The hunt for the perfect computer headset

Before the last couple of weeks, it’s hard to believe I used to hate headsets. Since then, my desk has been covered from anything between three and six headsets at a time supplied by the good folks at Sennheiser and Plantronics.

Comparing six different headsets at a time wasn’t easy and I owe many thanks to those who sat with me on Skype while I swapped from headset to headset, plugging and unplugging any one of the six identical USB plugs. Nevertheless, I was more than eager to jump off the webcam microphone bandwagon.

Since I know it’s a privilege to get to try so many headsets at once, I thought I’d post this list of pros and cons I found of each to make the decision easier for anyone else out there looking for the perfect computer headset as well. The first and my current favorite is the Plantronics GameCom 777 for its balance of comfort and sound quality.

Plantronics GameCom 777
+ Comfort: largest earmuffs of all the headsets I tried, does not press against ear, great for long-term use
+ Sound quality: impressive faux-surround with USB Dolby Headphone technology, some bass
+ Price: reasonable USD$99 RRP
+ Microphone: very high quality with good noise cancellation
+ Convenience: inline controls to control volume and mute microphone
– Build: plastic frame presses a bit tightly against head

Plantronics .Audio 995
+ Comfort: light build, reasonably sized earmuffs
+ Microphone: most realistic sounding microphone
+ Wireless: awesome around-house range, flexibility not having to worry about wires
– Wireless: day-long battery life, random output/microphone static with 2.4GHz interference

Sennheiser PC 333D Game
+ Sound quality: best sound output, true 7.1 input, impressive bass, great for movies
+ Microphone: very high quality, subtle deepening radio-like effect, “active listen” mode
+ Design: leather earmuffs and metallic finish
– Comfort: tight fitting ear muffs squish ear, discomfort over long-term use
– Price: a bit expensive at USD$179 RRP

Plantronics Blackwire C420-M
+ Build: office style headset, low profile, light frame
+ Sound quality: decent quality sound for size and profile
+ Portable: easy to pack and go
– Comfort: presses directly against ear, no outer padding

Plantronics Blackwire 435
+ Comfort: light, behind-ear does not press against ear
+ Build: discrete, does not look like headsets, can wear one or both
/ Sound quality: acceptable quality for style of headset, no bass
– Convenience: hard to put on, take off, plastic clip requires manual adjustment

Plantronics VoyagerPro UC
+ Comfort: feels like not wearing headset at all, light, rests comfortably around ear
+ Microphone: best noise cancellation for noisy environments
+ Convenience: auto-sensing answers Skype/phone when worn, tap to answer
+ Bluetooth: can pair with both PC and mobile at the same time
– Sound quality: mono, only practical for voice/Skype, music over A2DP streaming is undesirable
– Price: most expensive at USD$199 RRP

10 insightful thoughts

  1. What’s most important to you? headphones or microphone? And the microphone’s use? e.g. I’d think if your primary concern is the speech pickup of the mic, then go find out what StarCraft Youtube casters recommend/use, because that’s their bread and butter.

  2. I have been using Plantronics Audio 655 (wired version of the 955) since a year or so. It’s the best budget headset I’ve ever come across. I have changed around 3 headsets in a span of 2 years and Audio 655 is one year old and still going strong. The best thing about Plantronics’ headsets is they are value for money. You get good quality at a relatively low price.

    GameCom 777 was in my wishlist but couldn’t go for it as it was out of budget for me. IMHO, you should go for the GameCom 777.

    1. I also use the Audio 655 and have found them to be excellent headphones. Even though they’re bulky I carry them in my backpack for work to use with Lync, because despite the space they take up the audio quality both incoming and outgoing is superb. I have a VoyagerPro UC that I could probably use instead but I have issues using it on Lync for Mac (i.e., it doesn’t work at all) – Although I’ve used the Voyager with Skype and Cisco Jabber and still think the Audio 655 are superior. Another bonus is the sound quality for music is great on the 655, and when I’m on client sites they don’t know if I’m enjoying some iTunes while working :) Trying to listen to music through the Voyager set is painful.

  3. I am currently using the 995 model. I like them a lot and use them for BF3. The worst not is that the ‘leather’ is peeling off the earpieces. Otherwise, I like them a lot, almost as much as my GoW3 Xbox headphones.

  4. Long, how about I lend you my Sony MDR-XD200 headphones for review? You would absolutely ADORE the HD sound quality, ie when watching a movie for example with these headphones, it makes one feel like they are part of the action and has the surround sound effect (7.1)!

  5. I use a Jabra 620 Biz (USB, OCS/Lync certified). It’s absolutely awesome. It’s not hugely inspired, I don’t think it’s very expensive, but the call quality is fantastic, it’s light, and it’s something I can leave on all day. It’s very much an office headset though – one earpiece, looks like you work in a call center, and totally unsuitable for gaming or listening to music.

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