In the process of training interpreters in the use of ZipDX multilingual conferencing we often get asked to recommend headsets. In response to such requests, we have been evaluating headsets and compiling this list of recommended models.
- What makes a good headset?
In evaluating a headset we consider the following criteria:
- It must have a wired connection to the computer.
- It must have two earpieces. This is sometimes called “stereo” or “binaural.”
- It must have a boom-mounted microphone.
- It should have a noise-reducing microphone.
- It must consistently deliver high-quality audio, in both directions, at the same time.
- Any controls, settings or adjustments should be simple and intuitive to use.
- It must be comfortable to wear.
- It must be durable.
- Where can I buy a good headset?
It would be most ideal if we could recommend an affordable, high-quality headset that was conveniently available in shops everywhere…but this simply hasn’t been the case. Retail stores currently cater to two distinct markets; very low-end models aimed at “online chat” and more expensive, often complicated models designed for gaming.
While such headsets may suffice in a pinch, neither are ideal for interpreters. As a result, we recommend interpreters shop online for a headset. Specialty online resellers offer a huge range of headsets better suited to use with ZipDX multilingual. In fact, the sheer number of models available online highlights the value of some specific recommendations.
Where possible, we include links to broadly available online sources, like Amazon.com.
- Which is better...an analog or USB-attached headset?
While both types of headsets can be satisfactory, in practice we have found USB headsets to be preferred for several reasons:
- There’s only one type of connector used by USB-attached headsets, so there’s little chance that it won’t connect to any particular computer.
- When connected a USB headset is usually identified by the computer. It’s listed clearly by name, making it easy to select as the active audio device.
- Since it’s designed explicitly for voice applications, a USB headset may include advanced audio processing not provided by the built-in sound card.
Each of the following headsets has been tested to ensure that it meets the requirements of interpreters working on ZipDX multilingual conference calls. Listed in reverse chronological order.
1. JBL Quantum 200
JBL has along history in consumer and professional audio. Their Quantum Series of headsets, introduced in January 2020, target gamers, but include a few models that are well-suited to interpreters using ZipDX.
- See our detailed review published August 2020.
- JbL Quantum 200 is available from Amazon.com for around $49 (August 2020.)
2. Koss CS300
Follow-up to the GMR-540 headsets for gamers, the CS300 target communications applications. Introduced in 2018, they affordable and well-suited to the requirements of interpreters using ZipDX.
- See our detailed review published April 2019
- Koss CS300 is available from Amazon.com for around $49 (April 2019.)
3. Sennheiser SC60 USB
Family-owned and based in Germany, Sennheiser is a recognized world leader in audio equipment for the stage, studio, aviation and telecom. Their Culture Series includes the SC60 USB ML, which is a great choice for an interpreter using ZipDX. It’s extraordinarily light and comfortable to wear.
- Sennheiser SC60 USB is available from Amazon.com for around $48 (April 2017.)
4. Koss GMR-540 Series
The Koss name is legendary in Hi-Fi. They invented stereo headphones way back in 1958. While still a leader in headphones, they have also made communications headsets for professional applications. In 2017 they introduced the GMR-540 Series, a line of headsets for gaming that are well suited to the requirements of interpreters using ZipDX.
- See our detailed review publish May 2018
- Koss GMR-540-ISO-USB is available from Amazon.com for around $69 (May 2018.)
- Koss GMR-540-ISO (analog) is available from Amazon.com for around $59 (May 2018.)
5. Plantronics Encore Pro 520 & DA70
This Plantronics headset is the latest model from their professional range, which targets office and call center applications. The headset itself is light, comfortable, sounds good to the listener, and delivers very good sound to your audience.
It’s a modular headset that features a short cable that ends in a “Quick Connect” fitting. You must add the Plantronics DA70 USB adapter cable to create a complete solution. The optional 3.5mm adapter cable delivers the flexibility connect via USB or a standard mini-plug, allowing the Encore Pro 520 to be used with a computer or smart phone.
- Plantronics Encore Pro 520 (HW520) is available from HeadsetsDirect.com for $78 (April 2017.)
- Plantronics DA70 USB adapter cable is available from HeadsetsDirect.com for $32 (April 2017.)
- Plantronics QD-to-3.5mm adapter cable is available from HeadsetsDirect.com for $20 (April 2017.)
6. Jabra BIZ 2400 Duo USB
This business class USB headset is light, durable and sounds very good. The round control in the cord has a rotary volume control with mute function.
- See our detailed review published January 14, 2016.
- The Jabra BIZ 2400 Duo USB is available from Amazon for $158 (January 2016.)
7. Plantronics Blackwire C720
This USB headset from Plantronics is comfortable and delivers good audio performance. It folds flat to fit into a hard-sided zippered case, making it suitable for travelling.
- The Plantronics Blackwire C720 is available from Amazon for $115 (January 2016.)
- Note: Plantronics Blackwire 300 & 500 series headsets should be avoided.
8. Logitech H650e
This business class USB headset from Logitech is available in single or dual-ear models. Offered by a major manufacturer of computer accessories they may be available in some stores.
- The Logitech H650e is available from Amazon for $60 (January 2016.)