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Basically, I'm concerned that if I use a microphone---or, the microphone function on a headset---the speaker-sound will feed back in to the microphone as well.

Use case: playing computer games with friends. I want to communicate with voice, but I'd also like to get the immersive experience of my 5.1 speaker system. Music or sound effects will constantly be going on in the game, and I don't want to transmit those over the microphone---just my voice. Also important, when my friends' voices come out of the speakers, I don't want to transmit those either.

So, do microphones these days do some kind of background-noise cancellation? Would a headset work better? (And if so, can I use it for only the voice function?) What about a Bluetooth thingy; would one of the products made for cell phones be good at noise cancellation?

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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

To eliminate echo from your side you have three options:

  1. Use headsets and DO NOT use your 5.1 speaker system - sorry.

  2. Use push-to-talk.

  3. Try using dedicated software to cancel the echo. There are several software products that can be installed. It is a very complex mathematical task but basically what they are doing is subtracting the audio coming out of the speaker from the audio entering in your mic. This is called AEC (Acoustic Echo Cancellation). You can google for it. I am personally using SoliCall Pro to do this task.

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I believe some microphones specifically made for voice chat have this feature built in. –  oKtosiTe Jan 20 '11 at 10:46
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Usually this isn't a problem, particularly if you use push to talk rather than voice activated. Feedback may be an issue if you have the mic a long way away (and hence high levels on it to compensate), but i've used the mic from a cheap ($1) headset laying on my desk for the last few years after my old mic (a full studio boom mic) broke, and apart from a little less quality, there's no difference.

Then again, if you have your speakers way loud, it may be an issue.

edit: That said, a headset will do you better overall, but then you have to wear it just to chat to your mates when not gaming, so its swings and roundabouts.

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I agree; I have a 5.1 surround sound setup as well, and as long as I use push-to-talk it's not too bad, but you can't do voice activated or leave the mic open. –  Herohtar Jan 19 '11 at 21:22
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A headset will eliminate the possibility of feedback problems. Your friends may notice the benefit more than you do. Latency in the system may mean that your microphone feeds back to them a delayed echo of what they have just said. This can be very difficult to talk over.

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So if I used a headset for the mic ("input") but the speakers for "output", this delayed echo wouldn't occur? Or would I need to use the headset's headphones, i.e. use the headset for both input and output? –  Domenic Jan 20 '11 at 2:41
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The problem is sound getting from the loudspeakers to the mike. The simplest solution is to use headset or headphones for listening. –  RedGrittyBrick Jan 20 '11 at 10:17
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Here's an interesting point: Even the cheapest integrated sound cards today do things such as echo and noise cancellation. Many will even cancel all sounds coming from the computer, including fan noise. For example I have Realtek ALC268 on my laptop and have no problems with feedback and microphone is around 15 cm away from speakers.

If your card doesn't have such features, you may want to consider getting one that does. Since you mention that you want immersive experience of your 5.1 speaker system, it would be a good idea to get a good card to go with speakers.

Also, I had 5.1 setup in the era before there were sound cards with such fancy capabilities and I never had any problems with feedback, but the sound effects did go through.

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