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Why People Buy Headsets?
Walk in to any office - commercial or home - and instead of seeing a deskphone or mobile handset held to an ear, or someone shouting at their laptop mic hoping to be heard you will see a headseRt being worn. So what has caused this shift, and why do people love their headsets so much?
Freedom and Productivity
It is a simple concept really, but one that works wonders. Companies have realised that their people are much happier if they have the freedom to move while communicating. With wireless headsets, you are not tethered to a device or handset, and so have the independence to move around freely. This brings huge benefits in terms of happiness, and also productivity!
While it may seem counterintuitive to walk around while conducting a conversation, with your hands free, you are actually able to engage in conversation in a free and natural way.
Having said that, even tethered headsets give you freedom that a traditional handset does not. Imagine that you are on a call, trying to listen to the person. You realise that you should be writing down some of this information, so now you are trying to hold the phone to your ear with one hand, whilst listening and processing the information and writing notes with the other.
Your other option is to awkwardly cradle the phone between your shoulder and neck to free up both hands, but still only have restricted movement so as not to drop the handset. It is uncomfortable just thinking about it! Not only are you physically uncomfortable, but you also have higher levels of stress and frustration as you are scrambling to listen, hold the phone, and write, all at once.
So with headsets come freedom and productivity - the freedom to roam, stretch out, or even just reach that slightly out of reach pen and paper, and the productivity to be writing up notes as the conversation is happening. It’s a no-brainer really.
With both hands free you have the option to write with ease, you can be conceptualising ideas as the conversation is happening. You’re on a call, bouncing ideas around with a client, and with your hands free you can create mind maps, diagrams, images, or whatever else helps you to develop your ideas.
However, creativity isn’t always manifested in physical ways - it also exists in the way that we process and develop ideas. Gesticulation is an important part of thought processing - it is so important that a publication in the Annual Review of Psychology (Vol. 64:257-283) states that ‘The gestures that speakers produce along with their speech may actually help them to produce that speech’. Therefore, with the freedom to gesticulate, your speech flows more naturally, and you have a greater ability to generate ideas throughout the conversation. So get those hands moving!
No More Saying The Word 'What?'
Sorry, can you say that again?
Sound familiar? Well, fear no more! With a great noise-cancelling headset and microphone, you can have confidence in your communication by knowing that not only can you hear your customers easily, but know that your voice is being heard clearly too.
No more asking for someone to repeat themself, or apologising for the noise coming from your end. This year has caused many of us to apologise for the noise of the dishwasher, doorbell, or crying child in the background. With a noise-cancelling microphone you can maintain a professional conversation without the other person hearing you and your homelife. This also translates to the office - where you are in a space where multiple conversations are happening at one time, the listener will only hear what you are saying, and not be party to the conversations of everyone else.
Health & Safety / Avoiding Neck & Back Pain
Australia has implemented standards in relation to the use of headsets in the workplace and how companies are working to keep their people safe and healthy, physically and mentally. The Australian standards are outlined in the Industry Guideline G616. The primary focus of the guideline is on Acoustic Shock Protection and the prevention of noise spikes and excessive noise pressure, which we explore later on in the guide.
However, it is not only your ears that your headsets can protect. Headsets can assist in the avoidance/relief of back and neck pain, as you can stand up, stretch, and with wireless - walk around - rather than being stuck at a desk holding a handset, letting your neck, shoulders and wrists bear the brunt of the clunky phone hardware.
Hear and be Heard. Being understood & understanding better
There is a saying in the headset world - Hear and be Heard Better - that’s what headsets do! They give you the confidence that the customer can hear you, and you can hear the customer. We go one step further - Understand and be Understood Better.
Headsets are effectively the first point at which communication begins. You may have a precursory email to set up the call, but on the call is where the real communication begins. Why is this? If you are relaying the same information, using the same words, but using different channels, the result should remain the same, right?
This is an easy assumption to make, but studies have shown that the words we use are of little importance to the conversations that we are having. This is known as the 7% rule.
Many of us use Zoom, MS Teams, and other video communications software for business, but despite the ability to view body language it can actually be more disruptive than a phone call - with rough connections, unprofessional home backgrounds (or even worse, novelty stock backgrounds - just what are you hiding behind there!?) phone calls remain the preferred form of communication.
So, without body language, the most important part of our message is communicated through the tone and music of your voice. Therefore, it is important that your equipment is communicating your tone as accurately as is possible. One well-used example of the importance of grammar is this:
Let’s eat grandma!
Let’s eat, grandma!
The use of the comma changes the intent completely, from eating your grandmother as a meal, to eating a meal with your grandmother! Without seeing the comma in writing, the comma is conveyed through pace and tone of speech. If your tone is ambiguous or undetectable, your message can be taken in the opposite way to how it was intended, and that is bad business, plain and simple.
How To Decide Which Headset Is Right For You
With the basics now covered it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty: what type of headset is best suited to your needs. Here is some information about headsets and their different capabilities.
