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Looking for good audio recording quality without spending a fortune on headphones with mic

While my old Plantronics headphones produced pretty good sound quality in my screen-capture recordings, my replacement Plantronics headphones produce poor sound quality. I record a lot of instructional screen-capture recordings for clients. Good audio quality in those recordings is a big deal.

I know it's possible to achieve reasonably good audio quality without spending a fortune on the headphones. What do I focus on when I make my next headphone purchase and configure those headphones with my laptop?

The Headphones - The physical headphones themselves are probably the most important piece to good audio quality. Is there an independent agency that rates audio quality of headphones. I checked, Consumer Reports rates headphones, but not headsets.
The Audio Driver - Believe it or not, I've achieved pretty big differences in audio quality by swapping out drivers. Is there any literature on this?
The OS - I'm not sure it matters at all, but I can use my MacBook Air or my Windows 7 laptop.  
Other Factors - Are there other factors that affect sound quality? USB standard? The quality of the USB circuitry attached to the motherboard? Is USB the way to go? My old Windows 7 laptop has an analog audio port.
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jdana
Asked:
jdana
3 Solutions
 
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
Here's some reviews here, but it's really a personal thing - open, closed, noise-cancelling, 7.1, in-line volume controls etc.  

http://lifehacker.com/5896076/five-best-headsets-with-attached-microphones

You might find it easier to find some plain headphones that work for you, and then buy a separate clip-on microphone
http://www.audiocheck.net/soundtests_headphones.php

or even the Antlion ModMic
http://www.modmic.com/
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BillDLCommented:
>>> "my replacement Plantronics headphones produce poor sound quality" <<<

I suppose the key question here is what exactly is it about the recorded audio that makes it inferior to the other headset?  For example:
- Too tinny / not enough bass response, or too much bass and boomy or muddy.
- Capturing too many extraneous noises such as room sounds, breath noises.
- Crackling or hissing in the audio.
- Latency issues.

Once you are able to quantify what aspects are making the captured sound inferior it is usually easier to evaluate the causes and make suggestions.

Are you listening back to your recorded voiceovers using the same headset you recorded with, or are you comparing the results through external speakers?
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MereteCommented:
jdana your question is heading in the wrong direction.
In my humble opinion headphones have nothing to do with recording quality.
That is playback only.
You say>screen-capture recordings<<
The source of your recording is the key.
When you capture off a screen including the audio
 whatever it is!
 that is already a second stage since you are recording what is on your screen, computer? not a live sound.
It has passed through your computers sound card.
So what are you capturing from a screen and is this on a Laptop or desktop as you mention.
The Laptop or desktop should make no difference either since source is going through the sound card.
So I need to know what is the source? that is coming in through your sound card?
Records? cassettes going into your computer?
Are you recording your vinyl and or cassettes< here you can have some control over teh quality.
Or a youtube video?<< if so you can't control the quality
Webpage?<< again you can't control the quality since it is not owned by you.
What tool are you using to capture? this is also important
Please post back what it is your capturing and what you using?
To record my records I used two different systems at various times, one had the media source off the audio card Audigy Sound Blaster, it was a software included with the sound card to capture and edit audio.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_Blaster_Audigy

and on my system I used Audacity a free open source to record the source audio off my records, Audacity also has lots of noise cancelling and tools to fix some of the hiss or crackling. I also used it through the stereomix.
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/39532/how-to-enable-stereo-mix-in-windows-7-to-record-audio/
The Laptop and the desktop may play a part here as the laptop may not have the stereomix depends on the sound card.
Laptops use a smaller motherboard and the mic headphones are integrated from one source the onboard sound chip. So setup differs fro recording audio as it has inbbuilt speakers unlike the desktop.
 a desktop when you look at the back of the tower there is up to 6 or 8 audio sockets.
cheers
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MereteCommented:
Any progress?
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jdanaAuthor Commented:
DanCh99,  BillDL, and Merete,

Fascinating responses. Thanks. I'm actively playing with different combinations to try to eliminate the hiss.

J
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BillDLCommented:
Thank you jdana
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