Cordless Telephone Headsets

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted April 04, 2002

If you constantly talk on the phone, you may want to consider a telephone headset system that you can wear and that frees your hands and relieves that strain in your shoulder and neck. And if you often want to walk as you talk, a cordless telephone headset can be a major convenience.

Once worn only by telephone operators, headsets are finding their way into offices around the world, and for good reason. Headsets reduce neck, upper back, and shoulder tension. According to some sources, it is the telephone handset that causes the most work related disorders of the neck. And telephone headsets not only improve head and neck postures, the freedom that you obtain with your hands give you extra mobility.

Cordless telephone headsets combine the ergonomics of a telephone headset with the mobility of a cordless phone. With such a device, you're free to use your hands, get up and walk around to look for files and perform other tasks while maintaining contact with a caller.

Questions to ask when purchasing a cordless telephone headset include:


1. How comfortable is the headset and its accessories to wear?

2. How easy is the base unit, which you must use to activate the headset and that works with the telephone, to use?

3. How much battery life does the mobile headset give you? How convenient is it to recharge?

4. What is the range of the telephone headset-how far can you roam from your desk?

5. Does the headset give you options for adjusting volume, switching channels in case there's interference, and muting conversations when you need to?

6. How clear is the sound quality?

Logitech Cordless Telephone & PC Headset

John P. Mello Jr.
www.hardwarecentral.com

Famed for cordless mice and keyboards, Logitech has now added an untethered headset that not only gives you hands-free access to your office phone, but doubles as a headset with microphone for PC voice chat, videoconferencing, or speech recognition. And since it works in the 900MHz cordless-phone spectrum, it shouldn't interfere with your 2.4GHz wireless 802.11b network.

While phone-only cordless headsets used to cost close to $300, Logitech's Cordless Telephone & PC Headset System is just $80 (a corded version is available for $50). The device has three components: a base station that takes maybe 4 by 6 inches of desk space; a pager-sized remote unit that clips to your belt; and a headset with boom microphone, linked to the remote by a thin cord.

To set up the system, you unplug the handset from your phone and plug the handset into the base station, then connect the base station to the phone's handset jack with a supplied cord. Another cord is provided to connect the base station to the line-in and line-out jacks of your PC's sound card. We left the line-out plug disconnected, since the headset's monaural sound was a poor substitute for our desktop stereo speakers and subwoofer.

Logitech assumes your phone, computer, and the base station will be in close proximity to one another; the cord connecting the base station and phone is only about 14 inches long, and the one connecting the base to your PC only six feet long.

The base station - which has a convenient stand for storing the headset when you're not wearing it -- also connects to an AC adapter to serve as a charging stand for the remote unit. A red LED at the front of the station lights up while the gadget's nickel metal-hydride battery is charging; we think the LED would be more useful if it changed color to indicate that the remote's battery was fully charged.

The battery takes a torpid 12 to 16 hours to charge, which you must do when you first remove the system from the box. Fully juiced, it provides about six hours of talk time, or seven days of standby power.

After making all your connections and charging the battery, you may have to configure the base station to work with your phone. This is done with a six-position switch at the back of the station: You move the switch until you hear a dial tone in the headset, then place a call and determine if the person on the other end can hear you. If he or she can't, you need to move the switch to another setting.

Perhaps the base station's slickest feature is what Logitech calls a "smart switch cradle." When you're using your phone, you place its handset in the cradle, which tells the system you're using the headset for the phone. If the handset isn't in the cradle, the system knows you're using the headset for computer work. It's a dandy scheme that takes the hassle out of moving between PC and phone functions.

The headset can be used on the left or right side of your head, but we found it a bit stiff and not the most comfortable pate bridle we've ever worn. The set lived up to its claim of working up to 100 feet from the base station, giving you plenty of room to walk around when you're not keeping your hands on the keyboard.

