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Review: Plantronics .Audio 480 Headset

I used the headset in combination with a number of different VoIP clients including Gizmo5, Skype 4.0 and a pre-release version of Counterpath’s Eyebeam v1.5. All three are wideband capable soft phones that would prove a good test of the frequency response of the 480 in telephony applications.

Further, I decided that I could use the 480 for listening to music and podcasts as I travel, the headsets 1/8” mini-plug for the headset being a match to my Sansa E-series MP3 player. In this role I found that the 480 sounded better than expected. Not outstanding, but good enough for many people. It was not quite as comfortable as my recently lost (and more expensive) Etymotic ER-6i’s, nor as effective in the noise reduction arena, but it sounded fine to my middle-aged ears.

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Wearing the Plantronics .Audio 480 on a flight to SFO, listening to podcasts as I write.

When used with a soft phone the headset proved to be very good. The microphone was easily positioned and yet stayed in place once adjusted. The ear buds were reasonably comfortable and did a fair job of blocking ambient noise. I found that the larger tips fit me well, but the foam tips provided the best noise suppression.

Initially I was surprised by the complete lack of side-tone (side-tone is essentially the sound of your own voice heard back to you through the earpiece of the phone or headset). The effect of noise reducing headphones is to suppress the sound of everything except what is heard through the headphones. So while using the 480 you don’t hear much of your own voice, and that feels strange at first.

It would be interesting for a soft phone maker to provide an ability to inject side-tone into the headset feed if the user desired.

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Spectral display of my voice as recorded with the .Audio 480 (click for larger image)

To evaluate whether the headset was able to deliver actually deliver the promised performance of G.722 based wideband telephony I recorded a sample of my voice into Cool Edit Pro. Cool Edit has a nice feature that allows us to visualize both the waveform and the spectral content of the recording. The graph clearly shows energy distribution well over 7 kHz, with some sibilance over 8 kHz. Based on this I’d say that the headset is a good match for wideband capable soft phones.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Hi–
    I too, love the Sony NC10’s. Do you have any that you would like to sell?

    Thanks either way.

    Michael

  2. Do these have sidetone? It almost pains me to have a conversation with the isolating headphone I have now because I’m caught between not hearing myself and being afraid I’m yelling.

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