In February I made a point of joining a couple of the weekly VoIP Users Conference calls using the 480 and Eyebeam v1.5, connecting to the ZIPDX wideband conference bridge. I was very happy with the performance of the headset in both of these circumstances. Although I found the cord on the 480 to be too short for use with a desktop PC for a long conference call, it is the ideal length for use with a laptop, which is clearly the manufacturers intended application.
On those days I that I used the 480 I don’t think that anyone on the VUC call noticed that I wasn’t using my Polycom IP650 until I mentioned it. In fact, listening back to the conference recordings, the 480 sounded better than the cheapo T-100 headset that I’ve been using on the IP650.
Its basic performance being pretty good, there were a couple of things about the 480 I found to be less than ideal. First, I’m not in love with all the metal accoutrement positioned along the cord. It seems to me that the volume control and mute switch are both superfluous, given that the headset is typically used with a soft phone. Both could be jettisoned in favor of the controls in the soft phone client, leaving the cord clean and uncluttered.
I would have also liked to have tried the 480 with my cell phone or a cordless DECT handset. The fact that the signals are broken out into a pair of 1/8” mini-jacks made this impractical. Given the metal ferrule protecting the point in the cord where the microphone & speaker signals are split I’d have preferred that the audio connectors be inter-changeable. The ferrule could serve as a disconnect point, allowing me to change to a 3 conductor 1/8” or 3/32” sub-mini connector when required. That would make the headset more broadly adaptable to various applications beyond soft phones, although it would likely imply mono audio in both ears in some cases.
In perhaps the ultimate testament to its performance, I continue to use the .Audio 480. It appears to be more durable than a lot of common ear bud headsets. Where lightweight plastics are typical in this class of product the 480 seems to be built to last, with more use of metal plated or rubber coated parts.
The combination of noise reducing ear buds and a microphone for telephony applications make the Plantronics .Audio 480 both novel and unique. With a street price under $40 it’s a good value, around half the price of some other noise reducing headsets. It might not be the sort of thing that everyone needs, but it may well the the perfect solution for road warriors who make a lot of use of soft phones. It’s not perfect, but it is serving me well in those cases where I am using a soft phone on the road and has been key in allowing me to enjoy the benefits of wideband telephony while traveling.
Many thanks to my wife Estella for editorial assistance.