Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Tale of Three Headsets

Different headphones suit different needs. - Marco Arment

I own a lot of headsets and I keep buying more. I'm not looking for optimal audio quality, I'm buying and testing them because I want to find the optimal functional feature set and there doesn't seem to be a one-size fits all headset for me.

  1. I travel on the train and in the car and take a lot of phone calls. I want a headset for my phone that has the best noise-canceling microphone around.
  2. When I work from home I spend all day on phone/video conferences using my computer. I need a headset that works with my computer and is rock solid.
  3. I listen to Podcasts, Audiobooks, and iTunes radio while I'm out and about on the train, at the mall, etc. It's got to be low profile and stereo - when I use the earbuds that came with my iPhone, the cord gets snagged on drawer knobs, door handles, and other randomly annoying things ripping the buds out of my ears.

VXi BlueParrott Xpressway II with Xtreme Noise Suppression - this thing is a fantastic bluetooth headset for my phone and has the most amazing noise-canceling microphone I have ever found. I was walking down the San Francisco street talking with Mrs.Chaos as a huge truck went rolling by. I couldn't hear anything; I couldn't hear her. I kept talking. When it passed I asked how well she could hear me. The answer? "I didn't even know there was a truck going by. You sounded fine." I approve of their trademark for "Xtreme Noise Suppression(TM)."

The Xpressway brags about it's ability to multi-plex between multiple devices and I thought this was going to be something that would work for both my phone and my computer, but in practice it didn't work well with my computer at all. I don't know why I could never seem to get it to consistent connect via bluetooth to the computer and stay connected. It would show "connected" in the Mac menu bar, a call would come in, and then it would disconnect. I found my best bet was to start listening to Pandora on my computer through the headset, make a call, and then pause Pandora and that worked decently, but even then I couldn't always get Pandora to stream through and that doesn't work at all for incoming calls.

Logitech Jabra BH410 USB Headset - So I decided for use on my computer I wanted something rock solid with a wire that ran from the computer to the headset and got this Logitech headset. There's nothing fancy about it; it just works. I don't need noise canceling in my home office. I am still considering getting a fancier wireless headset, but haven't yet. Most of my calls are video conferences, so I can't get up and walk out to the kitchen to get coffee without people noticing and asking where I'm going.

This combo of headsets worked okay for me, but when I would head out in public I felt like the biggest dork wearing my Xpressway. That thing has a gigantic boom mic - which is great for conference calls, but not stylish at all. I went looking for the bluetooth equivalent of Apple earbuds to wear when my primary goal is to listen to Podcasts, Audiobooks, music, etc.

Jarv NMotion - I just got these things are they are just want I wanted. The fit snugly into my ears, there is a little cable that drapes around the back of my neck, and I wear them all the time as my earbud replacements. They are seriously nice. I still have some muscle memory when I'm use my phone to avoid the dangling cable connecting my earbuds, until I remember I don't have a dangly cable anymore.

That's where I am with earbuds these days. I am still hoping eventually their will be some other single wireless option that will work rock-solid with my computer and my phone for phone calls - but until that time I'll settle for two.