How to dine together separately
November 14, 2020 11:16 AM   Subscribe

We are going to have Thanksgiving "together" with 4 people seated on one side of a picture window and 4 on the other side. 2 people are hard of hearing. Any suggestions on how improve the audio beyond "2 phones on speaker phone"?
posted by arnicae to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dry erase markers for the window
posted by aniola at 11:36 AM on November 14 [7 favorites]

You can get a microphone and a long cord, and plug it directly into a powered speaker/monitor. If you talk to someone at a music store they can probably set you up pretty easily. This should be much much better than using a phone, since the sound will be instantaneous -- no delay.
posted by amtho at 11:36 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]

Amtho would that work with speakers on both sides? Just to be challenging 1 hard of hearing person is on each side of the wondow...
posted by arnicae at 12:18 PM on November 14

I think you would just need to have two separate systems.

Get a speaker and plug it into wall power on one side (side/table A), then get a microphone (the right one to pick up all the people on the other side of the window), position it on the table on the other side (side/table B), and get a long enough cord to connect it to the speaker you set up on side A.

Then, get a second speaker to set up/plug into the wall on side/table B, and set up a microphone on side/table A, and set up a cord long enough to connect the two.

Two speakers and two good microphones might be a little expensive. Maybe you already have some stereo speakers that would work. You can also find a lot of super cheap microphones at thrift stores, but they might or might not work well for this - probably not, but you can experiment. You might need to get some cable converters to connect them to the speakers.

Microphone cables are a little pricey, too, but maybe you can find less expensive ones.

I am not an audio pro, I just happen to have tried this with a new microphone I bought and it worked pretty well.

Oh, you probably _know_ people with speakers and microphones, too, so ask around.
posted by amtho at 12:51 PM on November 14

Go and find a couple "Mr. Microphone's". Usually found as a kids toy. A microphone that transmits on a FM channel that you can pick up on a radio. Some come with the microphone and a receiver/speaker/tapeplayer. The kind of gift an uncle gives to nieces just to annoy their parents.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:18 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]

Two-way baby monitor (a coffee shop near me is doing this to order and it worked surprisingly well)? Have the phones sending audio to Bluetooth speakers for better quality at higher volume and so the person talking can hold the phone?
posted by momus_window at 2:35 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]

If you use two separate systems, you’re going to have to be VERY careful about feedback (when each microphone picks up the output from the other speaker in an infinite loop and it creates that horrible screeching sound.
posted by mekily at 4:11 PM on November 14 [4 favorites]

Do the HH folks have hearing aids? Do you know if they are the older kind with FM receivers or the new kinds with blue tooth? If they have the same kind you might consider a setup that has microphones transmitting directly to their hearing aids rather than to a speaker. However, if they don't have hearing aids or have different receiver types, that might be an issue.

FM is easy for the hearing aid as it's just a switch. However blue tooth requires pairing with the transmitting device.

edited to add: FM is easy as in functionality, but would require specific (expensive) devices you might not have access to. I had access to FM systems as a student which was provided by my school but never owned one.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 7:42 PM on November 14

Hard of hearing people often pick up, out of necessity, a basic lip-reading skill. This will be needed even more when clear direct sound is replaced by a speaker. Be sure they can clearly see you talking through that window.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:15 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]

2 phones on speaker phone would sound pretty okay if everyone is wearing a headset. Of course, then you might need a phone per person, but that usually isn't too difficult. So maybe just using Zoom or Google Meet, audio only would work?

But yeah, if you want sound in the room, you're going to need a nice speaker on each side. You could go with a phone call, and use a smart speaker (like a Google Nest or Alexa device) for the phone audio. That would certainly be a lot better than the phone speaker.
posted by nosila at 2:25 PM on November 16

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