Image: Zoom

Clearly hearing other people during a Zoom meeting can sometimes be difficult. A participant’s microphone or audio itself may not be of the highest quality. You might hear unwanted echos from the audio. And with many of us working from home, background noises from inside or outside the house can disrupt a meeting.

SEE: Zoom 101: A guidebook for beginners and business pros (TechRepublic Premium)

Zoom provides a few ways to enhance your audio. You can test your speakers and microphone and adjust the volume before a meeting to find the best quality. You can suppress background noise with different settings from low to high. You can also clamp down on any audio echo that pops up during a meeting.

First, make sure you’re running the latest version of Zoom. At the main screen, click your photo or profile icon and select Check for Updates.

At the Settings screen, click the setting for Audio. The first thing you may want to do is check your speaker and microphone. Make sure your speaker is set to the correct source and click the button to Test Speaker. The graph for the Output Level should then move along with the audio. If you hear the sound clearly, great. If no sound comes out, click the dropdown menu for Speakers and change it to a different source. Here, you can also adjust the volume via the slider bar (Figure A).

Figure A

Next, make sure your microphone is working properly. Click the button to Test Mic and say something. The graph for Input Level should move as you speak. Wait for the playback of your voice. If you don’t hear anything, click the dropdown menu for Microphone and change it to another source. By default, the volume adjusts itself automatically. To manually set the volume, uncheck the box for Automatically adjust microphone volume. You can then change the volume through the slider bar (Figure B).

Figure B

Zoom offers a way to tone down any background noise that might make it difficult to hear each participant during a meeting. By default, the setting for Suppress background noise is set to Auto, which means that Zoom will apply moderate background noise reduction when necessary and that music will not be treated as background noise.

SEE: Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Skype: Choosing the right video-conferencing apps for you (TechRepublic)

If you find that background noise is still a problem, you can adjust this setting yourself. Click the dropbox menu for Auto and choose from among Low, Medium, and High.

  • Low means minimal background noise reduction, blocking only low levels of persistent noise.
  • Medium means a reduction of such common noises as fans or pens tapping.
  • High means a more aggressive reduction in noises such as the crunching of paper or typing on a keyboard.

If background noise is an issue, you may want to play with the three different options to see which works best. You can also change the noise reduction level per meeting based on the participants and the surroundings (Figure C).

Figure C

Zoom plays a ringtone to indicate an incoming call, a noise that can be annoying and obtrusive. You can use separate audio sources to hear both the ringtone and the audio from your participants. To do this, check the box for “Use separate audio device to play ringtone simultaneously” (Figure D).

Figure D

Click the Advanced button. The setting for Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone disables Zoom’s audio enhancement features. You would check this setting only if your own microphone includes its own audio enhancement capabilities.

Next, the Echo cancellation setting is set to Auto. This setting tries to cancel any echo or feedback that may occur from multiple audio sources that are active at the same time or are too close to each other. If you’re still hearing echos during meetings, click the dropdown menu and try the Aggressive setting (Figure E).

Figure E

If the audio quality of your meetings still isn’t up to par, you have a couple other options. Instead of using the built-in webcam on your computer, you can plug in a headset or earbuds with a built-in microphone. You can also plug in a dedicated microphone and still use your computer speakers to hear the sound. After connecting your headset or microphone, return to Audio settings and change the source for speaker and/or microphone (Figure F).

Figure F

Finally, if audio quality is of paramount importance, you can opt for a phone call instead of computer audio. Zoom offers toll and toll-free numbers, but only for paid accounts. To set this up as an option, sign into your Zoom account webpage. Click the link for My Account. Go to Settings and scroll down the page for Meeting until you see the section for Audio Type. You can then change the type to Phone Call. When you host or schedule the meeting, make sure to choose Phone Call and then select the necessary options for the call. Of course, you can also elect not to use computer audio and then turn to a third-party conference service outside of Zoom.

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