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Using a compressor with a cell phone headset

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Rockin Mike, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I get on a lot of conference calls with multiple people coming in at different volumes. Some are painfully loud, some are barely a whisper. Sennheiser has what they call "ActiveGard" technology, but it sounds like that is a high-threshold limiter to protect your hearing from being damaged by insanely loud spikes, like feedback or some interference producing a loud squawk. I'm thinking a compressor would be the perfect device to smooth out conversation volumes, but I don't think anybody's made one for this purpose.

    Would it work to get the proper adapters and run signal from my cell phone's headphone jack to a stompbox compressor and then out to my headset?

    What would be a good compressor to use for this?
    runs on 9v
    make-up gain, threshold, ratio controls

    I understand the signal would get reduced to mono, but for telephone calls that's fine.

    I'm thinking of this sort of thing:

    Anybody have other ideas or suggestions?

  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It could work. I haven't tried it, so I don't really know for sure, but it's at least plausible. I would suggest looking for a comp with a wider range of input gain control than the Mooer, and ideally with some sort of meter to show when it is working. But of course this is not something you'd want to spend a bunch of money on, I understand.
  3. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I don't think it's going to work quite as hoped, if at all.

    The problem with conference calls is that you've got people dialing in from cell phones, sitting 10' away from star phones, office phones, Lync phones with speakerphones, Lync phones with headsets, and various other means. The system hosting the conference call (whether it's your company PBX, your local provider, or whatever) is doing all of the compression it can on the audio signals to even things out as best as possible. The root problem is really the end user or the end user hardware.

    With that said I don't want to say it won't work at all, but in my 10 years of working on huge corporate phone systems I've never seen a vendor come in with this as a fix for these common issues.
  4. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Considering this is to solve a big problem at my day job, which is my main source of income, it wouldn't be the dumbest thing I ever spent money on.

    YOY doesn't somebody just build a comp for phones?
    FWIW why doesn't somebody build a comp for home theater? The differential between conversation and explosions in movies is just stupid.
    And why does every movie have to have so many darn explosions anyway? Has creativity left the building?
  5. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    This probably isn't helpful to mention, but this problem is extremely easy to solve if you use a VOIP system instead of phone lines. Maybe you could suggest at work to switch over?
    bluesdogblues likes this.
  6. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I think if an analog audio signal has peaks they can be compressed. The downstream compressor has no "knowledge" of what happened to the signal previously.
    It may wind up sounding squashed, or the noise floor may come up too high, but it may be worth a try.

    It's just not possible to get a bunch of non-musicians to do a sound check at every meeting. Heck it's hard enough to get musicians to do it!

    I'm not an audio engineer, but having a mix device with gain structuring & leveling (not compression) on each channel of an incoming conference call doesn't seem like an impossible dream. Just have a prompt asking people to count to 10 in their normal speaking voice, and adjust their level before they are joined to the conference.
  7. Don't know what phone/OS you're using but..

    All recent builds of non-carrier versions of Android (CM, AOSP, Kang, etc) should have a built in software compression for in call volume. I use it to pacify the volume differences I experience while on conference calls for work.
  8. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I don't know what kind of systems they're using but it's a big bank so I have to assume they did the cheapest thing possible.
    On my end I have a corporate-issued cell phone and a cheap headset from Wal-Mart.

    Buy a more expensive headset?
    I'm not so sure... I think that will just let me suffer through giant loudmouths and little whisper people with better clarity.
    I mentioned Sennheiser ActiveGard above, but I think that's a peak limiter with a really high threshold and I don't want to spend $150 only to find out it won't help.
  9. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Dumb phone. Some kind of LG flip phone.

    That's good info, though. I will take it to my boss and see if an upgrade is an option.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    What phone are you using?

    If it's the LG flip phone you mentioned, obviously that's not analog and is already compressed via the codec. Unless it's lossless

    Just switching over to a new VoIP system is likely in the tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade depending on the size of the company or office. PBX, phones, PRI's, analog lines for faxes, new data switches, wiring costs, etc. For an office with roughly 100 seats you'd probably be looking at at roughly $40-$50K just in hardware, not including the data switches. Then you'd need someone to program it and install all of it.

    EDIT: I see it's a big bank? They likely have their own "standard" system type that they would refresh with. Upper IT management would be the ones deciding on what offices get upgraded first.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  11. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Huh? I think you're talking about data compression to reduce bandwidth demands on the transport network.
    I'm talking about audio signal processing compression to reduce amplitude peaks in the waveform.

    Completely different animals, it's unfortunate that we have to use the same word for apples and oranges here.
  12. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011

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