How can two people have simultaneous Zoom calls in a small space?
November 22, 2022 1:24 PM   Subscribe

We live in a small home (300 sq ft), and there are no walls subdividing the space. Is there specialized equipment we can buy so that we can both be on Zoom calls without our voices bleeding over to each other's calls? We sit about 10' apart and can face away from one another.
posted by 10ch to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not super specific (sorry!), but I'm thinking you could actually face *towards* each other (preferably with a visual screen because otherwise that sounds distracting) and each have a strongly directional mic pointed at you.
posted by dusty potato at 1:29 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]

Hopefully this isn't too obvious, but headsets, with over-the-ear (or better yet around-the-ear) headphones and boom microphones right in front of your mouths. Even cheap ones, like this or (better) this. Call centres have more than 2 workers per 300 square feet, I assure you.
posted by Superilla at 1:37 PM on November 22 [22 favorites]

A headset is a good idea even if you're not in the same space as someone else. It's usually much easier to hear someone with a headset than someone using their laptop mic.

If you could hang a thick-ish curtain between the two of you, that would go a long way.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:43 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]

Definitely a headset with a microphone. We use them in our office, and it's just fine. You might want to think about adding background white noise to the space as well.
posted by plonkee at 2:10 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Yes, Headsets. The best thing I purchased when I started working from home was a gaming headset that completely covered my ears. Even know that I am back in the office, we still have mostly zoom meetings, and they help a ton. The Hyper X Cloud Alpha S are more than I spent, but they look real nice. I purchased the Steelseries Arctis 1, which seem fine to me. But look around, there are probably lots of sales right now.
posted by eckeric at 2:35 PM on November 22

My husband and I are sitting about six feet apart in our home office. My husband is a loud talker with a desk facing east and I am a long talker with a desk facing north. We have had multiple rounds of noisy home renovation/demo going on since we both started working from home. Headsets with dedicated microphones - we both have Jabra but different models - are key.

The actual issue we face isn't that the other parties can hear our background noise, but being distracted because we can hear each other which the "over both ears" headphones help with but can't entirely mitigate.
posted by sm1tten at 2:47 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]

Setting aside headsets: a potential software solution is It's effective, but better at obviously unprofessional sounds like high-pitched children's voices. You'd have to try it to see if it will disambiguate your voices and silence the wrong one. Other dampening methods will make Krisp's job easier.

For the space I'd look at more rugs, rugs or other fabric hanging from walls, more fabric art, more plants. Any dampening you can put on or in the ceiling will really help. Improving insulation in the flooring will help. Green Glue and QuietRock are brands to look at and will lead you to some helpful forums.
posted by michaelh at 2:56 PM on November 22

Yes, you should be on over-ear headphones and using a close mic. You can be judicious with the mute button. Software may filter it a bit (especially hard to remove one human voice from another)

But two people that close to one another are going to hear one another. And so are their microphones.

The suggestions for a divider of curtains, blankets, and even just a laundry line, are right on. Something needs to soak up those voices that are bouncing around.
posted by bug138 at 4:15 PM on November 22

One of my employees was in exactly this situation during the pandemic. On any given day, either her or her spouse worked from the bathroom.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:25 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]

In addition to a good headset you can use push to talk to ensure you don't broadcast when you don't mean to. Would be too annoying for a 1 on 1 call but good for a group context where you're not speaking a lot.
posted by Nelson at 4:29 PM on November 22

Could you get a cheap half-wall for one or both of your desks, or a removable riser thing, the way they have between cubicles? I shared a very small office for two years that had a bulletin board thing dividing our jammed-together desks. I’m sure it had some sound-absorbing properties. We were both able to talk on the phone throughout the workday without issue.
posted by saltykitten at 9:34 AM on November 23

Ikea has various sound absorbtion products.
posted by meemzi at 4:10 PM on November 23

There's a difference between omnidirectional microphones and unidirectional (or 'cardoid') microphones. The USB microphone I use (Antlion--it magnetically attaches to my headphones) has a switch so you can switch between the two.

Omnidirectional mikes pick up noise from anywhere. In my experience they tend to sound better but at the cost of picking up every other sound in the room.

Directional mikes, if positioned correctly, tend to just pick up the noise from your mouth.

By the way, Windows Voice recorder (just type voice recorder in the Windows search box) is a great tool to test out your microphone/headset. You can have someone in the room talking while you talk into the mike so see how well it captures your voice vs other room noise.
posted by eye of newt at 12:25 PM on November 24

Zoom has a background noise setting that has a few levels and seems to work well. I’ve used it to drown out noise from a 5-way intersection, the streetcar outside my apartment and the thumping radiator.
posted by bendy at 10:11 PM on November 26

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