Product review: Plantronics .Audio 550 DSP multimedia headset


26 Jun 2007

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There is only so much you can say about headsets, right? The sound is good or it’s not. Well, the 550 DSP is from Plantronics, whose headsets were used by Neil Armstrong in the moon landing, so it is about as good as it gets.

The 550 DSP is a jack-of-all-trades headset, with a noise-cancelling microphone and stereo sound earphones so it can be used for anything from recording pretty good quality audio to enjoying your music collection or chatting to your friends over VoIP (voice over internet protocol).

First off, the sound through the earphones was excellent and the bass was very rich and booming.

After getting used to hearing music properly through this I feel like dumping my substandard MP3 player ones in the nearest dustbin.

The earphones were extremely comfortable but didn’t completely enclose my ears the way my present earphones do so I found that background noise leaks in a bit more than I expected.

The noise-cancelling microphone is high-quality. Although I haven’t gone about creating any amateur podcasts using the headset it might not be a bad idea because the voice recording is clear and crisp.

The noise cancelling, 32-bit digital audio processing is powered by digital signal processing (DSP) technology, fitted into a somewhat bulky little module located halfway between the USB connection and the headset.

I called a friend on Skype to give it a test and she said I sounded much, much clearer than normal, so the DSP is obviously worth it.

The main thing that excited me about using this was the potential for gaming, with stereo-quality gun fire and the ability to shout clearly at other players around the world from your PC or Xbox.

This is a fine gamer’s headset. Volume can be controlled from the small addition located under the headset, which also has a mute button and an attachment clip.

It is important to note, however, that the connection for the headset is USB only so don’t buy it for the sake of using with your sound system: there are other Plantronics headsets out there for that.

Software for adjusting the microphone and audio settings doesn’t come with the headset but is available for download from the Plantronics website.

You can use the software to do different things like have a certain application launch every time you press the mute button on the headset, or set it up for your VoIP calls.

Software is not needed for setup: the headsets are plug and play.

The one drawback, for those moving about a lot, is that this is not wireless and the cable is only so long at three metres, but mobility isn’t the point with this product: sound quality is.

Although it costs €129.99, quite a bit above the average headset, it must be noted that the excellent sound quality, noise-cancelling microphone and comfortable earpieces make it ideally suited for using both throughout the day for VoIP and conference calls and for listening to music and gaming in the evenings.

If you have to buy one all-round headset, this is it.

The .Audio 550 DSp is available from Harvey Norman and 3G stores nationwide as well as www.phones.ie.

Pros: Superior sound quality and effective noise cancellation.
Cons: USB connection only, and not wireless.

By Marie Boran