Last week I reviewed the Saitek Cyborg EVO
joystick, one of two recent purchases to feed my World War II Online habit. The second purchase is that of a proper headset - the Plantronics Audio 90
. Plantronics like to put a period in front of "Audio", like they're making a bold statement, but really, I just don't care so we'll ignore that little marketing convention.
I've been using Sennheiser HD580 headphones for a long, long time. Unfortunately, the rapid wear on the headphone cords, and the fact that replacement cords cost about $40-50, made the bi-annual excursion to the local snob-audio shop too painful. Besides, if there's one thing I've heard, it's that desktop mics are too dependent on range, clip-on microphones move out of position and those that wrap around your head are too cumbersome, considering you already have headphones on. Thus, I needed a headset.
With a minimal amount of research, I dove into the same local Best Buy and picked up the most expensive item there - the $30 Plantronics Audio 90. The low price is at both an incentive and a cause for depression. The incentive is obvious, the cause for depression is the knowledge that I shall never heard the sweet, subtle, soft sounds of PitchShifter
in all their warmth for quite a while.
Fortunately headphones, unlike a Saitek joystick, don't come with any proprietary viru... software to torture your system with. The installation is as simple as that of any headphones, except that you need to accomodate the microphone jack somewhere in your sound card. Plantronics makes this easy, the single 6' (~2m) long cord splits into two segments about 10" (~25cm) long, one for the headphones, one for the microphone.
Any concerns on the impact that a shared cable has on audio fidelity should be dismissed immediately: you're buying hardware with a MSRP of $35USD. The sound quality is going to be inferior to $200 Sennheisers even if the wires were half-inch thick solid gold, isolated by the most advanced composites known to man.
Indeed, such is clearly the case. Even for an untrained and indiscriminate ear as my own, the Plantronics Audio 90 headset was obviously unable to compare to the Sennheisers. The sound quality isn't bad, but definitely not what an audiophile would ever subject himself to. Plantronics has also included an adjustable volume knob on the cord, but we'd recommend against using it to boost sound as much as possible. The amplification is quite inferior, it introduces a fair bit of distortion to sound output.