We know from experience that conference calls tend to be longer that normal phone calls. Meetings often require hands free to attend to other matters, making a good headset a valuable tool. Further, interpreters using our multilingual conferencing must use a headset. Our effort to support interpreters using ZipDX includes maintaining a list of recommended headsets.
Historically, our recommended headsets have been models designed for the business and call center applications. These have been the ones that best met the requirements of an interpreter using ZipDX. We’ve tended to avoid headsets marketed at video gamers, since they tend to be both costly and overly complicated.
At CES 2020 JBL launched its first-ever line of headsets designed for gamers. The offer includes a handful of models, of which the simpler ones appeared well-suited for use by interpreters. We decided to evaluate the Quantum 200 model which retails for around $50 USD on Amazon.
Design & Comfort
The Quantum Series are all circumaural (aka over-the-ears) designs that attempt to isolate the user from the sounds of the outside world. This has the added benefit of keeping what you hear from leaking into the microphone, which prevents echo in our application.
The Quantum 200 is entirely made of plastic with soft leather-like padding around the ear cushions. They’re light, with an adjustable headband and pivoting ear cups. I found them comfortable, even in extended use.
The microphone boom is attached the the left earpiece. It pivots easily up and down. It’s made of a soft plastic that can be bent to place the microphone an appropriate distance from your mouth. The microphone element itself is a simple noise cancelling design fitted with a small foam windscreen.
There’s a handy volume adjustment on the back of the left earpiece. I found this useful as it allowed me to easily adjust the volume without fiddling through menus on my computer.
The Quantum 200 are at the affordable end of the range, and the built-quality reflects that reality. I would not recommend throwing them across the room. That said, they are comparable to similarly priced telecom headsets.
Earpieces – Hearing Well
I’m all too familiar with JBL speakers from my days in recording and broadcast studios. Their studio monitors are legendary, so I had high hopes for the Quantum 200 headphones, and they did not disappoint. They sound great, well-suited to any application – gaming, music or voice.
Microphone – Being Heard Clearly
The boom-mounted microphone features a directional electret condenser element. The mic element is located at the tip of the boom.
Tipping the boom into the up position, a click is heard and the microphone is automatically muted. Return the boom to its lower position and the mic is unmuted.
I like the use of the boom position to trigger muting for a reason you might not expect – I can ignore it. I don’t like how a physical set of controls along the cord (aka a “line lump”) can be awkward. We have in the ZipDX web phone a mute function that I prefer to use.
JBL claims that the microphone passes 100 Hz to 10 KHz. We verified that claim with a simple test & measurement process.
The Quantum 200 is an analog headset. A short cable is permanently attached to the left earpiece. It terminates in a 3.5mm 4-conductor plug, making it suitable for use with a smart phone, tablet or a modern laptop with a single “headset” jack, like the MacBook Air pictured below.
It also includes a cable that extends the connection, splitting it into separate 3.5mm 3-conductor plugs. Adding this cable makes the headset work with a computer with separate mic & speaker jacks (pictured above.)
If choosing the Quantum 200, we’d recommend an interpreter add a small USB sound adapter to their kit.
This $10 accessory would give the utmost in flexibility. Faced with a computer that had a poor built-in sound interface (quite common actually) the external USB adapter would be used to ensure a high-quality result.
The Quantum Family
My sense is that all the wired models in the JBL Quantum series share the same core components. The Quantum 100 is a little cheaper, but does not have does not have the tip-up microphone boom. Its microphone boom is removeable, which could be troublesome over time.
One YouTuber has determined that the Quantum 200 and Quantum 300 are actually the same product. The sole difference being that while the Quantum 200 includes two analog cables, the Quantum 300 comes with the attached cable and a USB adapter. The Quantum 400 starts to add more fancy gaming specific features, like RGB lighting and surround sound effects.
The Quantum 600 and 800 are wireless models. While some might appreciate the improved materials (real leather!) these are more costly and complicated than warranted for our purposes. Further, the wireless technology tends to create problems for interpreters using ZipDX.
We’re constantly on the lookout for new headsets. Most especially for interpreters who absolutely must use a headset when using ZipDX. JBL’s Quantum Series are new to market, which means that they should be widely available.
While several models may be appealing, the Quantum 200 model hits the sweet spot, offering solid performance at an attractive price. We’ve added it to our list of headsets recommended for interpreters using our multilingual service.
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