• Here's the Secret to Picking the Right Headset

Nothing is more annoying than a crackly connection or muffled audio when you're on a conference call. Except, perhaps, trying to cradle a traditional phone headset between your neck and shoulder when taking notes on the phone. That's why a proper headset is a must when spending lots of time on calls each day. Here's how to choose one for your employees.

The first decision to make when buying a phone headset is whether it will be tethered to the handset by a cord or wireless.

Corded headsets come in two main types: those that plug into a handset via an amplifier, and those that connect directly. You'd assume that the big advantage in corded headsets is that they wouldn't need a separate power source, but it isn't always that simple. Some older phones often won't have the ability to connect an alternative corded headset directly. Instead, they'll need an amplifier.

An amplifier is a separate box, typically powered by AA batteries or its own power source, that amplifies the headset's signal. It'll come with on-off and possibly a mute button, enabling you to silence your call. One cord from this amplifier will plug into your phone's standard RJ9 format (it looks like a phone socket, but it's a little smaller). The other will have a quick disconnect socket that your headset plugs into. This lets you quickly disconnect the headset without having to take it off.

Newer phones will let you plug a direct connect cable into them, which is a single cable eliminating the amplifier in the middle. These rely on the headset and phone to provide ample audio quality between them without any extra power in between.

The alternative is a cordless system that will allow you to roam around your office, as long as you're in range. These phone-connected systems come as complete solutions with base chargers and power adaptors. They plug into a handset, but they have a drawback; they typically need you to lift the phone's original handset when taking a call.

Some companies offer a remote handset lifter to answer calls on a cordless headset when you're away from your phone. You can send it a signal from the cordless headset to mechanically lift the handset so that you can take a call. This works but seems somehow over-engineered, like a contraption Wallace and Gromit would be proud of.

Skipping the phone altogether

In the pandemic era, more employees are using a computer headset. With VoIP softphones, Teams, and Zoom replacing conventional phone calls, calls made without a phone handset at all are increasingly popular.

Just as with desk phone headsets, headsets connected to a computer or mobile device come in wired and wireless options. On the wireless side, Bluetooth is a clear favourite, and is now default on some devices (notably Apple's) that have eschewed traditional microphone and headphone sockets altogether. There are alternative proprietary wireless options, though; some headsets use dongles that plug into a USB socket and communicate wirelessly with the headset, eliminating the need for Bluetooth pairing.

Wired headsets come in two main flavours: traditional audio jacks, and USB. If you're taking the audio jack route, you'll need to ensure that the computer's sound card has analogue audio ports to support separate microphone and headset connectors. Alternatively, use a separate digital to analogue converter which will take audio jack inputs and provide a USB output. For most office purposes, you'll be better off with a direct USB connection. Ensure that the headset uses the right USB format for your computer (either USB A or C).

Finally, consider the features on the headset itself. An easily-accessible mute button is a must, especially in work-from-home environments. Consider augmenting that with active noise-cancelling technology. This uses a digital signal processor to neutralise ambient sound, making your audio clearer for those at the other end of the conversation.

If you're supporting employees in a work-from-home situation, then easy setup is a must. A wired USB headset will give you clear digital quality without shipping office-grade phone handsets out to employees. Complement this with a SIP gateway and you can still field phone calls from external parties while enjoying all the benefits that collaboration software has to offer.

 

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