincidentially, there is this company named “Sennheiser” (you might have heard of them ;-)) which has their global HQ not too far away from where I live. And since Sennheiser equips lots of major opera houses, live broadcasting events and artists like Ed Sheeran with high quality microphones for decades now, I was sure they must have something for upping my Zoom calls as well. And what can I say? It’s been love at first sight.

So a Sennheiser Handmic Digital is now part of my homeoffice equipment and I mounted this into a standard microphone arm. What impressed me right away is the fact that it’s super easy to use – the “plug and play” promise is not just marketing. My MacBook recognized the device immediately and I have not configured anything special. It’s just a new audio device. The digital experts from Apogee are providing the technology for the digital audio converter and pre-amp that consolidates potentially multiple devices into a slick and all-metal body. It comes with USB as well as a Apple Lightning connectivity. My dear and beloved travel companion for more than 4 years, a Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless, as well as a basic 2.1 Logitech speaker setup serve me well from an audio consumption aspect.

Microphone comparison: MacBook, Webcam, Jabra headset, Sennheiser
Microphone comparison: MacBook vs. Sennheiser
Sennheiser Handmic Digital (Picture from Sennheiser)
HAUEA Microphone Arm (Picture from Amazon)
Sennheiser PSX 550 Wireless (Picture from Sennheiser)

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reach out via Twitter for comments or discussions!

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