Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,

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(Mis)Adventures in USB Wireless Headset Land

I'd been looking at getting a USB and possibly wireless headset for a while, so that I could use Skype (or similar, perhaps) and also listen to stuff in the office without it bugging Jay. Last week a deal came up and a Logitech ClearChat headset (refurbished). For $40 (shipped), rather than $100 I decided to go for it. It arrived this Wednesday and I tried it. I had an issue or two. But those have been resolved now.

My first issue was not with the headset itself with PulseAudio (the audio control program that *buntu, amongst other Linux distributions, uses). I'm sure it made sense to the designers, but it's awkward to seem to have duplicates of controls in a few places. And while it is understandable that a control for a specific program will only appear when that program is needing it, the lack of persistence of a control makes things confusing and can mean lots of hunting when there isn't much time - such as the test recording time for Skype. Getting audio to the headset was not a big problem, though I think it should have been slightly easier. When I later went thorugh this on the laptop it went fast, but only because I'd had considerable practice on the desktop.

The second issue was with the headset, or so it seemed. Any attempt to record audio was met with lots of harsh static on the recording. Muting the microphone stoped that but defeated the purpose of the microphone. Rather than fight that, I simply used the headset only for listening for much of the night. It was very easy to get used to not being physically tethered - and not needing to use the phone as a streaming device.

Figuring I might need to boot into Windows (a thing I'd rather avoid, as Windows now makes my skin crawl), I moved the setup to the laptop, caspian and tried again. To my surprise, after the fiddling about with PulseAudio, everything worked. I could hear things on the headset, I could speak and not get static from the microphone. That was with the USB 'dongle' plugged directly into the computer and with it plugged into the Logitech-supplied extension cable. I had a rather long Skype conversation that more than proved that everything worked. And this without any reboot at all.

I finally took the setup back to belgian and didn't use Logitech's cable and... things worked, sort of. The dongle was plugged into the front of the machine and the recorded audio had some rushing in it. With the cable, I got the static back. But that port is connected inside the case by a fairly thin cable to the motherboard. Moving the cable to the back of the machine and plugging that into a USB port right on the motherboard, all was suddenly well. No static hash. No rushing noise. It was acting as well as the laptop had.

I now have a properly working wireless headset arrangement. I'd like to get another extension cable with the nice base for the dongle so that if/when I move things between machines I only need to move the dongle and not the cable as well.

There was no manual with the headset, and I really didn't need one. No special drivers were needed (and disks with drivers or other software seem to be only for Windows, and maybe Mac, anyway) and I didn't need to read more silly warnings of "Don't be an idiot" written by lawyers. A sheet that listed what the light on the dongle meant would have been nice, but that was worked out as well:

Off        - No power to dongle; Headset won't work.
Slow blink - No wireless connection (Headset is off or out of range)
Solid      - Good wireless connection
Fast blink - Headset needs to be charged soon.

Nice features of the headset:

Moving the mic. boom up mutes it.
Pressing the right earpiece mutes & unmutes the mic. when the boom is down.
An LED on the mic. indicates that it is muted.

There are volume UP/DOWN buttons on the right earpiece. Unfortunately I have yet to manage to get those to affect the headset volume. They can affect system speaker volume, but that's the wrong thing. Fortunately the setting is usually "set & forget" so this isn't a significant issue once levels are right.

One possible issue for extended use is that the speakers are a bit smaller than the ears, so these are not circumaural nor "intra-aural" like earphones, but supra-aural. The result is that there is some pressure on the outer ear that can cause some discomfort with extended wear. I can see springing for the bigger circumaural design if one expected to use the headset for several hours a day, most days.

Tags: computers, headset, usb, wireless
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