Can you hear me now? No? Dammit. How about now?
February 1, 2007 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Headsetfilter: I talk to friends overseas almost every day via Skype. Since June I've gone through 4 usb headsets and suddenly this week people are saying they can't hear me well on the one I bought in December... so I may be heading for number 5 if the mic on this one is actually going bad. Grrrr. Any recommendations for a USB headset that might actually LAST and do a good job with Skype for me? USB headsets ain't cheap... I can't afford to keep investing in 'em.

The first headset, the audio cut out so I couldn't always hear. The second one, the cords came apart in a way that couldn't be fixed. The third was hellishly uncomfortable, and one day it just broke apart when I went to put it on my head. I'm not going to give the names of the products 'cuz I'm starting to think maybe I'm just jinxed with these things. Am I? I honestly don't know.

Helllp! I wanna talk to my friends without it being such a pain.
posted by miss lynnster to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How do you know the problem is the headset? Skype sound quality varies on every single skype phone call I make, which Im certain happens because oh how skype works (I will generously skip the details).

Load up Sound Recorder in windows and talk into it. If it sounds good there then this may be a skype issue.

Have you considered not getting a USB device? Why not get a cheapo headset + mic that plugs straight into the soundcard on the back of your computer. One plug goes into the speaker port and another into the mic port. I personally prefer these cheap ones over the USB ones. Less complexity, less chances for crap to go wrong. One more free USB port too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2007

Two suggestions from a skype user:

1. Get a USB telephone made for skype, like this or this. We have the linksys, and our only complaint ever was that the handset was a bit loudish.

2. The other option you could pursue would be a Playstation 2 USB headset.
posted by santojulieta at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2007

second the cheap headset. The can go bad, like cheap headphones where you have to get the plug in the right position to work. But they are so cheap you can replace them once that happens.
posted by subtle_squid at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2007

There isn't much to go wrong, so it is probably just broken wires. So, it may be worth rewiring one, although the break will just happen again in another spot.

You could try getting a USB sound card (these two types look interesting, no doubt cheaper on ebay, and without the turtle beach brand), and then you could use cheaper headphones without changing the way you do things very much. You might also try a USB to regular phone adapter.

I bet somebody would buy those failed USB headsets, if you need to offset the replacement cost a little..
Assuming there is no possibility of warranty replacement, complaining at the store you get them from, or other consumer activism, of course.
posted by Chuckles at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2007

A trick that might work for you... When I worked for a university audio program, we went through a lot of headsets. So they started buying the headsets with the special "for whatever reason warranties." If you're going through that many, this might be worth your while.
posted by drezdn at 1:50 PM on February 1, 2007

I'm guessing the headset is getting banged around. Having researched it for travel, it seems that all headsets are prone to damage to the mic, generally as the trade off to sensitivity. That said, I have had good luck with the Plantronics DSP-400, but I would get a case to keep it from the slings and arrows of travel, or go with a usb phone santojulieta recommended.
posted by arruns at 2:29 PM on February 1, 2007

If you are having problems, I'd go analog. Get a nice pair of headphones and a decent clip-on mic. Decent headphones last a long time and you won't need to replace them when the mic fails.
posted by chairface at 3:37 PM on February 1, 2007

Ever since I actually started paying for Skype, the service has been terrible. My guess is it's not the headsets.
posted by dropkick at 3:38 PM on February 1, 2007

If you're not dead-set on a USB headset, I strongly recommend anything by Koss, they offer a lifetime warranty, which I've never had to test. There's a pair of SB45s on my desk at home which is excellent for my own personal Skyp(e)ing. Even if you do need USB compatibility for whatever reason, as Chuckles mentioned USB sound cards can be had for about $20, though I have no experience with that end of things.
posted by Skorgu at 3:40 PM on February 1, 2007

Here's another vote to ditch the USB and go analog..

I have several Plantronics analong headset/mics and never had a problem with them... (I used to do a weekly radio DJ show, and I still use them almost every day)...
posted by jmnugent at 3:45 PM on February 1, 2007

Koss' lifetime warantee is indeed outstanding. It is a "whatever happen" warantee. I pulled on the cord of my Koss PortaPro, snaping the wire out of it connection. They sent me a fresh pair in 5 weeks, for 14$ (7$ shipping out, 7$ shipping back).
posted by gmarceau at 4:08 PM on February 1, 2007

How comfortable are you with messy PC drivers?

If you can withstand (potential) headaches at the time of install, I highly recommend getting a Bluetooth dongle and a BT headset.

Pros: wireless headset. Very durable, as long as you get a good headset.

Cons: A crappy dongle can be hell to install: my 2nd one installed fine, but even then I have to use the exact same USB port to hook it up or it will complain. Another problem may be specific to the headset I use, but the speech quality would become similar to that of a conventional land line (still good, but it won't be like you're talking to them across the room).

The Bluetooth dongle I have is a GBU321 from IOGear. My headset is a Plantronics Explorer 510 from Plantronics. The headset has been well-received in reviews, the dongle I picked up at a close-out sale from a local CompUSA. It wasn't a bad choice though, since install was relatively painless; though you don't have to get this exact type, make sure whatever you purchase supports "BLUETOOTH 2.0" as installs are supposed to be much easier on those adapters. Try to get 100-meter Bluetooth dongles as well; though you probably won't get that much distance, it'll let you stay connected while you walk around the house.

I've been using this setup for almost a year now; granted I don't make Skype calls that often, but it's yet to let me down. It will be a little pricey up front, but IMHO the results are more than worth the cost.
posted by Muu at 4:45 PM on February 1, 2007

Seconding the PS2 USB Headset (The one made by logitech). My best friend and I bought two on sale ($25ea) and they're still just as clean-sounding as they were two years ago.
We've tested them in Skype, TeamSpeak, Gtalk and Ventrilo and they really have a good mic.
posted by ApathyGirl at 7:39 PM on February 1, 2007

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