Corded vs Wireless
Unless you are required to use a corded headset for legal reasons we suggest going for a Bluetooth headset if you are in a smaller office of up to 15 people or at home & want PC/ Mobile connectectivily. If not, go for a DECT headset.
If there is one question that appears more than others, it is cordless vs wireless. Unfortunately, we cannot give you one cut and dry answer - it simply comes down to what you are looking for. Are you happy being tethered to a device, or do you want a completely hands-free experience with the ability to roam?
Wireless headsets give you the option to stand up, stretch, and walk around. ‘Wireless’ headsets cover the general term used for both Bluetooth headsets and DECT headsets, we’ll go into a little more detail about these options below.
Corded (or wired) headsets are physically connected to the device - whether that is a deskphone, laptop, PC or mobile phone.
Whilst you do not have the complete freedom of a wireless headset, you still have your hands free, which is what is most important. There is no risk of the call dropping out or having connection issues, as the headset is physically wired or connected to the device. Additionally, the majority of corded headsets have the cord controllers on the wire itself, halfway between the connection of the headset and the device. With wireless, the control buttons controllers are usually found either on the headset itself or the base.
A quick note about wireless headsets you may have used in the past: You may have had issues with connection and calls dropping out. Once you have had these experiences, it can be difficult to break the stigma of wireless headsets and trust wireless technology again. Don’t let bad past experiences cloud your future choices. Wireless technology is far from what it used to be, and so these connection issues are now few and far between. If complete freedom is what you want, then wireless is the way to go.
Wireless: Bluetooth vs DECT
Unless you are telecommunications nerds like us, you may not know the difference between Bluetooth and DECT. Let’s start with how they are the same - they are both wireless communications mechanisms. Bluetooth transmits both audio and data, whereas DECT is specifically designed to transmit just audio.
The key difference between the two is the number of people who can successfully use it in any one space. As DECT is a dedicated audio technology, you can have more in terms of density of people and you get more range. The average range of a DECT system is 100-180metres, and it does not matter how many calls are happening at one time, as the wireless technology is purely used for these audio streams.
Bluetooth ranges are smaller - typically 10 to 30 metres - and if you have a high density of people using bluetooth at one time, the likelihood of call interference is much higher than it would be with DECT technology.
Even in small offices of 8 people, if you are all on calls at the same time, your bluetooth technology can interfere with different systems. It isn’t only the calls - as bluetooth is not a dedicated audio stream, you could have bluetooth mouses, earbuds, wireless wifi networks and phones all running on the same stream. The higher the number of devices using bluetooth, the higher the risk of interference. It may seem like we are exaggerating, but think about it - while bluetooth is great and works well with your home accessories like earbuds, speakers, and phones, you don’t generally have 10+ people in your home at one time, all trying to use bluetooth networks!
So think about how much of the day you are on the phone. If you are in a small environment (like a home office) and you take the occasional call throughout the day but are not consistently on the phone, then bluetooth may be a viable option for you - especially if you want the ability to connect to more than one device. However, if you work in a call-based environment (sales or customer service based businesses) and need only one connected device, then DECT is the better option. However, the decision doesn’t end there - there are three different ways that bluetooth can be used.
Bluetooth: Headset To Device
This is a very simple way of using bluetooth, that you will recognise from your day to day life. A bluetooth headset connects to any other bluetooth device. This means your bluetooth headset can connect with your mobile phone, PC, or tablet, and you can either switch between the connected devices, or some headsets allow you to pair with 2 or more devices at once.
Bluetooth: Device to Base Station
Unlike headset to device connections, device to base station is not a direct link. In the majority of these device-to-base station bluetooth connections, you actually have DECT and bluetooth working side by side in different applications. DECT will communicate from base to headset, then bluetooth connects from base to device. Therefore, there are two connections running together. When you have a call coming in - the call goes from your phone to the base station using bluetooth, then from base to headset via DECT.
This means your mobile phone/device will need to be within 10-30 meters of the base station while you are chatting on your headset. It just means you may not be able to take your phone with you as you wander away from your desk to the kitchen to get some water mid-phone call. Just leave your phone on your desk for 2 mins while you keep chatting on your headset and you will be fine.
Bluetooth: Device to Base Station
With this bluetooth connection, the headset itself is bluetooth, works by directly connecting to a mobile but says it needs a Bluetooth USB dongle to work with a computer. You are probably wondering why if your computer has bluetooth built-in why do you need a dongle as well?Let us explain.
The first consumer bluetooth device was launched 11 years ago, in 1999. Since then, bluetooth has moved from version 1.0 to 5.0, and so has increased in it’s reliability over time, and of course, the current version is far more advanced than the original.
However, even though most of today's laptops have bluetooth it doesn’t mean your headset will just work & you will get the full headset experience. Unlike mobile phones there is no one standard that just works across the Mac OSX & Windows operating systems. From connection issues, or poor audio, trying to get a headset to work with a computer’s built in bluetooth just is not worth the hassle. & even if you get the basic connection working, you will miss out on all the cool stuff like double tapping to answer a call, or start and stop music.
