Headset buying guide

Taking part in a successful conference call is down to, in part, establishing the comfort of the participant and ensuring that everything that is said is clear and intelligible. Valuable input cannot be made if all contributors cannot be heard. 2014 sees more people moving away from traditional telephone handset, even those with speakerphone capabilities, and investing in a conference call headset.

Holding a telephone handset to your ear for the duration of a conference call can be difficult and uncomfortable. It means that your hands are already employed and make it hard to type, make notes or send important messages. We live in a world where multi-tasking is an important skill and anything that facilitates this way of working can only be positive. Utilising a conference call headset allows the participant to take an active role in the meeting, whilst also being able to do other tasks.

Whilst it is obviously essential that the headset that you choose provides distinct audio and delivers accurate voice and also preferably blocks out background noise, there are a whole host of other choices that need to be considered before making the purchasing plunge. Buying a cheap and cheerful alternative will not provide the professionalism that you’re most likely looking for, so we’re going to examine some of the key features in today’s headsets and highlights some of our favourite models available on the market.


What you need to know

There are two basic categories of headset to choose between, a monaural, which supplies sound to just one ear, or binaural which covers both ears simultaneously. The choice between these two options boils down to a personal preference to a large extent. Generally people will find one option or the other more comfortable for them but it is worth ensuring that you try both before you make a decision.

The other key decision that needs to be made is to how the phones connect to the headset. Some headsets are designed to be “stand alone.” This means that they plug directly into the phone jack and replace a standard handset. These are often known as “headset systems.” The other connection method is where the headset attaches to the handset base, which allows the user to make the decision about whether they want to use the headset or the handset itself.

Headset type Description Advantages
Over-the-head Binaural headset that reaches across the entire head Stability
Over-the-ear Single piece that fits over the ear Discreet, lightweight
Behind-the-neck Wired loop that reaches across the entire back of the head Stability, comfort
Convertible Adapts to several configurations Flexibility

Conference headsets come in a number of different styles, all of which carry their own individual benefits. The over-the-head style has a headband that reaches across the top of the entire head and covers both ears. It provides great stability - even if the user is moving around a lot it is unlikely to become dislodged. Behind-the-neck binaural headset also cover both ears, but in this case there is a neckband that runs discretely along the back of the neck. It provides similar stability but is less obvious than the over-the-head style.

By contrast the over-the-ear style fits over onto one ear and usually have a soft ear-hook or loop to keep it in place. These are becoming more popular with professionals on the go because they do not require the cumbersome headband that the over-the-head style requires. They are also lighter and more discrete.

If you’re looking for versatility or you found that you couldn’t make a decision between monaural or binaural, then perhaps a convertible headset is a good choice. Convertibles allow you to alternate between over-the-head and over-the-ear and provide excellent freedom of choice.


Bluetooth or DECT technology?

Another decision that needs to be made is whether your headset contains Bluetooth or DECT technology. Bluetooth technology is widely used in mobile phones and wireless devices, such as tablets. The main difference between this and DECT technology is the range at which it works. A Bluetooth headset will only stay connected up to about 30 feet. If you move any further than this from your handset the call will be terminated. The more expensive DECT technology allows a range in excess of 300 feet.

Conference call headsets carry a number of different features, some of which are visible and some of which are internal or within the on-board technology. For ease of use and functionality, it’s helpful if you can answer calls from the headset alone. This means that you don't have to be next to the handset unit to take a call. “Noise-cancellation” technology is a buzz phrase of the moment. This option improves the call quality by either building in material which can cut out background noise or by providing circuitry that determines what the main voice is and cuts out the other sounds.

Here are a few of our favourite headset that can be used when on conference calls:

Plantronics TriStar H81

Plantronics TriStar H81

A monaural style that is worn with an ear-loop. It has four sizes of user-selectable ear buds and this, along with the adjustable receiver arm and the fact that it weighs less than an ounce, make this a great choice for comfort. The H81N variation provides in-built noise cancellation.

Sennheiser BW 900

Sennheiser BW 900

An oldie but a goody! Released in 2007, this remains one of Sennheiser’s most popular Bluetooth wireless monaural headsets. With a range of 330 feet this is is compatible with both the office phone and your mobile. With two exchangeable batteries, Sennheiser claim that the talk time is infinite, since one battery charges whilst the other is used. The BW900 has a top quality speaker and adjustable earpieces allow for great sound refinement.

AT&T TL7610

AT&T TL7610

A DECT wireless monaural headset that has a huge range of up to 500 feet. This features a mute capability, one-button answer, five value choices and is expandable for up to two headsets, allowing two people to listen to the same conference all. It has sound-level protection which promises clear conversations

Plantronics W740

Plantronics W740

This flexible binaural over-the-head headset uses DECT technology and works with PCs, mobile phone and desk phones. It has a noise-cancelling microphone and digital signal processing improves sound quality. Three headset can be connected together to allow for easier conference calling and many optional extra can be purchased.

Jabra Pro 9465

Jabra Pro 9465

A quality choice for professionals who work in noisy environments. The noise-cancelling microphone and digital signal processing eliminates almost all background noise and deliver crystal clear sound. It has multi use connectivity and the base unit is touch-screen. The 9465 boasts a 450 foot wireless ranges thanks to DECT technology and up to 11 hours talk time.

Jabra GN9125

Jabra GN9125

A smart, DECT wireless convertible headset that comes in four variations which allow for either binaural or monaural options. It has remote answering capability and a potential talk time of 12 hours. It promises distortion free speech and high quality audio. In-built signal hopping and voice encryption make this a great choice for the security conscious.