Headsets and Genealogy

I know it might seem a little strange to write about headsets but interestingly enough headsets demonstrate the progress (at least technologically) that we've made in genealogy.

I bought my first headset (Lifechat LX 3000) just before participating in my second webinar. That was back in January 2011 when Geoff Rasmussen pulled together a Rountable on virtual presentations for the first RootsTech conference. I was one of the virtual presenters.

It's funny to think that just that short time ago webinars were fairly new, not many presenters were giving them and the audience was still trying to figure out what they were. Over the next year to year and a half using headsets became standard protocol for presenters.

I would never have bought a headset if it hadn't been for the need to present webinars. I didn't use a headset in any capacity for work- or pleasure-related computer use. I didn't have a smart phone at that time so I didn't have any need to listen to anything from that source.

I'm sure some less backward people than I were using headsets but somehow it really didn't come up in conversation.

Now fast forward to November 2012 and we can see a real transformation in headset use. Not only are webinar presenters using headsets but so is the webinar audience.  Geoff Rasmussen often asks his Legacy Webinar audiences to check in before the start of the presentation. Members of the audience come on for a minute, provide their name and location and chat for a bit with Geoff. It's a fun way to put a face (or at least a voice) to an otherwise invisible audience.

Dear Myrtle is taking audience participation even further. In October of this year Dear Myrtle started a weekly series called Mondays with Myrt (you can see the calendar of upcoming shows or listen to archived copies of Mondays with Myrt). The program is run every Monday at 12 noon EST (9am PST).  Dear Myrtle is looking for more from her audience that just a quick check in. She is seeking active voice participation from her audience.  At any point during the show she could ask for live feedback from the audience.

Why Use a Headset?

Headsets allow users communicate by voice in a very clear sounding way. The headset microphone provides much better quality than the normal built-in microphone on your computer. This is essential for communicating by voice across the internet.

This is the wave of the future! This is also driving more genealogists beyond presenters to buy headsets.  The Lifechat headset mentioned above costs just $25. That's a a fairly affordable price point for most people.  But it still doesn't account for nerves. Some people still might be too shy to talk online in front of an audience. More and more people, however, seem to be becoming comfortable with it.

Genealogists are also using headsets to have Skype conversations (both audio and video) to conduct family history interviews, to work on joint research or to contact people back in the old country.

And what about me? Not only am I using my headset for webinars but I am also listening to podcasts and watching videos. The world has opened up for me and I am now embracing these new forms of media. Not a day goes by where I don't put the headset on to listen to something on the internet.

I even have two pairs of headsets now.  The Lifechat LX 3000 which has two ear pieces I now use mostly for pleasure listening. I've bought the Lifechat LX 4000 which has just a single ear piece for doing webinars and the Fieldstone Common radio show. That way I can hear myself talk.

What about you? Where do you stand in the headset spectrum? Do you own a headset? Do you use it for Skype, listening to webinars or participating in webinars? Or do you have a completely different use for it that I don't know about yet?  I would love to hear what you think of the headset evolution in genealogy.


  1. I have a headset and use it when the house is too noisy for me to hear or if I am listening to something "live" and want to say something...even though "saying something" is a little bit more intimidating than typing in a question or response!

  2. Very timely blog entry! I had just been thinking about getting a pair of headphones to enhance my webinar experience but had no idea where to start looking for a pair. Thank you Marian, I'll add them to my Christmas list and maybe have them for the 2013 Legacy webinars. Hope you're going to be doing some more?!

  3. I have a headset, but not with the microphone like the LX-3000. I copied the amazon site where I can buy it. I also copied the schedule for Mondays with Myrt (which may sometimes conflict with my tutoring). Wish I had 3 lifetimes to do all the genealogy that I would like to do!

  4. Thanks for the recommendation. I put the LX-3000 on my Christmas Wish List... my daughters always complain I have nothing on my list... ;-) I have heavy headset, but not with mike. Great suggestion. THANKS! ;-)

  5. On behalf of people with less-than-fabulous hearing, THANK YOU. I'm really frustrated when someone tries to use Skype, conduct a podcast segment or give a webinar with the built-in microphone (or worse, a telephone). If you can hear with that thing, good for you...but a lot of us can't. We're genealogists. We're mostly old. Some of us don't hear that well anymore. It's not rare.

    Good audio quality makes all the difference in the quality of the end product. I've seen great presentations that were useless because they couldn't be heard. It's a shame.

  6. I have a friend who works from home doing phone work. She was required to have a headset with a mike that blocks out all background noise (no dog barking or anything that might let the listener know she was not in an office). She uses one from TheBoom.com. They are expensive but they really block out any background noise. You might want to consider it as a future upgrade. I homeschool my kids and also do a little blog coaching on the side. I have used a headset both to hear better and to be better heard--and it leaves your hands free to use the keyboard. Most computers in this multi-computer household are equipped with headsets. In general, it keeps the noise down.

  7. Marian, I have a Logitech wireless headset to record videos for my blog, but beyond that they are great for listening to webinars or podcasts. I can now walk around the house, do my housework and still listen to whatever is happening on my computer screen.

  8. I bought that exact same headset a couple of years ago and found it hot and heavy. I felt like I was in a tunnel. Fabulous at blocking out all external noise, however. I speak in the past because it's long since buried in a box somewhere.

    Then I got a lighter-weight one. I use it A LOT and try to keep it off the floor between times because I've stepped on it occasionally or forgotten I'm tethered to a USB port and tried to walk away from my desk. I'd prefer a stand-alone mic. (I think.)

    Or a wireless one? Hmmm.


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