Get a Computer Headset

If you really want to communicate using your computer, get a computer headset.

Glen Sharp with Computer headset

glen headset small

Voice is still a killer app especially when combined with all the other things a computer can do. A headset allows you to talk and listen without annoying feedback or echo. You also will be heard more clearly using a headset mic especially in noisy environments. Make sure you get one with comfortable stereo headphones (both ears) so if you want to listen to music between calls you can do that too.

If your environment isn’t too noisy, the headphones are more important than the headset mic since the main audio quality factor is to stop the echo effect of the sound from the speakers feeding back into the mic. Headphones stop feedback into the mic so you can just use the normal computer mic like you would in speakerphone mode.

A headset can be obtained inexpensively (e.g. plantronics headset Futureshop Dynex headset) and all of them should work with your Windows PC. If you have a Mac, only USB interface mic inputs will work without an external amplifier.

There are several sources of information in choosing a computer headset:

How to choose a computer headset for skype

Plantronics (Skype) Headset reviews

I have found the Plantronics and Logitech headsets to be good however you shouldn’t pay more than $50 for a USB connected computer headset and you can find many that are perfectly adequate for $20.

Computer headset with USB interface

Logitech ClearChat Pro USB Headset - 981000010 - Compare Prices and Buy at PriceGrabber

On Windows PCs you can also use less expensive computer headsets that have headphone and mic mini-jack inputs.

Computer headset with mini-jack inputs

Computer headset minijack

Computer Microphones 101

This article contains some background on computer microphones and includes a caution about using mini-jack (headset) mics since they require signal amplification for use with Macs. Macs don’t include a mic input that will work with regular computer headsets with mini-jack mic input. The audio input on Macs is actually a line input which requires an amplified (externally powered) audio signal. For Macs, you need to use either a headset mic (and headphone) with a USB interface or use an audio amplifier for the mic audio input. Seth Weintraub on his Computerworld blog describes his experiences using computer headset mic inputs with Macs and recommends against using the headsets that have audio plugin USB adapters. Headsets that have a direct USB interface or higher quality adapters like the Griffin iMic don’t suffer the crashing problems that cheap USB adapters are prone to.

USB connected headsets are affordable and the hardware is compatible for both Window PCs and Macs. However, one advantage of headsets that use audio mini-jack input is that they can be less expensive and they don’t use up a USB port that may be required for other devices.

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The Griffin iMic is a USB connected device for the Mac that provides regular headphone and mic input plug-ins.

Griffin iMic

If you have an iMic it doesn’t save you a USB port but you can use the same computer headset with mini-jack inputs for both Windows PC and Mac and you get extra audio inputs/output and software in the package.

Another alternative is wireless headsets which either connect using a USB wireless antenna or using Bluetooth. These headsets have the advantage of being untethered but can cost quite a bit more.

What computer headset have you found works best for you?

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