Affordable Cordless Mobility In The Home OfficeMichael Graves | January 22, 2012
Earlier this week Bill left a comment asking for a recommendation about a phone and cordless headset combination. His requirements seem quite sensible and he expresses some frustration with his existing gear. His situation seems one that could be very common, so I thought it worth highlighting before trying to make some recommendations.
Here’s his comment in full:
Sorry for bringing back an old thread – but am hoping you might have some advice. I am a home office worker & spend a lot of time on the phone with colleagues & customers. I’m not using a speakerphone – but I am currently using a Plantronics S12 headset & Panasonic KX-TSC11 phone connected to an OBi110 for both POTS and VOIP capability. The audio quality is just “ok”, and the S12 creates an annoying hum when I raise the microphone volume.
I would like to upgrade to a better (binaural, over the head, no little buds sticking into my ear) headset, preferably DECT to enable me to stand and move about a bit while on calls (is DECT a safe bet for call quality & consistency?). Also it would be convenient to have a built-in answering machine if the quality is very good.
The *paramount* concern is that my voice quality sound loud & clear to callers. I would also like the devices to be wideband-capable (realizing this only affects VOIP).
Do you have any suggestions for a phone/headset combination for this scenario? Thanks very much in advance!
Bill’s existing gear bears examination. With just a few minutes of Googling I found that the Panasonic KX-TSC11 is a very basic analog phone. They’re available for around $45 and have only one analog POTS connection. Panasonic refers to it as an “Integrated Telephone System” which seems a bit puzzling to me. It’s a bit like calling a pen a “fully manual correspondence creation system.” It’s an entry-level analog phone.
The Plantronics S12 is a wired headset with an amplifier. It can be connected to the headset jack of a phone that sports such a feature. It also allows analog connection to any phone by inserting itself inline with the handset. It’s a current product with MSRP around $150, but readily available online for around $70-80.
Plantronics’ S12 is a very common device, offered in big box retailers across the country. There may be an issue with it’s use with the Panasonic phone. I’d certainly contact Plantronics support through their Sounding Board forum to see if it can be resolved.
The OBi110 Voice Service Bridge and VoIP Telephone Adapter is a nice little ATA with some nifty XMPP capabilities, making it capable of integrating with Google Voice. Hello free calls to Canada and the US!
Clearly, Bill was fairly cost-conscious in selecting these devices. There’s nothing wrong with that, but now he wants something better. It’s good to bear in mind his sense of what’s appropriate.
Looking over at my desk you’ll find a Polycom VVX-1500 and Sennheiser DW Pro2. Both of those are devices that I enjoy, admire and recommend. However, they are well beyond the scope of a typical home office dweller. They’re great products, but they simply cost too much for all but the executive class, or in my case, the fiscally irresponsible voip-fetishist.
Clearly there are other options, so lets find Bill a suitable solution.
The Obi Hai device presents an analog POTS interface so we’ll need a phone designed for an analog line. If the phone has only an analog interface then HDVoice is, at least at present, completely out of the question. ATA’s just don’t support HDVoice. There would be little point if they did, since the attached analog phone wouldn’t support wideband audio.
Perhaps we should consider the situation from the perspective of the headset. Bill needs to decide if he really wants a DECT headset? Or will a DECT cordless phone and a wired headset adequately meet his needs?
DECT cordless phones are inexpensive consumer products. There are many models available from various manufacturers, at a variety of price points.
In marked contrast, DECT cordless headsets are very different beasts. These are enterprise or SMB devices that, while admitted more ideal in some cases, are significantly more expensive. Bill’s stated preference for a dual-ear headset puts him into some of the more costly products offered by companies like Plantronics, GN/Jabra or Sennheiser.
For the moment, let us assume that the high $$$ road is not the path he would select.
Option #1 – A Gigaset Consumer Cordless System
Not so long ago my home office mobility requirements were met by using a Gigaset SIP/DECT cordless phone. The Gigaset base station accepts an analog line, making it a suitable solution for use with the Obi Hai device. They also support a number of SIP accounts, providing a pure VoIP solutions, even supporting HDVoice.
The C61H and S79H handsets support the use of a wired headset. There are many suitable wired headsets in the $20-50 range. It might be a little more difficult to find a dual-ear headset with the 2.5mm jack to fit a cordless phone.
Cordless phones are fine for wandering around, but some people, myself included, like to have a traditional desk phone on their desk. The common Gigaset cordless systems, like my C610A IP (pictured right) don’t provide this.
Option #2 – A Gigaset SMB Cordless System
- One analog interface
- Multiple SIP accounts
- 4 simultaneous calls
- HDVoice (G.722)
- Add up to 6 cordless handsets
- “Link2Mobile” Bluetooth link to cell phone
- Supports Bluetooth headsets
- Even HDVoice!
- Built-in Voicemail
- 3 separate mailboxes
- 55 minutes of VM record time
- Contact sync with Outlook
With a retail price of $250 it’s a pretty impressive device. It could be a compelling solution for a home office. It was announced at CES 2011 but only started shipping in North America in October. As far as I can tell it’s only be sold through Amazon at the moment.
I had a few minutes to play with one while at CES 2011 last year. It was registered with ZipDX and making calls to/from other devices on display in the suite. I had it register to my Plantronics Voyager Pro UC headset and confirmed that it passes HDVoice over Bluetooth.
As a matter of policy I only recommend gear that I’ve actually used myself. So while I suspect the DX800A might be a good solution, I cannot give it a firm recommendation. I just haven’t had enough hands-on time with the device.
Gigasets occasionally have quirky software. To some these quirks may be minor annoyances, but to others they can be deal-breakers.
All that said, there are some people, VUC regulars in the UK & Europe, who have the device and give it high praise.
FWIW, in Europe Gigaset also offers the DL500A, which is a low-cost model with only an analog line interface. This model is not offered in North America.
Option #3 – A Panasonic Consumer Cordless System
Let’s have another option for Bill to consider. If just perhaps HDVoice is not such a priority, he might well consider the Panasonic KX-TG6672B. I still like Panasonic cordless phone systems because they’re not trying to mimic a cell phone.
The KX-TG6672B is a single-line phone with a desk phone/DECT base and one or more cordless handsets. He could add more handsets if required. It would easily connect to his Obi Hai device.
The KX-TG6672B base has built-in voicemail. Both the base and the cordless handsets have 2.5mm connectors for a wired headset. Panasonic offers an affordable accessory headset (KX-TCA400) although it’s only a single ear model.
The KX-TG6672B is definitely affordable, offered for well under $100 from all the usual suspects.
Incidentally, if you do need to use a binaural headset, like the Sennheiser PC 131, with a cordless phone you’ll need to adapt the dual 3.5mm plugs on the headset to the single 2.5mm jack on the phone. You can do this using an adapter from Headset Buddy. I’ve used such adapters for quite a while, allowing my ETY.COM wired headset to be used with various handsets.
There are a myriad of ways to meet Bill’s stated objectives. These are but a few options to consider. Leaving the high-road to the executive set, one takes the middle road, while the others are functional yet affordable. Perhaps with a little more guidance as to his preferences there would be other solutions worth examining. I hope that this was a helpful exercise.