Plantronics Audio 655 headset
There are a many headsets you might want to consider using with your PC. If you regularly listen to music or play games, then a standard headset will do. But if you want to use VoIP as part of those games, or regularly use a VoIP application such as Skype for calling, then it is worth investing in a headset that will meet those needs.
Of course if you are a gamer, then something like the Plantronics .Audio 655 gives you a good combination of features, giving you a headset with boom mic, perfect for issuing commands in co-op missions, or taunting your rivals. If you are a Skype user with a camera, then you might feel a little more self conscious using this type of headset - something worth bearing in mind before investing.
The headset is constructed from grey plastic throughout and to help you get the right fit there is the normal adjustment in the headband, as well as some swivel in the ear cans themselves. The choice of materials isn't brilliant but at this price point, it is better than you might expect, and the construction is solid enough.
They are pretty large, however, and there is no folding option so they aren't really practical for taking on the road with you.
The boom mic does fold however, dropping down on the left-hand side, with a flexible arm so you can move it in towards your mouth. The end is tinted in red, like the lining inside the cans, which picks out these active areas nicely. You also get 2 metres of cable which should be enough to give you full roaming on your desk without taking them off.
As said, the 655 are pretty chunky, although more compact than some of the gaming headsets we've seen in the past. The ear cans don't completely enclose your ears (unless you've got especially small ears) but with plenty of padding on the contact points around the edges and lining the headband, we found that it was comfortable to wear the 655s for hours. They are lightweight too, so you don't need to worry about getting a tired neck.
And because they don't totally encase your ears you don't get too hot either, although in summer or if you have the heating on you will get hot ears after a while as you will with most headsets. Noise isolation is pretty much non-existent, so you will still hear loud external noises. This is a double-edged sword perhaps, because you can mute your PC and hear someone talking to you without taking the headset off, which some might like.
The headset, though, is very loud. In fact on our MacBook we had the volume right down at the bottom end of the scale. Turning it up all the way was painfully loud for us, but quality was preserved throughout the volume range, and we found that there was very little distortion as we turned up the volume.
On the left-hand side you'll find a volume control too, so you can change the volume of your PC or Mac without actually having to touch the thing, thanks to the USB connection. The mic contains its own muting as well - you simply lift it up back into the vertical position and it cuts off, a great way to participate in online conference calls, with having to worry about the mic.
The mic also features noise cancellation and we tried a few test calls and the reported results were very good, so you don't have to worry about the radio in the background while you talk. Of course to get the best results, turning the radio off will ultimately give a much better result.
It is also recognised as a device for VoIP applications, such as Skype, and Plantronics tell us that the headset is optimised to Skype's new Super Wideband Audio Codec that is included with Skype 4.0 for Windows. In our test calls, everyone reported that we came though loud and clear, so the mic does its job well. On the receiving end, the advantage of having a headset is it cuts out some of the distractions when talking to your computer.
Setting the VoIP or gaming integration aside, you are still left with an impressive headset for listening to music. Bass delivery is very good, something that gamers will like, as the sound has a rich meaty quality too it. We found that general music listening was great, but without the noise cancellation you do tend to turn it up and there is a fair degree of noise leakage too, something to bear in mind if you are in a quiet location, such as on a train.
The impressive bass delivery does mean that sometimes you'll find that callers do sound a little too bassy - particularly with those macho men, but less of a problem with female callers.
VerdictWe love it when we get something that does exactly what it sets out to do. The Plantronics .Audio 655 typifies this, providing a great all round headset for using with your PC or Mac. Unlike some devices there isn't an adapter to let you connect this to regular 3.5mm jacks, so this is very much a device for your PC or Mac only.
If you are looking for a headset to take care of your audio and VoIP needs, that not only delivers great results but is also good value for money, then the Plantronics .Audio 655 come highly recommended.