headset : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

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headset  headset

If the microphone has an attached headphone, then it is called a headset. In PC (Personal Computer) s, nearly these are nearly always integrated. You can spend an incredible range on a headset for your PC. Even with a simple PC, it is possible to record voice or music and prepare to play on the Internet or as part of your own computer programs. You can also use it for speech to text Dragon Naturally Speaking or hand-free control of your computer. There are two major problems to solve:

  1. Sound quality
  2. Compressing the sound to conserve storage and band width
If you don’t compress, your audience will give up waiting for all but the shortest of clips.

To get decent sound quality you need three things:

  1. A high-quality microphone. Count on spending $100.00 USD up. For speech-to-text, a mono headset with only one ear covered will suffice. For listening to music or web presentations, you will want a stereo headset.
  2. A low-noise sound card microphone or aux-in hookup. This might be an external USB (Universal Serial Bus) POD (Persistent Object Database), or a sound card with a front mounted jack, that is shielded from all the other RF-noisy computer components in the rear of the computer or near the monitor. The mike may plug straight to the sound card, or via your stereo or other amp.
  3. An appropriate sampling rate. 8-bit 8 kHz is what you might get from a telephone. 16-bit 48 kHz is CD (Compact Disc) quality.

You will need some recording an editing software such as GoldWave. The Recorder that comes with Windows is just a toy, mainly useful for testing your hardware is working.

You then need software to compress without too much quality loss to a popular WEB format such as Mp3, Silverlight or RealAudio.

For streaming audio, you may need a special server. Even when compressed, audio is very bulky taking up many times the storage or bandwidth of the equivalent transcripts. If you are not careful, using it will soon bankrupt you with the Internet fees for broadcasting it.

Doing live Internet Radio broadcasts is considerably more difficult. You have to do all this, especially the compression, in real time.

Desirable microphone features include:

Headphones or Headset?

Advantages of a Headset

Disadvantages of a Headset

Advantages of a Separate Headphone/Microphone

Disadvantages of a Separate Headphone/Microphone

Unless you spend a lot of money, your headset will be fragile. You will be lucky if it lasts a year. The really rugged headsets are called aviation headsets, but they cost about $1000.
The are many specialised online headset stores. When you have decided on a model, Google to check out who is carrying it at what price and shipping. e.g.

Headset vs Headphone + Microphone

If you are mainly interested in Dragon Naturally Speaking, the quality of the headphones does not matter. What matters is the quality of the microphone. For noise cancelling microphones used with Dragon, the microphone must be as close to your mouth as possible, in other words, you need an integrated headset.

If your interest is making podcasts, you probably want a separate microphone, so viewers can see you head unencumbered.

If your interest is gaming where you speak, you will want an integrated gaming headset.

If your interest is listening to music and videos, you want a separate headphone engineered for comfort and high fidelity. It will be hum-free if you use a USB port rather than the analog jacks.

If you want to talk on the phone hands-free, you probably want a monaural, noise-cancelling, wireless headset, specially designed to interface with telephones.

You have to decide if you want to be responsive to sounds around you or if you want to block them out with over-the-ear and noise-cancelling headphones.

Wireless lets you get up and walk around, but only get about 4 hours per charge. DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephony) is the standard that lets the wireless headset talk to the base.

Shopping for a Headset

These headsets are in ascending order by list price. This approximates the order of street price.

electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Syba SD-CM-UAUD Analog to USB Adapterto electronic home
asin B001MSS6CS
It lets you inexpensively turn any headset with minijacks into a digital USB headset.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Koss SB40 Computer Headsetto electronic home
asin B00005ML7T
non-USB headset, Minijacks, microphone noise-canceling, but headaphones are not noise-cancelling. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Earphones: an impresive 20 Hz — 20 kHz. The microphone frequency range is not specified and it is low quality. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 151 stereo Headsetto electronic home
asin B001KWXWKW
non-USB headset, noise-cancelling microphone. Minijacks. Intended for gaming and Skype. Noise cancelling microphone but not noise canceling headphones. Microphone: 80 Hz — 15 kHz. Earphones: 18 Hz — 22 kHz. Rated 5 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Andrea Headset NC-185VM USBto electronic home
asin B003LY5RCS
USB headset. Rated 6 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Noise-canceling microphone. Stereo headphones. Frequency response of microphone and headphones not divulged. There are two cheaper variants without the USB. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 131 stereo Headsetto electronic home
asin B000NH4EI4
non-USB headset, noise-cancelling microphone. Minijacks. Microphone: 80 Hz — 15 kHz. Rated 5 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Earphones: 30 Hz — 18 kHz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Thermaltake eSports SHOCK Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B004HPRKIO
Model HT-SHK002ECBL, non-USB. Black with red trim, Also comes in white and red, and blue and orange. Reputed to be more rugged that usual. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Headphones: 20 — 20,000 Hz. Microphone: 100 — 10,000 Hz. Very good for the price. Noise canceling microphone. Amazon sells it under four different ASINs, and four different prices. Oddly, the more expensive TT-HT-SHO001EC has less impressive specs. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Plantronics 995 Wireless USB Stereo Headsetto electronic home
asin B001SEQN3U
Uses disposable batteries.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 230 traditional Stereo Headsetto electronic home
asin B003XQDYGK
non-USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. Rated 6 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Microphone: 80 Hz — 15 kHz. Earphones: 18 Hz — 22 kHz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 36 USB Stereo Headsetto electronic home
asin B001SN8QJ0
USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. Microphone: 80 Hz — 15 kHz. Earphones: 40 Hz — 18 kHz. Not particularly impressive bass. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Very light weight. I suspect it is near its end of product life. It is rarely stocked. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Logitech Digital Precision PC Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B000RVD89M
USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. This is what I bought myself. It was not my first choice, just the best I could find at local retailers.
  • Nice crisp sound. No background hum or hiss. They were so quiet at first I thought they were not working.
  • Noise canceling microphone that works extremely well. When I recorded, I heard dead silence whenever I was not speaking.
  • Long 10 foot cord.
  • Nice cushiony grip on the ears with an open gap at the top for air circulation.
  • Does not need a driver. It uses the built-it Microsoft driver. You just plug it in and go. It was even easier to get going than an analog headset.
  • Behind-the-head grip is just as idiotic as it looks. It squeezes your head uncomfortably and keeps slipping down. The band should be on top.
  • Not truly digital. They are analog headphones with a separate digital USB adapter. The signal is analog for 3 meters (10 feet) or more then digital for the last 10 cm (4 inches) This defeats the point of digital. I suppose a purist could insert a USB extension cord to get the analog part further away from the electrically noisy computer box. However, they are substantially lower noise than conventional headphones where the analog signal has to wend its way inside the computer near all manner of noise sources.
  • You can’t adjust the microphone directly in front of your mouth. It is always way off to the side.
  • There is no noise-cancellation in the earphones.
  • There is yet another volume control to fiddle with on the cord. I wish volume were controlled in one place only!
  • Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  • The left and right sides are not labelled.
  • They are very delicate. After being dropped on a carpet just once, they fell apart and would never stay assembled again. Further, the left sound or both would cut out if I did not hold the cord just so. They are very flimsy construction. I would not recommend them for this reason.
Microphone: 100 Hz — 16 kHz, filters out low frequencies. Earphones: 20 Hz — 20 kHz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒ROCCAT Kulo 7.1 USB Virtual Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B0071JXE4M
7.1 surround sound and noise-canceling microphone. Headphone: 20 — 20,000 Hz. Microphone 70 — 15,000 Hz. Connects with single USB connector. Connector contains an external 7.1 sound card. Steel reinforced head band. Stats.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Syba Oblanc UFO200 Over-Ear Headphonesto electronic home
asin B00BQM1WBM
Model OG-AUD63045. Matte Yellow. Looks like 5.1 model. Standard two channel stereo. Not USB. Mike included but not shown in photo. Frequency Response: 20 — 20KHz. Gold Plated 3.5mm Jack 4-pole Connector (Compatible with Smartphones, and Tablets) not PCs. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒SteelSeries Siberia V2 Full-Size Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B00365EA1Q
Frequency response: 18 — 28,000 Hz. Jack: 3.5 mm, no USB. Simple stereo. Microphone frequency response: 50 — 16,000 Hz. No noise cancelling. Comes in eight colours, plus yellow at extra cost. The weak point looks like the two wires holding the head band on.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Beyerdynamic MMX 2 PC Gaming Multimedia Digital Headset with Microphoneto electronic home
asin B001BYOY42
Little brother to the Cadillac of headsets. USB connection. Headphone frequency 18 — 22,000 Hz. Noise-cancelling microphone frequency 50 — 18,000 Hz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒SteelSeries Diablo III USB Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B005L38SGY
