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Catch up remotely, loud and clear, with a USB microphone

They’re both “condenser” microphones, offering clearer sound than the mics built into your devices, but they won’t break the bank at around $150 each. They plug into a USB port on your PC or Mac and work with any audio/video conferencing, chat, podcasting or streaming service. You just might need to dip into the settings and tell it that you’re using a USB mic rather than the built-in mic.

While they’re both fantastic microphones for solo use, the Blue Yeti Nano has the upper hand when it comes to a room full of people. Both mics offer “cardioid” mode — which focuses on sound coming from directly in front of the microphone — perfect for capturing just your voice or people sitting close together. But only the Yeti Nano offers the option of switching to “omnidirectional” sound to listen equally in all directions; making it the better choice if you have people spread around the room.

The Blue Yeti Nano has an omnidirectional mode, so it can go in the middle of a group of people.

The Blue Yeti Nano has an omnidirectional mode, so it can go in the middle of a group of people.

When it’s time to chat with friends, sometimes my family sits at one end of the dining table and we place a notebook at the other end. Other times we all sit on the couches in the lounge room, sit the notebook on the coffee table and connect it to the television with a long HDMI cable so we can see our friends on the big screen. Plugging in a USB mic makes it easier for them to hear all of us clearly.

It sounds like a hassle but it’s actually a great way to share a meal with friends while we’re all stuck at home during the lockdown. Most video services let you include three or more callers and things can get a bit hectic, although after a while you get the hang of taking turns to speak and forget about the technology as you get lost in conversation.

This year we’vee had a few family birthday parties online, along with my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary dinner. Sadly we had to cancel the restaurant booking, but hopefully we’ll go out to celebrate their 51st instead.

Hour-long online video calls are nothing new in my family, as my brother and his wife live in Hong Kong, while my sister’s family lives on the other side of town. She’s having another baby but at this point it looks like my kids might end up meeting their newest cousin over Skype.

That’s fine; the important thing is to keep everyone safe. It looks like many of our social lives are likely to remain virtual for a while.

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