New Gadget: Plantronics .Audio 480 Headset

plantronics-audio-480-headsetMy wife is a very patient woman, well much of the time. And I am very grateful, well most of the time. This past Christmas she gifted me a new Plantronics .Audio 480 wired headset. This week is my first business trip since the holidays so I decided to bring it along.

This trip finds me in Toronto. Normally I’d just use my cell phone for everything but international roaming rates are very high. Most typically a week in Canada adds $100-150 to my monthly T-Mobile bill.

It’d be nice to avoid that if possible so this week I’m trying to use the 480 headset in conjunction with Eyebeam and my OnSIP account. That also means that I’m making wideband calls where possible.

Plantronics calls the .Audio 480 a “Virtual Phone Booth” in reference to their ability to block ambient noise. The earpieces have soft rubber tips designed to occlude the ear canal blocking ambient noise.

I’ve used various types of noise-reducing headphones for many years. I started with the Sony MDR-NC-10s motivated by the amount of time I was spending on then common turbo-prop regional aircraft. After a couple of sets of NC-10s I eventually changed to Etymotic ER-6is. I’m just as likely to wear them to reduce noise as listen to music. I’ve now had two sets of these as these are one of the things that I may accidentally leave on an airplane.

The Sony model use an electronic circuit to implement active noise reduction through phase cancellation.  In contrast, the Etymotic model is 100% passive. All noise reduction is achieved through simply developing a more complete seal into the ear canal. To my ear the Ety’s actually work better, and they don’t require a battery.

The Sony model did have one goofy feature that comes into play when listening to music. The phase trickery that they use to cancel out the ambient noise can effect a manipulation of the stereo image. It makes it seem wider, like a kind of super-stereo. It’s usually a pleasing effect if a little artificial. It reminds of the old Carver Sonic Holography processor that I used to like. OTOH, the circuitry itself creates noise making the MDR-NC10s less effective overall.

I began using the 480s to listen to music on the flight to Toronto. It was a little odd having the mic boom in front of my face while simply listening to music. Thankfully, it swings up and down a considerable degree. I was able to swing it up to position not unlike the headband of a traditional headset.

I’ll use the headset a little more before offering any opinion about it or its use. For the moment I still think it’s pretty cool.