The adjustable boom mic attached to the headset has noise-canceling capabilities to reduce background noise and amplification for improved voice input or control of your computer. When using the system as a cordless phone, the microphone sounded tinny, but when giving commands to the speech-recognition software included with Microsoft Office XP, it worked well.

The belt-clip remote unit has buttons for turning on the power to the device, muting the microphone, and controlling the headset's volume. You need to remove the belt clip to get at its battery compartment, but you shouldn't have to do that often.

The Cordless Telephone & PC Headset System is a clever idea that works as advertised, not only giving you hands-free freedom but making the switch between computer work and phone calls almost seamless. But while the headset's audio quality is adequate for computing tasks such as Internet chat, online gaming, or voice command, it leaves something to be desired as a replacement for a telephone handset or deluxe cordless phone-only headset.

Cordless Telephone & PC Headset System
Logitech, www.logitech.com
Price: $80

Plantronics CS10 Cordless Telephone Headset System

Wayne N. Kawamoto
Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com

The CS10 combines a 900 MHz cordless amplifier and headset and lets you talk on the phone within a range of up to 150 feet from the base unit. The CS10's base unit, which sits on your desk, is a vertical mini-tower that stands about as high as an average paper back book to save desktop space. The compact remote unit is about the size of a pager and easily clips onto your belt or into a pocket.

The remote unit slides into a repository on the base station where it automatically charges itself. The antenna on the base station has a little notch that lets you drape the headset over the entire unit. This makes the headset easier to store when it's not in use. There's also a pager function that helps you locate the remote unit in the event that you leave it somewhere and can't find it.

In use, the CS10 is comfortable and works well. To talk on the phone, put on the headset, lift up the receiver on your office telephone, and press the "talk" button on the remote unit or on the base station. If you need to walk around, slide the remote unit out of its base and clip it to your pocket or belt, and you're ready to walk and talk.

In our testing, we wandered around our offices, and despite the walls and even closed doors, were able to continuously talk on the phone and listen to sound that was clear and easy to understand. The remote unit comes with a rechargeable battery that the company says gives 6 hours of use.

A convenience, Plantronics sells an optional handset lifter that lets you answer and hang-up calls when you're away from the telephone. Without the handset lifter, you must lift the telephone's handset to use the cordless headset. The CS10 remote unit offers volume controls as well as a mute button. If you prefer an over-the-ear loop instead of a headset, the CS10 comes with parts that let you convert the headset.

It takes some experimenting to become comfortable with the CS10. The microphone sits a few inches from your mouth and does an excellent job of picking up your voice. However, because the microphone is so sensitive, you can experience some feedback through the headset when you're near your telephone. You'll need to adjust the volume and find an optimal level that lets you still hear the call and not experience feedback, or you may have to move the headset to a distant part of the desk each time you take a call, as we ultimately did.

The CS10 is easy to hook-up. The fold-out installation sheet offers clear instructions and pictures and we had our CS10 up and running within15 minutes. The CS10 connects to single or multi-line corded telephones. The downside is that you have to connect the cord from your telephone's handset to the CS10 base unit, and there's not enough room under the base station to easily accommodate a phone's twisted cord. Because of this, the base station has a tendency to rock and be a tad unstable.

A general problem with a headset system, and this goes for any system that we've used, you end up with a tangle of cables on your desk. According to the Plantronics Web site, the CS10 Cordless Telephone Headset System is supposed to come with a noise-cancellation headset. However, there was no mention of this feature on the product's packaging or in its documentation, and we heard no such improvement when using the headset.

If you prefer a cordless headset that offers dialing capabilities in the remote unit, Plantronics sells its similar CT10 Cordless Headset Telephone. The remote unit of the CT10 comes with a full telephone keypad that lets you make or place calls.

In all, Plantronics CS10 is a first rate product that effectively frees your hands and lets you comfortably sit or walk around as you talk on the phone. At $299, the CS10 is pricey, but it's a solid product that can save your neck.

Plantronics CS10
Manufacturer: Plantronics, Inc., www.plantronics.com

Price: $299

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