Plantronics Audio 550 DSP Headset

Makaveli - 2007-05-14 19:38:13 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: May 15, 2007
Plantronics
Plantronics
Price: $119.95 USD

Introduction:

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Get your head in the game”. What’s a better way to get into the game than by absorbing the sound and blocking outside noises? Can a Plantronics .Audio 550 DSP headset put your head into the game so that you can play the game how it’s supposed to be played? Let’s get these things on and find out!

Plantronics has been manufacturing lightweight communications headsets since 1962. Recently, the company has offered mobile headsets and next-generation computer audio headsets. Plantronics continues to pursue being a trend-setter in its respective markets.


Closer Look:

The package sets a good tone for the enclosed product because it looks simple, professional, and it displays the product.  I like to see what I’m getting into when I purchase a product, so it was good to be able to see the headset up close and personal before I opened the package.  The back of the package lists the specifications and features of the product with a picture of the headset all laid out. I was also intrigued by the message at the top of the back side of the packaging. It boasts about how a set of Plantronics headsets were used to communicate from the first moon landing crew to NASA in 1969.

 


Enough babbling, let’s get this thing out of the plastic! Now while it’s not impossible, it is fairly difficult to open the plastic. I had to pry it open with quite a bit of force and I almost thought about getting a pair of scissors. Once it was out, I could already tell that the cable was going to be very long, which is a huge plus.


I’m not going to lie, I have a big head, so I had to make sure the headset could accommodate me, as well as other users who have big heads. Below you can see a picture of one side of the headset pulled down the farthest it can go, along with the other side pushed up as far as it can go.


The top of the headset is a very comfortable pad which can, to an extent, move horizontally, though it does not move vertically.


The ear cups have the same padding as the top of the headset but slightly thicker.  The speakers themselves are 40mm large. I like the red color of the speakers because it goes well with black and it’s discreet.

Closer Look:

The microphone is very unique on this headset. For starters, it has a very nice level of resistance when you pull it down. I like that because it gives you a sense of sturdiness; it’s not going to move when you move your head or the headset.  The mobility of the microphone isn’t as good as I would like it to be. The image on the left shows the microphone in its up position, and the picture on the right shows how far the microphone can be pulled down. Something that disappoints me is that the microphone can’t be rotated 360 degrees because I know some people who like to have the microphone on the right side of their headset.

 

 

 

Let’s examine the cable now. The cable is three meters long, so it should suffice for most people. There is a volume control about a foot down from the headset which is very cool. It has 3 buttons: volume up, volume down, and mute. The mute button is very useful because it mutes only your microphone, so you can still hear others. When you have mute on, the outer ring of the button glows red.

 

 

Down the wire you’ll find an orange band that has 7 different languages telling you to go to www.plantronics.com/downloads and get the PerSono software.  I think this is kind of weak because what if you don’t have internet access?

 

Before I forget, the cable is connected via USB. Near the bottom of the cable is a little casing surrounding the cable which displays the Plantronics logo and the technology that the headset uses (DSP - Digital Sound Processing).

 

Installation:

To install your headset, just plug it into a free USB port. The only down side to installing it is that the headset disables your speakers immediately. Now, go to the download page on Plantronics' website and download the PerSono software and install it.


 

Configuration:

The software which you use for the headset is called PerSono. It is a small program that goes hand-in-hand with the Windows audio controls. There are two different tabs – headphone and microphone. Under the headphone tab, you can change the balance, bass, and treble of your headphones, as well as which style you’d like to have on.  The different styles you can choose from are shown on the right-hand screenshot. The speaker test is a sound file that starts by making a whooshing noise in the left ear and it gradually gets louder and moves to the right ear. At the end of the test, it makes a crashing noise with bass in both ears.

 


Under the microphone tab, users can change the microphone’s volume as well as test it. When you test the microphone, it tells you to start talking and then plays it back.


The display in the middle of the program shows your selections below with blue bars. You cannot make changes within the display; you must do your modifying in the section below with the sliders.

Specifications:

 

Speaker Driver Size 40mm diameter
Speaker Frequency Response 20Hz - 20kHz
Microphone Frequency Response 100Hz - 10kHz
Cable Length 3 meters (USB plug)
Digital Signal Processing (DSP):
  • Full stereo 16-bit, 48kHz data from USB
  • 24 bit 100dB signal-to-noise CODEC
  • 32 bit digital audio processing

 

Testing:


Test System:


Finally, we can do some good old testing by slapping this headset on and playing some games, listening to music, and watching movies.  The first thing I tested was music. I played many songs trying to get the speakers to crackle or sound bad. I succeeded, which is not a good thing. The bass really interferes with the music and sounds terrible when you turn it all the way up. I found that if you turn on the bass boost, it sounds much crisper than without bass boost. If you leave the bass slider in the middle, it doesn’t sound too bad, until you crank up the volume almost all the way up. Until that point, everything sounds crystal clear. In gaming, I still noticed that the bass wasn’t good when the volume was way up, but it was tolerable with the Gaming mode on. While I watched a movie, the bass didn’t sound bad at all, no matter how loud I turned it. These headsets absolutely clobber my old DCT Factory $5.00 headset, which has absolutely no bass at all.

To test the microphone, I went on TeamSpeak, as well as Counter-Strike: Source, and talked to all my buddies with the microphone. They all said that I sounded crystal clear. I knew that I was sounding that good because of the microphone test in the PerSono software – the playback that I heard was just outstanding. It honestly sounded like I was talking to myself because there were no sounds being picked up from the background.

Conclusion:

To wrap everything up, these headsets are absolutely wonderful when the bass is turned off. The bass sounds very bad when you turn the volume up near the max that the headset can achieve because it interferes with the sound and just sounds horrible. So I was let down in the bass aspect of the headset. The microphone couldn’t be better because it didn’t pick up any background noises while I was talking. The comfort of these headsets is a huge plus. I can say that these are the only headphones that I have ever worn for more than two hours that haven’t hurt my ears the slightest bit. The volume control is nice, but the mute button is even better. I love being able to have the microphone on mute and still hear everything people were saying. These headsets are great for everyday users who won’t be messing with the bass levels on the headset. I think this headset is good for gaming as well, because you can keep the headset on for hours on end and never have sore ears. The microphone is the best that anyone can ask for on a headset because of how well it records sound and doesn’t pick up outside noises.



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