Joe Leech

A better desk and better Zoom calls

It was time to upgrade. My desk was bowing, cables everywhere and I looked washed out on calls.

Now I have a much calmer, nicer place to work. I’ve upgrade my webcam to a proper camera and have a solid mic to make things much nicer for the people I work with.

The desk

The desk is an Ikea kitchen worktop. It’s beautiful and most importantly solid, so if I’m typing there is very little noise. The smell of the wood makes me happy and being a kitchen work surface it’s tough.

The camera

The man Snook opened my eyes to the difference a good camera can make.

Before

I look tired and emotional

After

Joe Leech
Hello sailor!

I use a Sony a5100 DSLR Camera which at £250 is a great option, it’s 8 years old yet it’s far better than my old Logitech c920 webcam. The Sony is HD with some great optics. Colouring is better and depth of field is there meaning the focus is on you.

I use a generic HDMI to USB adapter (a steal at £20) which means that Zoom, Hangouts and others see the camera as a standard webcam. This YouTube video is a great guide to using a DSLR camera as a webcam.

Audio

I bought a Rode Pod Mic, it’s a dynamic mic which in retrospect was a mistake as it needs a beefy audio interface to power it. But it does sound fantastic.

For an audio interface, basically to power and convert the analogue mic to digital USB I bought a Focusrite Scarlett Solo, mostly as it looks great, it’s red after all (spot the theme here). The levels were too low so I bought a Fethead to boost the levels. You can use Audio Hijack to the do the same in software. It’s not perfect, but it sounds great and I can adjust the audio levels so that I really have presence.

If I was to do it again I’d buy something like the Elgato USB mic, which is one box (ie no audio interface).

I’ve got a standard, red, mic stand.

Bringing it all together

Thanks to DSLR Video on YouTube I discovered the greatness that is monitor stands. I use a monitor stand for my camera and mic and one for my monitor. They allow me to move everything around. At only £15 plus another £8 for an extra arm I have a really versatile system.

I can move the camera to the side. Move my mic under my monitor for closer, more intimate podcast recording.

I use a Velcro, neoprene tube for cables. It’s easy to cut into sections for managing cable and looks smart

Overall I’m really happy with how it’s turned out. It’s a more comfortable, relaxing place to work and much nicer experience for everyone I work with.

Other bits and pieces

LG 34” ultrawide monitor, a great thunderbolt enabled 4K monitor.

Mac Mini, so much better with thermals than a laptop. I went with the 6 core. Also an easy upgrade to 32gb RAM. I use a laptop stand to help cool it further.

Bravo Audio v2 headphone amp with an old English Mullard valve / tube. Powered by a Dragonfly (you guessed it) Red. The valve gives a lovely warm sound. Like being given a big hug.

I really do

Monoprice c565 magnetic planner headphones with some lovely Sony extra soft ear pads.

Overall it’s a more relaxing place to work and most importantly of all it’s a much nicer experience for people on the other end of my Zoom calls.

Thanks for reading and yes those are all Amazon Affiliate links.

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5 replies on “A better desk and better Zoom calls”

Tim says:

Very sound advice ! Trying to improve my work desktop as well as improve Zoom calls over Christmas and New Year

Steve Parry says:

Joe, nice site – saw your _Underscore post which brought me here. The Bath Digital Festival looks v interesting too. I’ve signed up for a workshop. Also use Macs – an M1 MacBook Pro just bought. I was thinking of getting a monitor but not ultra-wide and not so pricey as yours. This review was good: https://tidbits.com/2020/12/18/lg-27uk850-w-an-acceptable-27-inch-display-for-the-mac/ but I can’t find any for sale in the UK! Can you recommend a 27″ LG normal aspect ratio one?

Joe Leech says:

Hi Steve, I had a Dell Ultrasharp 4k before and I really liked it. Not sure who makes the panels.

Ricky Takhar says:

Hey Joe,

I am planning on having a similar setup with the a5100 but with a camlink 4k for zoom, teams calls etc.

Did you experience any sync issues with audio and video on your calls and if so how did you resolve this.

Thanks,
Ricky

Joe Leech says:

@Ricky no sync issues here. I’m on a Mac mind you. Not sure if it differs by OS.

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Helping you do the right things, in the right order, for the right reasons

I'm Joe Leech and I coach leaders and founders to radically improve their business, their team and themselves to create world leading tech products. Work with me.

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