If you spend a lot of time on the telephone a headset can be a potent tool in your working routine. A headset ensures that you to always sound your very best, while keeping your hands free for other tasks, like moderating a conference via our dashboard.
Headsets are especially critical for interpreters working on ZipDX Multilingual conference calls. Our effort to support interpreters using ZipDX includes maintaining a list of recommended headsets. What follows is a review of the latest device to be added to our list.
The Koss GMR-540 Series
The GMR-540 Series from Koss are a family of headsets, with several variations that address slightly different needs or personal preferences.
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1. Circumaural Design – This means that the large, D-shaped cups completely cover the ear, the soft cushions resting on the users head.
2. Removable Cord – The headset itself has a 3.5mm mini-jack at the base of the left ear-cup. This allows the cord to be disconnected when not in use.
3. Dual Cords – The headset comes with two cords, each with a different type of microphone:
(a) The 4-foot cord (above) has a small, inline microphone, for use with a mobile phone, tablet or a newer computer with a single “headset” jack.
(b) The 8-foot cord (above) has the all-important boom-mounted microphone at the end the connects to the headset. The connection at the opposite end depends upon which version you selected. I evaluated the GMR-540-ISO-USB which has a built-in USB audio interface for use with a computer.
Alternatively, the longer cord provided with the GMR-540-ISO version has a pair of 3.5mm mini-plugs for use with a computer that has traditional analog microphone and headphone jacks. This connector arrangement is common to Windows desktops and older laptops.
Unlike some headsets, none of the cords have inline mute or volume controls. These “line lumps” are usually unnecessary, just something else to go wrong.
The GMR-540 is light. The soft red strap across the inside-top of the headset is elastic, allowing the ear cups to to be positioned perfectly. The ear cups have soft foam cushions with a leatherette cover.
The headband delivers enough pressure to keep the headset from bouncing around during quick head movements. Not so much pressure as to be tiresome. I found the headset comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
To date we’ve recommended professional call center headsets, in part because they’re very durable. They’re designed to survive everyday use in a rough-and-tumble office environment. Consumer products are often a little less durable.
This Koss headset is definitely made of plastic, but my sense is that it’s reasonably durable for office use. If you’re the sort who travels a lot with your gear, you’d be well-advised to put the headset in a protective bag or case when not in use.
The manufacturer offers a limited lifetime warranty, providing some assurance that they believe it’s well made.
Earpieces – Hearing Well
The headset sounds very good. In fact, it’s the first headset on our list that truly suitable for listening to music.
The closed-back ear cups provide a little extra isolation from whatever is going on in the room. We recommend this for interpreters as there’s less chance of sound leaking from the earpieces to the microphone. However, some may initially find it a little disconcerting, since you hear also less of your own voice as you speak.
Microphone – Being Heard Clearly
Since this review is principally aimed at interpreters, I will confine my comments to the long cord with the boom mounted microphone.
The 7-inch long microphone boom is a spiral wound metal. While flexible, it’s stiff enough to stay where its positioned. It’s easy to position the microphone perfectly – close enough to capture the voice clearly, but away from the breath stream to avoid that annoying Darth Vader effect.
The microphone boom can pivot around the connection to the base of the left ear cup. This allows it to be rotated out of the way should you need to cough or take a drink.
We like to recommend USB headsets to interpreters. USB headsets are simple; easy to connect to the computer, and have few, if any, settings to be adjusted. That said, we always test USB headsets to ensure high-quality, “full-duplex operation.”
In the course of normal conversation people are seldom listening and speaking at the same time. Conference interpreters are an exception. They are continuously listening while speaking. Thus for an interpreter, it’s critical that the sound is perfect, in both directions, at the same time.
Unfortunately, some common USB headsets degrade the sound from the microphone when there is also sound playing in the earpieces. This fact is why we started to maintain a list of headsets recommended for interpreters.
I’m able to report the KOSS GMR-540-ISO-USB passes our most rigorous test. We used the microphone to record some conversation at typical volume, while playing an unrelated, prerecorded message to the headphones. Under such circumstances the sound from the microphone remained clean and clear.
In the past, we’ve avoided recommending gaming headsets to our clients. Most gaming headsets are big, complicated affairs that are more suited to battlefield than business applications. The Koss GMR-540 Series, while aimed at gamers, are splendidly simple, flexible and affordable.
The Koss GMR-540 work well for our purposes here at ZipDX. We’ve added them to our list of headsets recommended for interpreters using our multilingual service.