Update: October 2018
My Plantronics headset died last week and the Logitech stopped charging. I went to get another, but I can't even find the Plantronics anymore. Looks like I will have to find replacements. In a pinch, while I was headsetless, I tried using the Blue Yeti for calls, but people on the other end of those calls were saying that the sound was weird, hollow. I'm investigating now but so far nothing has even come close to the Plantronics, I know that, unless I get very lucky, I am going to have to compromise. The question is: Which compromise do I want to make? My current investigative notes are at the bottom of the page. This entire post will be updated when I finally come to a decision.
If you work remotely, chances are you spend a lot of time on the phone, on web conferences, and virtual meetings. For you to be productive, the other end of the call has to be able to hear you clearly. There can't be much in the way of background noise. You've got to be able to hear them. And the headset can't be uncomfortable or you'll be distracted to the point of missing important conversation.
When it comes to headsets, I've got REQUIREMENTS
First, I'm a conference call power user. Some days it feels like I spend the entire day on audio and web conferences with my customers. (I like to be able to virtually look over their shoulders to see what they're doing. Often that's the key to helping them out.) Because I sometimes wear my headset for hours on end, comfort is key. Earbuds are not an option: they hurt my ears after only a few minutes.
Second, I'm a pacer. I pace when I talk and get distracted when I can't get up and move around because I'm tethered to my computer. For me, a wireless USB headset is a must.
Third, as a woman, a boom microphone makes all the difference in the world. I've found that any other headset, like the typical cell phone headsets, the microphone often will not pick up my voice when using it as designed. I always have to hold the microphone part up to my lips for the other side of the call to hear me clearly.
Fourth, I use a Mac, a PC, and a Chromebook, so any headset I have must work with all three.
Fifth, I'm a headset power user for the office not for gaming. Where other reviews focus on Dolby ratings and uncompromising sound quality, I don't. Those requirements aren't mine and aren't as important as the others I've listed.
Last, in my case, cost is a bigger factor than many of the factors that most reviewers care about for gaming or music listening. In fact, both of the headsets I recommend are less than $100. I've gone through a lot of headsets in my time and I don't waste.
For the record, I picked both of these up to try then out simply to find out if either would work out when my current headset was retired. I had no idea either of these would work out as well as they did.
In the Office
In the office, my go-to headset is the Plantronics GAMECOM 818.
These have on-ear, cushioned ear cuffs and a boom microphone. They are so light and comfortable that sometimes I forget I'm wearing them.
They hold a charge all day, function while they're charging, and charge quickly.
I've had several occasions where I forgot to plug them in at the end of the day so they would be ready first thing the next morning. An hour plugged in will generally charge them enough to get through the first call or two. This is a big step up from the old version that was down for the count until they were fully charged.
Of all the wireless headsets I've tried over the years, these have the best range by far. I can go anywhere in the office without interruption or getting spotty coverage during a call. That alone makes these a winner for me. (With the older, non-gamer version of these I would lose contact in certain spots.)
While these don't have the light on the end of the boom microphone to remind you that you're muted, there's a simpler indicator: if the boom is down you're live; if it's fully raised, you're mute.
All the same requirements I have in my office apply when I travel, and a few more. Just because I'm traveling doesn't mean I'm not constantly on web or audio conferences.
Unfortunately, most headsets don't travel well. I've had several break while traveling, leaving me in the lurch. In fact, the one I use in my office isn't the same as the one I travel with.
For traveling, my go-to headset is the Logitech G930 Wireless Gaming Headset.
The gamers have had a real impact on equipment in terms of quality, comfort, and durability. I'm happy to take my lead from them in this.
The sound quality is very good. They've got a noise-cancelling microphone, so anyone listening on the other end doesn't hear a lot of background noise. There's a light on the end of the boom mike that turns on when you're muted (a handy reminder). You can also lift the boom mike to mute quickly.
Like my office headset, they're on-ear, cushioned ear cuffs. They're very comfortable. When I travel, I'll often wear them longer than when I'm in the office because since I'm not in the office, I've got to call there too.
They've got a good battery; they'll last me all day. If I forget to charge them at the end of the day, an hour plugged in the next morning will usually give them enough charge to get me far enough along. And luckily, they work while they're charging as well, if I'm in a pinch.
From a travel perspective, the ear pieces twist so the whole thing lays fairly flat. They don't fold up, but flattening is almost better. All the headsets I've had over the years that folded ended up breaking or losing contact in one ear piece within a year or two.
For Web Broadcasting (in the office)
I have one final configuration that I use when broadcasting or recording video. I've included it here as an addendum. I don't travel with this set up but that's because I can adjust to compensate for my travel schedule and I want to keep my video production stable and professional.
I give webinars and video training frequently. My training isn't one-way. I need to be able to hear questions from the attendees. I don't want a big, bulky headset on camera. I need more than webcam and one of the headsets described above.
This configuration solves that problem. There are three components:
First, the Logitech C922x webcam is reasonably priced for the quality of it's video capturin capability. It has a standard camera mount on the bottom, so you can either perch it on top of your monitor or mount it on any standard tripod.
The Blue Yeti USB Microphone is one of the microphones you hear about if you do any kind of reading about podcasting or video casting equipment. One of the big keys for me is that it's sensitive and can be directionally focused, meaning you can have it off camera and still pick your voice up strong and clear.
The other thing the Blue Yeti has is a standard earphone jack on the bottom. Just earphones. The microphone function is part of the Blue Yeti. This means you've got a wide variety of standard music listening earphones available to you to use. I like these. The ergonomic fit of the soft, interchangeable earbuds make these comfortable for me to wear all the way through the webinar. It's also got a reasonably long cord that I can tuck behind me so it doesn't appear on camera.
Together, all three give me a good audio track, the ability to interact with the attendees, and a clean, uncluttered video image. And when I put my backdrop up behind me, it's even better!
Want more articles like this?
If you want to read more articles about requirements gathering, how it's done, and a few examples of how to make sure you get the right tool for you, you should read these:
In case you're wondering, here are the headsets I tested and any problems found. For all the headsets, I tested sound on a Skype call (a live person and with the Skype Test Call function), Camtasia recording, and on a recorded Zoom meeting, since these are the three main use cases I care about.
The Corsair Void PRO has an over-abundance of old-school packaging, but is currently the front runner. Currently on sale at their website for $60 ($20 off the regular $80), they have solid sound, are light and very comfortable. Like the Logitech, the ear pieces fold and rotate. That, combined with the lightness, makes it a little awkward to put on. On the Skype Test call, this one had a weird warble sound on playback that didn't happen elsewhere. For now, this is the leading contender.
The Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum is has a weird echo plus a hiss. The microphone produces a very tin-can, echo sound. It also picks up a background hiss on audio recorded using this headset. This one also shuts off - not truly off, but it turns off the microphone (i'm guessing in an attempt to save battery). As a result, it's an inappropriate choice for office headset wear. You can't leave it on, ready to pick up calls, or while you're waiting for someone else to join the call.
The biggest problem with the Logitech G533 is that it shuts off - not truly off, but it turns off the microphone (i'm guessing in an attempt to save battery) but doesn't make it easy to turn back on without pushing the microphone all the way up then all the way back down. (Something I figured out after trying everything else.) As a result, it's an inappropriate choice for office headset wear. You can't leave it on, ready to pick up calls, or while you're waiting for someone else to join the call.
Of the three, it did the best for women's voices, but still picks up a weird background hiss that you can hear on audio playback.
Avantree DG59. Stay tuned.
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