Plantronics .Audio 995 vs Creative HS-1200
Wireless Headset Galore
For audio, I have always liked cables. They provide good sound quality, are cheap, and they never tangle or get in the way. Oh wait, they actually do get in the way. A lot. Ever been on Skype when suddenly the "real" phone rings? So you get up and run off to pick up, forgetting about the wires - I actually pulled the cable out of a headset this way once. So if you, like me, have a problem with wires, what wireless alternatives are there? I had a look at two.
I have two headsets for this review, the Plantronics .Audio 995 and the Creative HS-1200. They are both sub $100-devices.
Both headsets are quite small, but the Plantronics are definitely bigger than the Creatives.
Hooking it up
The Creative headset has a quite unusually looking USB receiver, some kind of wired disc. I guess it is wired so that you can place it in some convenient location, since the other cable attached to it is used for charging and should be kept within reach. A bit ironic actually, you buy a wireless headset and get two cables along with it.
Plantronics use a more traditional approach with a normal USB dongle, no wiring here. For charging, a standard mini USB cable is used.
I tried the units under Windows 7, and they both installed with no problem. Both headsets work as individual audio devices. Windows is only able to send sound to one device at a time however, which could cause inconvenience for some. For example, it means that you cannot have your speakers (connected to the internal soundcard) and the headset (working as its own soundcard) running at the same time. Instead, you will have to use the control panel to switch between them depending on which you want to use. You can setup the headset as the default communication device however, if you only want to use it for Skype and the like.
When charging, the Creatives can still be used. So no need to stop Skyping if you are low on battery, just plug in the charger and carry on. The Plantronics, on the other hand, do not provide this luxury. And neither headset warns you when they are about to run out of juice. Fat minus right there.
Winner: Creative, thanks to charging-and-using, despite the ugly receiver.
The Plantronic headset has some kind of mid-sized cups, like they wanted to make them oversized but kinda settled halfway. They are quite comfortable though, but they are not really made for longer (3hrs+) sessions.
Creative decided to go for smaller cups whose shape makes you look a bit like Mickey Mouse when wearing them (not sure if that played a part in the design process). They are about as comfortable to wear as the Plantronics though. The cups are a bit to small, but the headband doesn't put as much pressure on them so it just about evens out.
Both headsets let you go to the next room while Skyping without clicks or pops. Walking outside was more difficult. The Plantronics let me sit on the balcony with just some occasional glitching, while the Creatives garbled away and then went quiet.
I tried placing the USB receivers on the desk instead of under it (where my comp sits) and it seemed to have helped some. The winner is still clear though.Winner: Plantronics. Hands down.
This may annoy some: There is always some static in the background. It is very quiet, and if you play any sound, you won't hear it. It's about the same for both units, and much lower than the background noise of my wireless Sony MDR-RF800R headphones. But it is definitely there, and it won't go away.
Listening to music or playing games with the headsets works just fine. But that's about it - if you are an audiophile, don't even bother. For the rest of us, it could be useful to know that the Plantronics provide more bass and the treble suffers some (making the sound quite muffled), while the Creatives are just about the other way around, with a clear treble but less punch. For me, they both provide a pleasant listening experience. I can barely make out the background noise when playing music, even when listening to ambient (Brian Eno's Apollo sounds just as great).
Winner: Plantronics. Because I like bass. ;)
The Plantronics use a boom mic, which looks much more solid than the flexible arm of the Creative. To activate any of the microphones, just pull it down.
The sound is good in both cases. I tried Skyping a bit, and the other party felt an improvement in sound quality over my old (el cheapo) wired headset. Again, there is some background noise, but speech comes though clearly.
Winner: Tie. Unless you have a problem with Creative's flimsy design.
Both units give you a few buttons placed on the side to play with. With the Plantronics you get On/Off, Volume Up, Volume Down, Play/Pause, and Skip. Creative gives you On/Off, Volume Up, Volume Down, and Answer call (on Skype or such). Not much to say here, for me the buttons a mostly redundant, save for On/Off and Volume. I can't find a way to reprogram the other buttons either. But on the other hand, it just just feel gimmicky and who cares.
Fore some reason, Plantronics placed the buttons on the left side while Creative decided to go for the right side.
Update: To turn off the Plantronics, press and hold the on/off button for about a second. If you hold it too long (2 seconds or so) they will not switch off, instead the LED will start blinking blue.
Winner: Actually I don't really feel that this is so important.
The Creatives are a bit more expensive, but it basically just comes down to what you need from your headset. So here the summary:
Get the Creative HS-1200 if you:
- Want to be able to use and recharge the unit at the same time (less risk of running out of battery)
- Prefer a clear treble over bass
- Like the idea of a pickup button
- Prefer smaller cups
- ... or maybe you just like the design.
Get the Plantronics .Audio 995 if you:
- Prefer a smaller receiver
- Like a bit more bass
- Wants some music controls: Play/Pause and Skip
- Prefer cups that, while not oversized, are at least not way too undersized
- Need a bit more range.
- Want to save some $$$
- ... or maybe you just like the design.
I prefer the Plantronics but that's just me.