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May 19, 2020 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me a (noise cancelling?) headset for remote collaboration from a noisy environment.

I run workshop for university students, and need to prepare contingency plans in case said students can't actually come to the shop this fall. I'm exploring the possibility of remote real-time collaboration. In a quiet environment this would be dead-simple, but our situation is particularly challenging. What I'd like is a bluetooth headset with good battery life and capable of making speech intelligible in both directions despite use in close proximity to noisy machinery.

I know nothing about audio equipment. Assume I'm willing to pay for tangibly better results unless the price is frikkin' ridiculous.
posted by jon1270 to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
A workshop. I run a workshop.
posted by jon1270 at 2:02 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I work in a noisy open plan office (when we're actually in the office...) and my Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise cancelling headphones are, by far, the best office related purchase I've ever made.

They have good sound quality, and the microphone has good pickup. I use them as my phone headset for meetings and the sound in both directions is great.
posted by ralan at 2:09 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


You'll never get a bluetooth headset that's as good as a wired headset. I have the highly-rated Sony WH1000MX3 headphones which are really good but after testing and dozens of online meetings the wired mic I bought to use with it sounds much better than the mic via BT.

Getting a USB pro or semi-pro mic may help a lot as those do noise rejection based on the physics of the mic itself and you can get ones that only pick up your voice in a pretty limited area around the mic.
posted by GuyZero at 2:47 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Do you need hearing protection?

Do you need aural awareness around individuals (i.e. to hear vehicles for safety reasons)?

There are headsets for construction and industrial use that may fit your bill, but it could also be that consumer grade units are good enough for what you need. But consumer ones don't generally offer protection or mix external inputs, so if that's important to you then that's a clue to needing to look at the more non-consumer options.
posted by bonehead at 2:49 PM on May 19


How do you want to connect too, via phones or a dedicated radio?

Do you have rf noise to contend with too? That can be a real problem if you do.
posted by bonehead at 2:49 PM on May 19


Do you need hearing protection?

No, that might be nice but isn't necessary. The noisy periods will not be sustained over the lengths of time that it takes to get OSHA excited.

Do you need aural awareness around individuals (i.e. to hear vehicles for safety reasons)?

No again. This would be 1-2 people working inside a large room, quite aware of each other.


You'll never get a bluetooth headset that's as good as a wired headset

How do you want to connect too, via phones or a dedicated radio?


Wired won't fly for the arrangement we're contemplating. The idea we came up with is to use a mounted iphone for visuals, while explaining/conversing via the headset. Necessary camera position (and frequent position changes) would make wires impractical.

I don't know about RF noise. The equipment is mostly just simple machinery driven by 3-phase motors.
posted by jon1270 at 3:26 PM on May 19


I work in a noisy open plan office (when we're actually in the office...) and my Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise cancelling headphones are, by far, the best office related purchase I've ever made.

Seconding this. They're great.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:54 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I use a Voyager Focus headset from Plantronix and would recommend it. It can connect via Bluetooth- but has a better (45 metre) range via its included USB dongle. Microphone noise cancelling is very good in loud environments . Battery range several hours. You can be connected to 2 devices at once which can be useful if you want to switch between laptop and smartphone calls. It’s designed for people who need a comfortable, wireless headset they can wear for many long calls in an open plan office or similar. Note that this is a rather different type of device to the Sony/Bose type noise cancelling headphones - where the emphasis is on giving YOU quiet in a noisy place - and which can also be used for talking - but which are not so focussed on picking up the best signal.
posted by rongorongo at 4:04 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


As rongorongo alludes to, you need something with a mic in front of your face. Bose headsets will sound good on your end but people listening to you will likely hear your environment and odds are that you'll sound far away... because you are far away (from the mic).

Work got me a Jabra Evolve 75 (which I see is the Wirecutter's top pick) due to multiple people in a room being on different calls and I've have several people comment on how clear my voice sounds. It has passable noice cancellation and makes it very easy to mute (dedicated button or swinging the mic up) when you aren't talking.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:03 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I also have the Bose and can wear them all day without discomfort.
posted by matildaben at 5:54 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Also check out Krisp.ai, it's software for Mac/PC/iOS that does a truely AMAZING job of removing background noise on incoming and outgoing audio, using AI they say. I've tested it and found it to be amazing even when power saws are going in the next yard over. Also it's free for up to 120 minutes/week, so there's really no down side in trying it, although $5/month for the full deal seems expensive when they've apparently already bottled the magic.

https://krisp.ai/
posted by tiamat at 6:56 PM on May 19


Thanks very much so far.

As rongorongo alludes to, you need something with a mic in front of your face.

I'd appreciate it if anyone could expand on this. It makes intuitive sense, but the fact that some high end models (e.g. Bose) lack a boom mic makes me wonder whether it's true, or true only in particular circumstances.
posted by jon1270 at 3:44 AM on May 20


Another Bose QC 35 user here. They're pricey in my opinion but I've been happy with them. I'm working out of my basement and since the weather warmed up my standalone dehumidifier has started kicking on with it's quite loud fan. No one has ever noticed it and at one point I asked and folks said they couldn't hear it at all.

One thing that I do not like about it is that it's also paired to my phone and if I'm on a PC call/meeting and the phone rings the QC 35 will cut in with "call from, #########". After it's announcement it will cut back to audio from the meeting but now with phone rings interspersed. It always leaves me confused as to whether people can hear me and I get know warning so I can't tell folks to hold on for a second. If you're teaching just make sure you don't have a second bluetooth connection to the headphones and I think it'd be fine.
posted by Awfki at 4:01 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


As rongorongo alludes to, you need something with a mic in front of your face
Yes. And a clarification that my non-obvious link to the wirecutter review - does indeed now recommend the Jabra evolve 75 rather than my current Plantronix headset. Note that the Wirecutter test involved getting somebody to read a passage in a quiet ambient environment - and then repeating the exercise with a noisy A/C unit turned up full blast and the "Morning Murmur" background soundtrack of a busy office playing over a nearby stereo. They then ran a blind test on the person at the remote end to ask them which conversation sounded the best - the idea being that it would not be possible to tell the difference. Both Bluetooth connectivity and noise cancelling algorithms appear to be areas that have been improving significantly in recent years.

The review does explain why having a boom microphone helps.
posted by rongorongo at 4:02 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


One thing that I do not like about it is that it's also paired to my phone and if I'm on a PC call/meeting and the phone rings the QC 35 will cut in with "call from, #########". After it's announcement it will cut back to audio from the meeting but now with phone rings interspersed.

You can turn this off, but doing it will also turn off all other voice prompts such as the "connected to..." messages to let you know you're connected to a device.

In the Bose Connect app, in Settings, turn off Voice Prompts.
posted by ralan at 4:18 PM on May 21


Following up on this, I decided to try a model with a boom mic, which eliminated the Bose for now. The Jabra and Plantronix both had reviews complaining of fragile parts and premature breakage, which is a concern for us because it's likely this headset would be put on and taken off very frequently. Instead I ordered a BlueParrott B450-XT, which is cheaper and only mono rather than stereo, but apparently known for good microphone noise-cancelling and popular with truck drivers. Initial tests have gone really well. I paired it with my iphone, went outside and had a zoom meeting with my assistant *while revving a loud, professional-grade gas chain saw,* and he found it so easy to understand me that he was giggling with amazement. Later I used it for a similar meeting while standing between two large, operating laser cutters with ventilation units blowing away nearby, and he couldn't hear any of that background noise at all. The tech has come a long way.
posted by jon1270 at 5:24 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


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