Sunday, October 10, 2010

New USB microphone: Plantronics 655

Wait a moment, I never told you about which microphone I got.

So when you get Dragon NaturallySpeaking you get a free microphone in the box. I really like this microphone as it's free and I only had to pay $100 for Dragon to get it. As a rule, free stuff you get with other stuff you have to pay for is good. The best place to make use of this philosophy is at a convention where you get a whole bag of free stuff for going to the thing you had to pay for which you can then throw at people you went with and sometimes they even give it back which is all good but I digress.

After buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking I started to use Skype quite a bit. I used my Dragon NaturallySpeaking headset with Skype. If I could digress once again I'd like to point out that anyone who's not using a headset of some sort when talking with Skype is inflicting terrible pain on the other person. Whereas the person with the headset is producing beautiful, CD-quality audio without any background noise but I was not using the headset is creating an echo chamber full of background chatter, claiming pots and pans any inevitable crying baby noises.

Okay, now what was I talking about again? Oh yes, my old headset with intent to use that as a lead-in to my new headset. Well, that kind of went off the rails. Man, you'd think I'd be able to fix all this by editing it after I dictated it. Too bad Dragon is dictating this in "pen mode" and I don't want to leave any whiteout on my screen. Oh well.

So anyway, Skype got me addicted to headsets and I started to use it more and more often. Then Starcraft II came along and my life would never be the same again. You see, I play Starcraft II with a friend over Skype. This is great but the Dragon headset really isn't up to the task. For one thing it only has a speaker for one ear. For another it seems to be meant for someone with a really skinny head. After a few hours of playing it becomes extremely uncomfortable. So I went out and got myself a good, new, stereo headset.

What I got was a sort of middle middle-of-the-road Plantronics 655 USB headset. My intention was to use this headset for games and for dictating to Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Also keep in mind that my friend Guillaume had written a very nice article explaining how to purchase a headset for use with Dragon. As a result I also got a stereo, noise reducing, USB headset.

So far, it's worked quite nicely for both Starcraft II and Dragon. Having the full stereo headset makes a huge change for Starcraft II. I can hear a pin drop and can drop a siege tank on the poor SCV that dropped it. I can also dictate to Dragon NaturallySpeaking very nicely too. The headset also works nicely when listening to music and has two little buttons on the side of the earpiece that can control the sound volume.

The microphone is not bad. The recording is buzz free although it does pick up more background noise then I would like. It doesn't seem to pick up more than my old headset but I guess I was hoping that the noise cancellation feature would do miracles.

When used as a pair of headphone headphone, one thing that's so good it's almost creepy is that there's no buzzing. Usually a headset plugged into the stereo mini jack on the computer will create a tiny background hum or hiss all the time. This is typically because the audio card on the machine isn't perfectly isolated from all the electrical noise coming from inside the computer. Because this is a USB headset, however, there is none of that. It sounds as if the headphones are not plugged in if the computer is not playing any sound.

Now, if you're looking for super amazing sound quality then you might want to look elsewhere. I say "might" because I really don't know if they're any good or not. I don't have any fancy equipment at my disposal to test with and I don't have a golden ear either. All I know is pretty much matches what I've come to expect from full ear headphones.

The headphones also don't isolate you from noises in the room very much at all. It's got to be the least sound isolation I've had from a full-ear headset. I'm not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing. It would probably be a good thing if you're working in an office and somebody wanted to interrupt you. It's probably a bad thing if you're working in an office and you don't want to be interrupted. At least I'm aware of how loud I'm talking into the microphone.

The last minor quibble I have is that my standard speakers don't work with the headset plugged in. This means I'm forever unplugging the USB headset in order to switch to my regular speakers and back. My original headset used a typical stereo mini jack and I have two of those on my machine so I could keep the headset constantly plugged in and still play audio through the speakers. I just wish there was an easy way to flip the audio without unplugging the headset or going into the windows sound control panel and switching the default sound output device. Maybe some sort of keyboard shortcut? Hum, I'll have to look into that.

(OMG it works with skype!)

1 comment:

Darren Mcandrews said...

They look awesome, man! I can see that the cable is sturdy enough to withstand some wear and tear due to usage. Ear plugs should have a high-quality sound without damaging the user's ears by filtering loud sounds. Thanks for sharing! :)

Darren Mcandrews @ Ear Peace