I was looking for another desktop USB microphone for my second desk. Currently I’m using a wonderful Blue Yeti with my Mac on my main desk (or Studio A as we like to call it), and every time I do a screencast or podcast on my Windows workstation (or Studio B as we’d like to call it), I have to bring over the Blue Yeti.
So I discovered the ZAFFIRO Desktop USB Mic, for over $100 less. I thought I’d give it a spin – and I really like it. Here’s what I found after a couple of weeks of working with it.
In this episode I’m taking a look at two lapel microphones by ZAFFIRO. They’re both called “Lavalier Lapel Microphone”, and the description is more or less identical on both items – yet there are significant differences between these products.
I bought both of them back in March 2018, and given the sound quality and amount of accessories you get, for less than $20 each, these mics are good bargains for casual users. But no matter how detailed (or vague) their shop descriptions are, and no matter how hip the people in those pictures look, you can only really judge a microphone by what it sounds like.
In this review I’ll tell you all that I’ve learnt in my six months with the ZAFFIRO lapel mics.
Ever since Lion, Mac OS X 10.7, there has been a great and very underrated feature built-in to every Mac: the ability to highlight some text and have macOS turn it into an audio file.
This is a wonderful way to listen to written text while you’re on the go, or if you want to skim through text you or others have written while you’re occupied with another activity, such as walking or driving. I love this feature!
I’ve seen the option in the context menu many times, but I’ve never dared to use it until today. Perhaps I held off for so long because the option reads “add to iTunes as Spoken Track” – and I’m just not a big fan of iTunes.
Turns out, this text-to-audio option bypasses iTunes altogether. It doesn’t open automatically and we won’t need it to transfer tracks to our iPhones either. What a relief!
Yesterday I had to transcode some audio files recorded with Quicktime on macOS. Quicktime works great for that, but it only stores files in its native AIFC file format. That’s the Audio Interchange File Format, a format developed by Apple in 1988, storing audio data as uncompressed PCM data.
Sadly though, AIFC is not commonly readable by many applications, and as such the data needs to be transcoded to be used successfully elsewhere. And Quicktime offers that option too, simply by choosing File – Export – Audio Only. This will create an MPEG 4 audio file with the M4A extension.
While that file sounds fine, and its size is only a fraction of what the original AIFC file was, this transcoding process does not allow us to choose which compression algorithm to use upon export. As it turns out, Quicktime introduces a very good, albeit lossy compression when it exports files in this manner.
I wondered if there was a way to extract uncompressed lossless data from the AIFC file, and how to do it. If Quicktime didn’t let me, perhaps there was another way, maybe using some kind of free software tool.
All we have to do is open a Finder window, right-click the AIFC file in question, and select Encode Selected Files at the bottom of the context menu. We can even select multiple files and transcode them all at once.
When we do that, a dialogue window comes up. This may take a moment or two, so don’t get nervous if your Mac doesn’t respond instantly to this request (like I did).
Now we get options! We can pick destination for our new files, and we even get the choice to delete the original AIFC file if we so desire (and if we’re confident enough about this workflow’s capabilities).
The best option we get though is that we can pick how the file(s) are to be transcoded though. While we do not get these options during the Quicktime export process, which appears to use the “High Quality” setting (and probably the same tool under the hood), with Finder we can choose the Apple Lossless codec.
From what I understand, all three options apply a lossy AAC compression in varying degrees, resulting in different file sizes, data rates and of course different levels of quality. The only one that stands out is the Apple Lossless setting, which creates a file still smaller than the AIFC file, but with lossless compression, in M4A format.
The resulting M4A output is readable by a wide range of applications.
Thanks, Finder! I didn’t know you did Audio Encoding so well 🙂