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Real World Purchasing Guide
to Business Telephone Headsets
by Mike Sandman

Monday thru Friday 8:30AM to 5:00PM
Chicago Time   

Your neck wasn't
designed to hold a phone handset,
but it works great...
for a while.

You can fix neck problems by getting a massage ($50), going to a  chiropractor ($100), or getting surgery ($50,000).

Hmm, that makes a $200 business quality headset seem like a deal!

A Shoulder Rest Would Help


A Headset Prevents the Problem


If you worked in the warehouse, you'd follow "Lift from your Legs" instructions, or your back would be in a lot of pain.

It's no different sitting at your desk. If you want to prevent a lot of pain in your neck, a headset  is the correct tool to use.

If you talk on the phone for a living,
you've got to protect your body from the inevitable damage a holding a handset
with your neck will cause.

A Shoulder Rest is Better than Nothing, but
your neck is still bent in a way it wasn't
designed to be bent at, at least not for long.

Not all Headsets are the same Quality!

Generally Speaking, the cooler
a headset looks, the worse it is.

If it's got a "streamlined" looking mic or is generally fancy looking, it's probably consumer quality, will be uncomfortable, and probably will break pretty quickly.

This isn't universally true, but it could save you from buying something you can't or won't use.

As a phone man who has been in thousands of offices at thousands of businesses, I can tell you that most consumer (cheaper) headsets are sitting buried in desk drawers.

Generally speaking, an over the head headset will be more comfortable for the whole day than a headset that hangs on your ear. They are also faster and easier to get on and off between calls. It's unlikely you'll sit at your desk wearing a headset if calls slow for a while.

A consumer quality headset isn't cheap, maybe $50 and up. A business quality headset is probably $150 and up, including both the headset and the amplifier (an amplifier is needed to allow a headset to work with most business phones).

I get a lot of calls from people who want to adapt their cellular headset (that has a 2.5mm plug) to a business type phone (with a modular jack). Radio Shack used to make an adapter, but it's discontinued. I don't know of anybody making an adapter now, mainly because there's not much call for it. All of the cellular headsets with a 2.5mm plug I've seen are consumer quality, and would literally be a pain to wear while working all day (that includes most Bluetooth headsets).

Note that some business phones come with a 2.5mm jack for a cellular type headset. You can get an adapter for a Plantronics Wired Headset's Quick Disconnect to a 2.5mm plug. I use that adapter with my cell phone, using my Plantronics Starset Supra Noise Cancelling Headset with my Blackberry (with a 2.5mm jack). Because the Supra is about the best noise cancelling headset you can get, it sounds great in my mini-van (which isn't the quietest car in the world!).
Plantronics Quick Disconnect Plug to 2.5mm Plug Adapter for Cell Phone

NOTE: This is only about a foot long which works fine for a cell phone, but you'll need the 10' Quick Disconnect Extension Cable (below) for a business phone so you can lean back in your chair!  You don't need an M22 Headset Amplifier when you use a Plantronics Starset Supra and this Adapter Cable.

Plantronics Quick Disconnect 10' Extension Cord

NOTE: Use the 10' Quick Disconnect Extension Cable with the 2.5mm Adapter or with any Plantronics headset with a Quick Disconnect, to extend the cord 10'.

While you're shopping for a headset, remember that professionals use headsets all day long, every day of their working life. They are using business quality headsets. There's a reason they spend the extra money!


Regular Mic

There are two types of mics used on headsets... Regular and Noise Canceling.

If you use a Noise Canceling Headset in a noisy environment you'll go home in a better mood than if you had to sit all day straining to hear callers over the noise in your office.

When you turn up the volume so
you can hear on a headset with a
Regular mic, you're also turning
up the background noise... which
will really give you a headache
after a while.

When you use a Noise Canceling Headset you must keep the boom right in front of your mouth, or the callers won't hear you. Putting it under your chin will make it very hard for callers to hear you.

Noise Canceling Mic

Historically, Regular headsets use a voice tube - a hollow (often clear) tube which directs the speech up to a mic located inside the headset.

A Noise Canceling Headset has a microphone element at the end of a flexible tube, usually with a foam wind/pop guard.

How important is a Noise Canceling Headset?

They are critical in a noisy environment. They're not needed at all in a quiet environment where there is no TV, radio, kids crying, etc.

You've probably talked to someone in a call center where you could hear other agents talking and laughing in the background... probably better than you could hear the person trying to talk to you.

That company was too cheap to buy noise canceling headsets for their agents, so you were unhappy talking to their agent. The agent probably went home with a headache every day.

A noise canceling headset isn't much more expensive than a voice tube headset. The extra money you pay today will bring you benefits for years to come.  A headset isn't a place to go cheap.  Most of the cheap headsets are sitting buried in desk drawers at companies all over the country after they were used for a couple of months - a total waste of money.

So maybe you'll look like a geek with the headset on in your office?

It's probably better to look geeky than have a pain in your neck!

One Ear, or Two?

If you choose an over the head style headset, you'll have to decide whether you want monaural (one ear) or binaural (two ears).

If there's a lot of noise and distraction in your office a binaural (two ear) headset makes more sense. Personally, I have a hard time concentrating with a headset covering only one ear, but we have an open office plan and I really have to concentrate on the technical stuff I'm discussing. Or ordering lunch.

I also feel that the binaural headset is a little more comfortable with a second "ear muff" over my ear, rather than a little rubber pad at the end of the headband sitting on the side of y head. Binaural headsets are more expensive, and there's twice as much stuff to break, but I just feel better at the end of the day using the binaural headset.

I am on the phone a lot, but not every minute of the day. When I'm off the phone, I just remove my over the head headset and hang it on the hardware store sticky hook I put on the side of my monitor. I've tried that with a hang on the ear type headset, but it's much faster and less hassle with the over the head style.


Mike Sandman... Chicago's Telecom Expert - 630-980-7710


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