Friday, March 9, 2007

Plantronics binaural DECT wireless headset

The wireless headset had been sort of an un-attainable "holy grail" in the phone business. Lots of models were developed, using infrared, radio, even electromagnetic induction.

The ones that worked, usually didn't work very well. Some had heavy packs on top of your head, or in your pocket or on your belt. Others had batteries that ran out before the end of the business day. One lost communication if you picked up a paper on your desk or turned away from your phone. Many were uncomfortable, or difficult to use, or sounded lousy.

Various technical improvements over the last few years reduced the weight and improved the quality, but there was still something missing: a BINAURAL model that lets you hear through both ears and block ambient noise.

I work in an office with THREE LOUDMOUTHS. Gary sings to himself. Marshall talks to himself and screams at others. Dave screams at Marshall to shut up. It's tough to concentrate on a phone conversation, or to fall asleep for my 11am nap, with the blather and blabbing in the background.

I've been using various binaural headsets for years to block the Terrible Trio's abundant audio output, but until yesterday, I was the only one in my office who did not use a wireless headset. I was the only one who had to be tethered to a desk while talking on the phone. I was the only one who couldn't continue a conversation while taking a leak or sending a fax or heating up some microwaveable ravioli.

All that has changed with the arrival of my new Plantronics SupraPlus Wireless Professional Headset System, apparently the world's second binaural wireless headset, and the first one that I want to use. (The first binaural wireless was the Chameleon 3010B, a heavy-duty model that lacks the noise-canceling microphone that I need in my noise-infested office.)

The SupraPlus Wireless is derived from the Plantronics SupraPlus wired headsets, which were derived from the earlier Plantronics Supra headsets. The Supra family has been very popular in corporate call centers, where comfort, durability and voice clarity are critical. Plantronics has been making headsets for years, and supplied the headset that carried the most famous misquote in history, the one that should have been heard as "...one small step for a man...," when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969.

Anyway, back here on terra firma, Plantronics developed some excellent wireless headsets. Their CS50 is tiny, almost weightless, and has spectacular sound... but it works with just one ear, so I didn't get one.

The new SupraPlus Wireless (which, by the way, is also available in one-ear versions and with voice tube microphones, for quiet environments) combines the physical quality of the Supra line, with the mobility and voice quality introduced with the CS50.

Like a growing number of wireless/cordless telecom products, the SupraPlus uses the new DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) 6.0 technology. It operates in the 1.9GHz band, free from interference from wireless LANs, microwave ovens, electronic toilets, and other devices and systems that can mess up headsets and cordless phones operating at 2.4GHz.

The SupraPlus Binaural Wireless permits conversations up to 300 feet from a desk phone, and has no problem going through walls and floors. Talk time between charges is about 10 hours, which should get most people through the business day. The headset is 80% recharged in just 90 minutes, and fully recharged in under three hours -- no more overnight waiting periods.

Its over-the-head design keeps the headset securely on your head while you wander around; and the long boom with noise canceling microphone maximizes voice strength and minimizes the transmission of ambient sounds, such as blabbing co-workers, ringing phones, noisy machines, barking dogs, and crying babies.

The SupraPlus Wireless is usually sold with a remote handset lifter, an ingenious device that allows you to pick up and hang up your phone by just tapping a button on your ear -- even 300 feet from the phone that's back on your desk. There are also on-ear controls for volume and muting, and tones will notify you of incoming calls, out-of-range, or low battery. It comes with both foam and fake leather ear cushions, and another cushion that can be put under the headband.

Installation should take under 10 minutes. The trickiest part is positioning the handset lifter for proper raising and lowering. Find the right spot BEFORE you remove the protective strips from the double-stick tape.

You have to unplug your handset from the jack on the phone. Then you use a short cord from the SupraPlus transceiver/charger base to connect it to the jack where your handset had been plugged in. Plug in the transformer, make a couple of quick adjustments, and you're ready for liftoff. The base had one surprise advantage over the headset switchboxes I used previously. There's no switch to select handset or headset. Your handset will work normally, unless you tap the button on the headset.

A few tips: (1) If you're using a phone that can be programmed for headset or handset use, such as a Panasonic KX-T7400 series phone, keep it in the handset mode. (2) If you are using a phone that has a dedicated headset jack, like many Nortel models, plug the wireless base into the handset jack, not the headset jack. (3) DON'T try to save money by skipping the remote handset lifter. It's a vital piece of the package, and you'll miss a lot of the wireless advantage if you don't get one.

Price for the SupraPlus Wireless Binaural is over $300, but it's a worthwhile investment that will avoid messy cord snarls on your desk, save lots of time, and provide privacy when needed. Now you can talk to important clients or engage in stealth calls with illicit lovers while in the the john or outside puffing on a ciggie in a snowstorm. Available at HeadsetHouse.com.
Plantronics has a new website, www.TheCubeFarm.com, with some wonderfully sophomoric/gross/offensive/funny short videos, that mildly promote the use of wireless headsets. Unless you're brain-dead or an old prude, you'll laugh your ass off. I particularly recommend "Ouch," "Urinal Mishap," and "Office Cowboy." Take a look, and maybe get motivated to buy a Plantronics wireless headset.

1 comment:

Mickey said...

That CubeFarm stuff is very funny shit, like the fake commercials on Saturday Night Live in the old days.

I'm amazed that a "respectable" company has the balls to do it. I hope it doesn't kill their NASA business.

Plantronics must be desperate, or very confident. Good for them!