Revised Guidance for Interpreters Using OSX

macbook-proIn recent weeks we’ve been investigating a problem where an interpreter is using a Macintosh computer. The combination of a Macintosh and an analog headset often results in a tremendous amount of echo sent into the conference.

When this problem occurs the interpreter is the source of the echo. They never hear the echo, but literally everyone else on the conference hears it loud and clear. In fact, it’s often so loud that it makes normal conversation impossible.

We have researched this matter exhaustively. We conducted our own laboratory tests,  engaged headset manufacturers, and held test calls with many interpreters. We have determined that OSX Sierra itself is the source of the problem.

As a result we are updating the requirements for interpreters using ZipDX. Any interpreter using an Apple computer running OSX Sierra MUST use a USB headset to interpret using ZipDX.

What’s An Analog Headset?

An analog headset is one that connects to the computer using a common 3.5mm mini-plug, as pictured below.

Analog HeadsetThis is in fact the most common type of headset. While the example shown has a boom-mounted microphone, perfect for an interpreter, they come in all styles, from ear-buds to gaming and call-center headsets.

If it connects to the computer using a standard mini-plug it’s an analog headset and cannot be used to interpret if you’re using an Apple computer.

What Are The Alternatives?

Happily, there are some good alternatives:

Sennheiser SC60 USB Headset(1) Use a USB Headset

A USB headset, like the one pictured right, is completely digital. It bypasses the computer’s built-in analog sound chip, so it’s not impacted by this echo problem.

We’ve long recommended USB headsets for use by interpreters. In fact, we maintain a list of recommended USB headsets. Each headset on the list has been tested by our team to ensure that they meet the needs of interpreters using ZipDX.

We try to review new models regularly, so that products we recommend are current offers from major manufacturers.

(2) Use a Different Computer

This may seem a little extreme, but it can make a lot of sense.

The echo problem only occurs with Apple computers running OSX Sierra. If you plan on doing a significant amount of interpreting via ZipDX it might be worthwhile to invest a different computer specifically for the task.

Acer R13 Chromebook side

That can be a very inexpensive computer. For example, we’ve found Chromebooks to be both inexpensive and very capable. Like a Mac, they’re simple to use. Unlike a Mac, they start at less than $200 USD.

We’ve had good results with the Acer R11, which has an 11.6” display. If you prefer a larger screen, the Acer R13 (pictured above) is also available.

Remember, interpreting over a Wi-Fi connection can be unreliable. If you decide to try a Chromebook, be sure to get a small USB-Ethernet adapter. That will provide a reliable, wired network connection to ensure that you sound your best.

(3) Run Windows on the Mac

The more technically proficient may decide to run Windows on their Apple computer. Apple’s Boot Camp allows Mac users to switch between running OSX or Windows on their Apple hardware.

While this is a real, workable solution, it requires that you purchase a Windows license, install and learn to use the software. That level of effort and cost makes this approach impractical for many people.


As an interpreter, your voice is your product. To deliver a good experience to your client it’s imperative that you sound great.

Given what we’ve learned about Mac OSX Sierra, we now mandate that any interpreter using OSX MUST use a USB headset when interpreting using ZipDX.


If you have questions about any aspect of ZipDX please contact our support team at:

We’re here to help you get down to business.

Posted in: Multilingual

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