I use Skype a lot these days for keeping in touch with family and friends around the world. Computer to Computer calls are free so it makes a lot of sense to use it
However are you getting the best from your Skype set-up?
Because of the small delays in transmission across the internet it is possible that you might get an ‘echo’ coming back to you, which can be quite distracting.
Whilst Skype works with nearly all computer set ups. I don’t recommend using the built in microphone and speakers on your laptop. You can improve the performance of your set-up by just plugging in some earphones/headphones in to the speaker out socket (normally the green socket) on your laptop or computer. This will isolate the incoming audio from your outgoing audio via the microphone.
You can use the earphones/headphones you use on your iPod or music player, the quality isn’t too important as we are only dealing with speech quality. If you are going to use loudspeakers then try to not have the volume too high.
By using an external microphone in the form of a headset, your outgoing audio will only be your voice and not fan noise and the system will adapt better and your audio will be less ‘boomy’ due to the room acoustics.
Using a headset I’ve found to be the best option. They come in a couple of varieties standard analogue audio ones, with standard audio connectors (3.5mm jacks) or USB ones. I have been using a USB one for some time and it just plugs in and works.
You might want to look for one that has a mute switch for muting the microphone when you need to talk to your other half or you want to sneeze without blowing everyone’s ears out!
If you are doing video calls then also consider getting a decent quality webcam, the ones built in to netbooks are normally very good, but if you don’t have one built in to your computer don’t go for the cheapest. The person at the other end will be able to see you sure… but they will be seeing quite a poor quality picture like looking at your face looking through a cheese grater!
These improvements also apply to any other Voice Over IP service such as Google Talk, Windows Live, Google + etc etc.
Below are some of my recommendations. Enjoy.