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Hello you. Welcome to Day 3 of the Tech Digest Headphones Week where we're reviewing a whole bunch of different head speakers to give us all a bit of an idea what it's worth slapping our dollar down for. Remember, came-with-your-MP3-player headphones are the disease. Headphones week is the cure.
Today's a little different. Today I'm taking a look at a set of on-ear head-grabbers that you can't plug into your music machine - unless it happens to do audio-out via USB. Ladies, gentlemen, this is the Skype-certified Plantronics Audio 655 headset and it comes with a microphone too.
The Short VersionName - Plantronics Audio 655
Type - On-ear closed cup PC headset
How much - £39.99How much should they cost - £59.00
Should you buy them - If you use VoIP, play PC games and don't mind being tethered to the computer - yes, definitely
The Long VersionSound Quality
Let's not beat around the bush here. The Audio 655s sound superb. They really do. They're a fantastic example of all round balance. Just the one set of 40mm drivers but they deliver good clear treble, confident mid-range and highly competent, if not heart-pounding, bass.
In fact, that's probably my only criticism. There's nothing wildly special about the sound here. The Audio 655s aren't going to make you rediscover your music collection but then who cares, you're probably not going to be using these listen to music. They're designed to transmit the human voice as close to the real thing as possible and that's exactly what they do.
There's no two ways about it. The Audio 655s are plastic. They're backed up with cushioning in the right places - top of the bonse and round the ears - but they're completely plastic. Admittedly, it's good, thick plastic but there's something a little clacky about the build. It's a touch on the loose side.
That said, it's nice and flexible. You're not going to break them unless you get all the weight of one of your computer chair legs right on top of one of the cups or you hand it to a proper tough little toddler in the mould of a future Geoff Capes. My advice would be to do neither and I'm sure they'll last you.
The cabling's thick enough and they'll adjust to all head sizes, including the most extreme, but it's probably the microphone arm that's the best put together. It's really solid with hardly any lateral movement, it's telescopic so you can adjust it to the position of your mouth and it stows neatly out of the way when you're not using it. What's more, it's largely made of rubber so you're not going to be snapping it off by accident. There's handsome devil below modelling them.
The Plantronics website claims the ear pads offer "pillow-soft" comfort. That's probably taking it a bit far. I don't think I'd have much luck using them to sleep on but I'd say they're close to the quality of your least favourite sofa cushion. The point is that they're thick enough not to hurt your lug holes and they've got a snazzy red lining too. No skull strain issues here at all. Guarantee.
Largely positive in this department. The USB connection means that there's no faffing around with two 3.5mm plugs and that you've probably got a lot more port choice depending on what suits you best. Mercifully, there's no irritating software involved and my only gripe is that, from time to time, I had to unplug them and plug them in again to get them going - usually when I'd been sticking things in the dedicated audio socket at the same time.
The other neat little trick these Plantronics have up their sleeves is that you can fine tune the volume at the left ear - the same ear as the mic arm. There's perhaps not enough adjustment at your fingertips as you might like but it'll certainly make the difference between a good, clear level and losing your hearing.
Lastly, the mic itself works a charm with fully operational noise cancelling tech. Functions as it should. What more can you say.
Buy them. Quite simple. If you're looking to spend more than a tenner and less than £50 on a PC headset, then look no further. I can bitch and whinge about this and that, as is my want, but, when it comes down to it, these little darlings offer value beyond belief, reason and probably manufacturing sense too.
More from Headphones week over here with Day 1 over here and Day 2 just beyond.
Sennheiser has announced their new PC 350 gaming headset, claiming to give the most accurate sound positioning and finest sound quality available in the gaming market.
This round-the-ear, closed headset passively shuts out external noises, and features special shaping of the frequency response which improves the wearer's ability to detect where a sound is coming from. This should significantly improve reaction times.