Choosing the Right Headset to Twitch/Record Shield Gaming

So you’re all excited to take your new Shield device online to do some serious Twitch game streaming and show off your prowess to the world.  Maybe you just want to record some gaming video and post it to YouTube.  Should be no problem.  After all, everything you need is built into the Shield Tablet and Shield Android TV (sorry, Portable users got left out); the software is there and your shiny Shield Controller has a built in microphone.  There is no stopping you.

What’s the Problem?

As you’re Twitching (or reviewing your recording) you hear this terrible noise.  It is the Shield Controller; buttons clacking, dpad clicking and analog sticks tapping.  Your Twitch followers complain.  You have to use noise reduction on your videos to lessen the noise.

Here is a good example.  The volume on the game is low as if to do a voice over – enjoy the clacking of the controller.  Imagine this while you’re talking.

[youtube id=”s6Oc9b6t-Ls”]

Here is an example with actual voice over being clacked upon.

You then realize that your Shield Controller has a headset jack.  You’ve probably been using it for headphones but yup – that little icon next to the jack denotes a headset.

But what headset to use?  NVidia doesn’t make one.  Your PC headset has TWO plugs (green and red).  What’s the solution?

We here at NVidia Shield Zone are here to help.  We’ve tried every scenario under the sun to get top quality voice-overlaid gaming on the Shield Android TV – and we finally found a solution.

What We Tried

Headset with Boom Mic
Headset with Boom Mic

PC Headset

PC headsets come in two flavors; USB and 3.5mm dual jack (one for audio, one for mic – usually green and red respectfully).  The plugs on a standard pair of headphones or “PC headphones” are known as “two conductor” connectors.  This allows for essentially for two channels of connectivity.  You can identify these by the plugs bearing TWO black rings (look at the picture to the right full sized).  You may see a red (mic) plug with a single ring – or “single conductor” connector, allowing monaural recording.

This is the most common type of 3.5mm connector configuration.

Obviously the USB jack will not work in the Shield Controller’s 3.5mm headset jack.  So that counts out USB headsets.

So, on the Shield Controller with a “two conductor” set of plugs; if you plug in the green plug, you get audio from the Shield Android TV through the headset; just like you would expect.

If you plug in the red one?  You get nothing; no audio – no mic recording.  That’s not how the Shield Controller headset jack works.  The Shield Controller jack is a “three conductor” connector. More in a minute.

PC Headset with a Dual 3.5mm Y-Adapter

Dual two conductor to three conductor adapter
Dual two conductor to three conductor adapter

They have adapters that will convert red/green “two conductor” connectors into a single, “three conductor” connector.  These can be had for a couple of bucks and they are available online everywhere.  Here is the one I bought from Amazon.

So, you plug your PC Headset into this Y-Adapter and plug it into the Shield Controller.  What happens?

You get very low, very poor audio and very low, very poor mic pickup.  The audio (even turned up to max) is very quiet and the mic is muffled and quiet – making it almost impossible to get a good quality mix when Twitch streaming or recording.

I’m no electronics whizz, but my research shows that 3.5mm “two conductor” connectors are traditionally created under the assumption they will be used with a device that contains some sort of “pre-amp”.  The Shield Controller appears to have enough power to shove sound through a standard pair of headphones, but not enough power to handle a Y-Adapter scenario. Conversions like this create impedance and I believe that’s what we’re experiencing here.

The conversion/joining of the signal must sap away enough power to cause the low, poor quality audio.

PC Headset with a Dual 3.5mm Y-Adapter With Audio Booster

Headphone Audio Splitter/Booster

Headphone Audio Splitter/Booster

There are in-line boosters for headphones.  They start at about $25 and go up from there.  I used the Brainwavz AP001 I got from Amazon.

These are typically used to take one headphone jack and split it into two sets of headphones (two people listening to the same music).  Since impedance degrades the signal (try a generic Y-Splitter for your headphone jack and see what happens to quality and audio levels) these special boosters not only split the signal but BOOST it as well – so both headphones get the same audio fidelity.

And for sharing some Lady Gaga with your friend?  It works as advertised.

However, with the Shield Controller, I tried one of these inline with both the green (audio) and red (mic) “two conductor” connectors without success.

The Cheap Pair of Earbuds w/Mic that came with your mobile phone

Brainwavz Delta Headset

Brainwavz Delta Headset

Oddly enough, we’re on the right track.  These earbuds with a mic built-in and usually little buttons to control the phone call or music playback are indeed 3.5mm “three conductor” connectors (if you have a REALLY OLD pair, it may be 2.5mm – which again won’t fit and if you try to adapt them to 3.5mm – you bring on impedance).

I used a very nice set from Brainwavz (the Delta with Mic unit) with the Shield Controller.  While it was greatly improved over the above solutions, it was still quite inadequate.  Even with Twitch’s mic settings tuned to 100% – you still couldn’t muster enough mic audio to get a good mix with game audio; what you got was “too quiet game with too quiet voice”.

Why do these work better?  My guess is that the mic used is much more sensitive for use with lower powered devices like cell phones.  I believe these are called “condenser mics” and they are designed for much better voice pick up than the “boom” mics used in PC headsets (which assume there will be a better pre-amp on the device).

Two different types of mics, two different audio results.

The mic is also dangling down to your chest – not placed right in front of your mouth like a boom mic would be.

To my knowledge, there is no in-line amplifier for a “three conductor” connector.

What Actually Works

A dedicated mobile device headset with a condenser mic in a “boom mic” configuration

Generic Dedicated Mobile Headset

Generic Dedicated Mobile Headset

So what we end up with is an over-the-head type headset designed specifically for mobile devices; condenser mic and a “three conductor” connector with no adapters, splitters or otherwise.  The mic is placed in the ideal position; in front of your mouth.

Specifically, this product at Amazon from a company called Fonus.  $15 and Prime Shipping.

I believe in addition to mobile devices, these sorts of headsets were created specifically for voice dictation; so the mic probably is of higher quality, better pick up and because it is in front of your mouth – you get a clearer, louder recording.

The trade off here is that these devices are designed for voice dictation and not really for great audio playback.  They usually have one earphone and no extras.  You may get a mic cut off button inline on the cord.  They vary in quality and price; the pair I’m using was $15 and works great – but the reviews essentially say they will fall apart before too long.  One review says he buys them in bulk and when one dies, he throws it away and cracks open a new one.

You can see by the photo to the right, I’ve already taped up all the “weak spots” pre-emptively.  I’m hoping by doing this I get a little longer life out of them.

See (hear) the final results in this video (might be a tad of profanity in there … I’m a passionate gamer):

[youtube id=”bYamDWvP9IQ”]

Final Words

Bottom line is; you probably don’t have the “right” headset in your home and what you do have in your home will probably frustrate you and produce results you won’t be happy with.

The Good News is; the right one is cheap. The Bad News is; the right one is CHEAP.  You may also have an issue finding the right one locally – and even online these things are disappearing.  There are a few companies on Amazon like Cellet that has similar product for even cheaper.  Be careful; there are many that are 2.5mm “with adapter” for 3.5mm.  I’m guessing these will be trouble.

We spent many hours trying everything we could – and this was our best solution.  If you have a configuration that works well (one we haven’t covered or just one we did but works for you) please leave a comment with your setup! We would love to offer our visitors another option.

One Response to Choosing the Right Headset to Twitch/Record Shield Gaming

  1. This post is perfect, straight to the point, well explain, what to buy and what not to buy. Amazing job! Thanks so much! I will be trying to get a cellet since apparently fonus is not findable in the UK. Keep it up!

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