Suggestions for a high-sound-quality Skype headset? (Preferably cordless).

NicolasB

Distinguished Member
I'd like some suggestions for a headset - that is, something with a microphone, that you can use for Skype calls. I suspect the device that I really want doesn't exist :D but I welcome suggestions on what might be the best compromise!

Ideally I want:
  • Something cordless.
  • Something comfortable and light-weight - not the equivalent of heavy, circumaural, hi-fi headphones.
  • Suitable for someone with a smallish head. (It's actually going to be for my partner, not for me).
  • Something with good sound quality - good enough that you could pleasurably listen to classical music on it when not Skyping.
  • A good quality microphone, so the person on the other end can hear you very clearly.
  • If possible, some noise reduction on the microphone so the person on the other end of the line doesn't hear too much background noise. (But we don't need noise cancellation at this end).
  • Must send sound to both ears, and be able to operate in stereo for non-phone-use.
Most of the devices I've seen so far have either been wired; or huge, heavy, gaming-oriented headsets; or they use Bluetooth for communication with the computer.

I'm suspicious about the sound quality Bluetooth allows for phone calls. My info may be a few years out of date, but last time I checked, with Bluetooth devices you had the choice of either high(ish) quality stereo sound, but with high latency, and no microphone; or very low quality mono sound, low latency, and an active microphone. In other words, if you use Bluetooth with a headset (with active mic) the sound quality plummets compared to high-latency stereo mode. From my perspective one of the main benefits of Skype is precisely that the sound quality is so much better and clearer than talking on a regular phone; and I suspect a Bluetooth headset may somewhat nullify that. But if that's not the case, please say so.

Budget: could go into £100-£200 range if necessary but am hoping I won't need to; I definitely don't want to be spending several hundred pounds, though.
 

interbear

Well-known Member
Reviving this thread as I’m in the same boat now I mainly work from home and use Skype for Business heavily.

So - @NicolasB - did you find what you were looking for? I’ve narrowed it down to a choice of 3, all Bluetooth as I need to be able to move about when on conference calls.

Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
Jabra Evolve 75
Jabra Evolve 65

They’d all meet your spec based on my research thus far. And all 3 do Microsoft optimised versions for better SfB quality and integration. The Plantronics and Jabra 75 are both active noise cancelling, which I don’t really need as my home office is pretty quiet. More importantly all three have noise cancelling on the microphones to ensure that the call quality for the person on the other end is good too.

Plantronics gets better reviews all round so is the current favourite and can be had for £180 ish on Amazon. I’m about to go for it but happy to hear of any other suggestions.

PS. I actually just bought Apple AirPods for use with my Apple devices and the microphones on the AirPods are excellent for calls. However, they just won’t play nicely with my Windows 10 work laptop. I can only get the speakers to work, not the mics, so they are no use for calls via the laptop. Strange but seems to be a common issue.
 

NicolasB

Distinguished Member
Reviving this thread as I’m in the same boat now I mainly work from home and use Skype for Business heavily.

So - @NicolasB - did you find what you were looking for? I’ve narrowed it down to a choice of 3, all Bluetooth as I need to be able to move about when on conference calls.

Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
Jabra Evolve 75
Jabra Evolve 65

They’d all meet your spec based on my research thus far. And all 3 do Microsoft optimised versions for better SfB quality and integration. The Plantronics and Jabra 75 are both active noise cancelling, which I don’t really need as my home office is pretty quiet. More importantly all three have noise cancelling on the microphones to ensure that the call quality for the person on the other end is good too.

Plantronics gets better reviews all round so is the current favourite and can be had for £180 ish on Amazon. I’m about to go for it but happy to hear of any other suggestions.

PS. I actually just bought Apple AirPods for use with my Apple devices and the microphones on the AirPods are excellent for calls. However, they just won’t play nicely with my Windows 10 work laptop. I can only get the speakers to work, not the mics, so they are no use for calls via the laptop. Strange but seems to be a common issue.
This was intended as a Christmas present for my partner; I ended up getting the Jabra Evolve 75 (MS version) in the end. Partner is very happy with it, although she hasn't done any A/B comparisons with other models, so I couldn't say for sure that it's the best choice.

I tried it briefly myself. I felt the sound quality was okay - it's definitely optimised for speech rather than (say) music, but not so much so that you couldn't use it for music occasionally. I didn't feel it was very comfortable, but my partner has no complaints at all about that; I have a very large head, while hers is quite small (hat size 63 vs 54), so maybe be a little careful if you also have a large head!

Partner is very happy with the sound quality, and so are the people she talks to.

The active noise cancellation works quite well, and in our case this is important - she wanted to be able to use it in the kitchen while cooking, and screen out the noise of the fan in the cooker hood, for example. But you would be paying quite a bit extra to have that feature.

It also does a good job of screening out noise for the microphone, so people at the other end hear only your voice and not background noise.

It's not as portable as you might have expected. It's light to wear, but it doesn't fold up in a way that lets you stuff it safely into a pocket; you need to use the supplied case, and carry it in a briefcase or rucksack.

Setup wasn't quite as plug-and-play as it could have been - I had to manually download a driver and also manually download the most recent headset firmware and flash it. Nothing that would cause a typical AVForums user any problems, but a very non-technical person might need some hand-holding the first time they use it.

The controls are fairly intuitive and easy to find. There's a quite neat feature with the mute button: when you press it, it not only mutes the Skype call at both ends, it also starts feeding your ears the microphone signal; so if you want to talk to someone standing next to you, you can do so without taking the headset off, and hear them clearly.

Another handy thing is that it can maintain two Bluetooth connections at once, so it can be connected to your mobile phone, and also to your laptop for Skype, and if a call comes in on the phone you can switch to that and then go back to Skype afterwards.

With the above caveats, I'd recommend it; but if you don't need noise cancellation, there are probably cheaper options.
 

interbear

Well-known Member
Thanks for the detailed response. Glad your partner is happy with the Jabra, they do look very good.

I solicited a few other recommendations from heavy Skype for Business users. All of them highly praised the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC, so I ordered one today. Actually worked out the same price as the Jabra but with the added bonus of a charging stand, which I know will be useful.

As for the quality, I will know next week, but it'll surely be better than the cheap earbuds plugged into the laptop that I'm currently using!
 

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