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Plantronics .Audio 995 vs Creative HS-1200

Wireless Headset Galore

August 7th, 2010

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.

The competitors

I have two headsets for this review, the Plantronics .Audio 995 and the Creative HS-1200. They are both sub $100-devices.

The Plantronics .Audio 995.
The Plantronics .Audio 995.
The Creative HS-1200.
The Creative HS-1200.

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.

To the left: The Creative receiver. To the right: The Plantronics receiver.
To the left: The Creative receiver. To the right: The Plantronics receiver.

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.

Ergonomics

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.

Winner: Tie.

Range/Reception

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.

Sound quality

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 microphone

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 Plantronics with the mic extended.
The Plantronics with the mic extended.
The mic is good but feels a bit flimsy.
The mic is good but feels a bit flimsy.

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.

Buttons

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.

Buttons. In the middle (under the logo) is the on/off/charging light.
Buttons. In the middle (under the logo) is the on/off/charging light.
The buttons of the Creative headset. The on/off/charging indicator is placed in the middle here as well.
The buttons of the Creative headset. The on/off/charging indicator is placed in the middle here as well.

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.

Conclusion

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.

January 3rd, 2011 20:48
rob

Hey man great review. I was actually considering buying both these products and returning the one I didn't like but now I don't need to.

February 13th, 2011 00:56
Hab

Hey man, graet review. I just have 1 question. You say the Plantronic one is not chargable while using it. Is that becuase of the range of the USB cable or the fact that it has no power in it while its battery is dead? I mean if I were to buy a longer miniusb to usb cable and the headset died, could I plug that on in, w8 10 min and use it while being charge?

Thanks fpr reading // Hab

March 12th, 2011 22:42
Erik

Sorry for taking so long time replying to this, but better late than never I guess. Fact is, the headset cannot be used when charging at all, it basically stays switched off while charging. The Creative headset does not suffer from this.

April 3rd, 2011 05:23
Don McGuiney

I really enjoyed your review. I have a problem. I bought the Plantronics unit but it won't play any sound. It installed very easyband shows in the control panel but I can't use them. Any suggestions?
Thanks,

April 3rd, 2011 15:41
Erik

Hi Don,

there are a few things you can do to make sure things are set up properly. A common problem is that Windows is sending sound to the wrong device, since the OS can only direct sound output to one device at a time.

After connecting the USB dongle and having turned on the headset, right click the speaker icon next to the Windows clock and select "Playback devices". The headset should show up in the list. Now, select the headset and click the "Set Default" button (or select "Default communication device" if you only want to use it with Skype and the like). Click "Properties" and make sure the volume is not set to zero (under the "Levels" tab).

For mic setup, just select "Recording devices" instead of "Playback devices" and you will be able to figure out the rest.

The changes should take effect immediately, but in some cases you may have to restart the application playing sounds (Windows Media Player, Skype or whatever).

If this doesn't help, try using the headset with another PC.

September 18th, 2011 20:01
rex

i was wondering if i had more than 1 pair of 995 headphones
can i pair both of them to the one usb dongle if both paired ?
thank you

September 21st, 2011 19:11
Erik

Hi rex,

according to Plantronics, the dongle does not support multipoint. Thus, it is only possible to connect one headset, not two.

October 19th, 2011 22:04
Barry

Erik,
Wanted to thank you for your help with the Windows Media, but also wanted to add that I had to change the option in Windows Media Player under Tools, Options, Devices, Speakers, Properties and select the Plantronics headset under that.
thnx

October 19th, 2011 22:21
Erik

Hi Barry,
glad to be of help. :) And you have a good point - often the audio device can be selected directly from within the application in question. Skype is another example.

January 18th, 2013 13:09
richard

i bought 995h audio wireless,unfortunately when i play my songs cannot hear by other party specially on skype? TY.

January 19th, 2013 16:10
Erik

Hi Richard,

to make sure that Skype is using the headset, go to Tools->audio settings and select the Plantronics as both microphone and speakers. Also see tip above in comments regarding setting the default audio devices in Windows.

December 3rd, 2013 04:55
Vin

Thank you Eric for this nice comparison a few years ago. I was actually using the 995 for many years. I found it buy chance on a website and got stuck with it.
Every one of my headsets lasts for 1-1.5 years and dies (either the battery stops being able to be charged and it is irreplaceable or it just stops communicating with the dongle) and now I'm sick of it.
The last one I had died months ago and now I am looking for a better option and thinking to myself "they must've developed a new thing that is better after all these years".
Better, I mean, a Plantronics that:
1. works while charging
&
2. has a replaceable battery
I am actually willing to pay much more because I am so used to those things.
Any suggestions?

December 4th, 2013 00:15
Erik

Hi Vin,

you may not like my answer, but I currently use a wired Steelseries Siberia V2 headset and I have no complaints. Cutting the cord still has its share of problems, mostly battery life. Some colleagues of mine use wireless headsets for Skype (Logitech H800) and because of the battery drain, they simply keep them plugged in most of the time, mostly defeating the purpose of using a wireless headset. But at least you can charge while using them. Maybe worth a shot?

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