I included this headset because it looks rugged though I have seen mixed reviews on durability. USB. It has some very impressive frequency specs. Headphones: Frequency response: 18 — 28,000 Hz. Microphone: 50 — 16,000 Hz. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. The kid in me was impressed by the way the earphones glow and optionally pulse red — for no purpose at all other than to look sexy. Has a retractable microphone. I am nervous of that for Dragon. You need precise placement of the microphone for optimal noise canceling. The microphone is noise-canceling, but the headphones are not, though they are padded and cover the ears. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Syba Oblanc UFO True 5.1 Sound USB Gaming Headset, Matte Yellowto electronic home
asin B00BQM1WNA
Very good for surround sound. Comes in other colours. Comfortable. Has separate volume controls for different channels. The microphone is easy to adjust and it stays where you put it. For music, it is just average. Frequency Response (Front, Surround, Center): 20 — 20KHz. 4 neodymium drivers on each earcup. No noise cancelling, though the earcups are quite fat and will tend to isolate you. Chris Voss gives it three thumbs up. Specs. From the various photographs I have seen, it looks fairly sturdy.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒ROCCAT Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B00275C2L6
5.1 surround sound and non-noise canceling microphone. Headphone: 20 — 20,000 Hz. Microphone 20 — 15,000 Hz. Connects with USB plus 4 jacks. Does not use S/PDIF. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking.Spec.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Razer RZ04-00700100-R3U1 Electra Headsetto electronic home
asin B005HMCCNE
This is a non-USB headset with noise-canceling microphone. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. I included it because of the fun colour and because it looks unusually comfortable. Headphone: 25 Hz — 16 KHz. Microphone 100 Hz — 10 KHz. Has a retractable microphone. I am nervous of that for Dragon. You need precise placement of the microphone for optimal noise canceling. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser SC 260 USB Headsetto electronic home
asin B007H24NPM
USB headset. Rated 6 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Noise-canceling microphone. Stereo headphones. Microphone: 150-6,800 Hz. Headphone: 150-6,800 Hz. This is not very impressive frequency response. It is intended for voice not music. HeadSetDepot sells them at a considerable discount. Sennheiser no longer posts the specs on its website.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B00FAN4LRA
USB, 7.1, comes with interchangeable three types of jacks and 5 cables. Headphone frequency response: 10 — 28000 Hz. Microphone frequency response: 50 — 16000 Hz. noise cancelling microphone. Specs. This is what I use myself After months of dithering, I finally decided to buy this model. There are surprisingly few models to choose from with USB. I need it for Dragon Naturally Speaking. I did not really want the 7.1, but the rugged look, the ruggedness attested to in reviews and the cool orange trim all weighed in. The multiple jacks mean I will be able to use it both with my computer and for home entertainment. The left and right are not labelled. You can tell them apart because the mike is on the left. You must download the drivers. They do not automatically install as USB since you may need either Mac or PC drivers. It covers your ears and blocks out most ambient sound. The disadvantage is you can’t hear keyboard clicks or mouse clicks. They make your ears uncomfortably warm. The cables are covered in retro cloth rather than the usual rubbery plastic. The connectors come apart rather too easily. You must connect the cables carefully arrow to arrow. It is not just a matter of matching plugs. For the headphones to work, four connections must be snug. It is bit like getting old fashioned serial Christmas tree lights to work. They come apart rather too easily and the headphones stop working. Every time I go to use the headset it has stopped working. I must fiddle with the connectors to get it working again. Thankfully, the cord that goes under my desk is a distinctive black with orange dots so I can easily tell it apart from the other jungles of wires. I use the properties/advanced option in the task bar volume control to perform a sound check which helps tell when I have them snug again. This is the most negative thing I have to say about them. The plugs don’t have embossing to tell you which way the mike mute is off and on. They could have used a slashed circle or a broken bar, or 0 and 1. They also don’t tell you which way is louder/softer. The instruction book devotes a page to this, but does it in such a way you still can’t tell. You figure this out eventually, but it is a hassle during install. (Louder is rotating toward the headset.) The sound is clear, but I have not yet tried a source that would fully exercise it. I got it at CanadaComputers.com at considerably less than the Amazon price.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Jabra PRO 930 UC Headsetto electronic home
asin B006GOG1FC
Wireless. Only one earpiece. Rated 6 dragons by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Frequency ranges not specified other that headphone high end 6,800 Hz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 330 Game Headsetto electronic home
asin B003DA4D34
non-USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Microphone: 70 Hz — 15 kHz. Earphones: 14 Hz — 22 kHz. Specs.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sennheiser PC 166 USB Stereo Multimedia Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B000H0IDUW
Discontinued. USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. These are unusually durable. Microphone: 80 Hz — 15 kHz. Earphones: 15 Hz — 23 kHz. USB jack contains a sound card.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Corsair Dolby 7.1 USB Gaming Headsetto electronic home
asin B005QUQP7G
Corsair CA-9011112-WW Vengeance 1500 Dolby 7.1 USB Gaming Headset, USB headset with earphones and noise-canceling microphone. Not certified for use with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Microphone: 100 Hz — 10 kHz. Weak at low frequencies. Earphones: 20 Hz — 10 kHz.
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electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Beyerdynamic MMX 300 715565 PC Gaming Premium Digital Headsetto electronic home
asin B001BYMZ5W
High end gaming USB headset. 7.1 surround sound. It is wired. There is an extra-cost wireless version. Headphone: 5 Hz — 30,000 Hz. Microphone 30 — 18,000 Hz. Works with an external USB sound card. Extremely soft ear cups.Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
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Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
India flag junglee.com tigerdirect.com American flag
other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒David Clark H10-13H Headsetto electronic home
asin B003JY2VN8
Designed for use in helicopters. Super noise suppression. earphone 200 Hz — 5,500 Hz (quite narrow). mike 200Hz — 5,500 Hz. Separate phone plugs for mike and earphones. No USB. Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
India flag junglee.com tigerdirect.com American flag
other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock

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