So, simply when you see a headset sold with a USB bluetooth dongle, you will need to use the dongle to get the full headset experience.
As previously mentioned, DECT is the best solution for a high-density call environments, or larger offices where you may want to walk around further than 30 feet from your device. If you want range and a number of people taking calls at the same time - think a busy CBD office or a warehouse - then DECT is the way to go. Some DECT headsets also have higher levels of security & encryption than bluetooth that depending on your industry may be a requirement.
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Wearing Styles: Mono (1 Ear) vs Duo (2 Ear)
In Short, if you are in an environment where you need to talk to people or be more approachable then a 1 ear will be better suited, but if you are in a noisy space and need to concentrate more or are looking for the active noise cancelling then 2 ears is the way to go.
There are six types of wearing styles for headsets: back of the neck, earbud style, over the ear plus earbud, over the ear without earbud, over head with one ear (mono) and over the head with two ears (duo).
The most popular headsets are overhead mono and duo, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
Mono is the most popular style for people who are talking over the phone most of (but not all of) the day, and have reasonable levels of background noise. Having one ear free means that you have a better gauge of the volume of your speech, and combining this with a noise cancelling microphone is a great combination, as you can have clear conversations off-call without having to take off your headset.
Duo is the preferred style for louder environments, as having the other ear covered gives you passive noise cancelling. If you do not need to interact with your colleagues (such as solo at home work or call centre work) then duo is a great option for you. However, if you are sharing an office with others, the passive noise cancelling can actually have a negative effect on the levels of noise within the space - if everyone in the office has duo headsets, they are unable to understand how loud they are speaking, and so that ends in everyone in the office speaking at a higher volume!
Other Things to consider
Aside from the working environment considerations, there are also some personal issues that need to be taken into consideration.
Do you wear glasses?
If the answer is yes, then you will not want a headset that goes over the top of your head or hooks around the ears and interferes with your glasses. A headband wearing style is the best option for you.
Do you have hair that will get in the way?
For those of us with voluminous hair, this can get in the way of the over-the-head headsets and affect how they sit. We suggest opting for an ear hook option instead.
Narrowband focuses on just the main frequencies of the human voice, rather than across the whole range. Narrowband Headsets, generally output sound between 300-3400 hertz, which is more than adequate for most situations, as these are all of the frequencies that would be transmitted via a traditional phone, or mobile. But if you tried to play music on them it would sound like you are playing music through a phone call.
Wideband audio headsets generally output sound in the 100-6400 hertz frequencies that gives you a natural, full sound of the human voice. Think of it as the HD of audio technology. For VoIP phone steups or online conferencing tools such as MS Teams & Zoom where the full range of voice frequencies come through, wideband is a better option. With these platforms becoming the norm, if you invest in a good wideband headset you will see (hear) all the benefits of crystal clear audio, as if you are just chatting in the same room as your colleague.
Recently there have been more office headsets coming onto the market with Ultra Wideband Audio. These headsets output the same frequencies as your music headphones between 50 - 20,000 hertz, so you hear the full range of audio sounds. These are the headsets to go for if you are going to be listening to a lot of music, or podcasts through the day, or you want a crossover headset you can use in life outside the office. But, there are certainly not requirements in your 9 - 5 work day where Wideband will probably cover you for any work situation.
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Headset Integrations & Certifications
Simply, if you use Zoom or Microsoft Team a majority of your time, get the headset that's been certified for that platform, there tends to be no or very little difference in price & you may get some added functionality on the headset specifically designed for the platform. If there isn’t a Zoom or MS Teams certified headset in the model you want the UC/Regular version will work just fine.
Unified Communications (UC)
This is a term that is being thrown around a lot at the moment, but what exactly is unified communications? It’s actually a pretty simple concept - unified communications (also seen as UC for short) is the name given to the general trend around the simplifying of communications over time. When you see UC in headset descriptions, it means its can have multiple devices connected, e.g. your phone & your computer.
Microsoft Teams Certified
A Microsoft Teams Certified device means that you will get the best experience and compatibility with the app whilst using that device. If your headset is MS Teams certified, then MS Teams has acknowledged that the headset will give you the best experience possible. It may be something as simple as being able to tap on the headset to answer a call, or there may be other advanced features that have been developed to work specifically with MS Teams.
Pay close attention to the wording of the headset. There are many headsets that state that they are MS Teams compatible, however, this simply means that it is a headset that will work with a computer. Certified is one step further - it means there are specific integrations as mentioned above to specifically work in the MS Teams suite of apps.
Zoom certified is essentially as described above, but relating to the Zoom software rather than MS Teams.
Should You Get A Microsoft Teams or Zoom Certified Headset?
If you use a platform for the majority of your work (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype), then opt for the certified headset. Most headsets within a series come with the same core features , you just get the added benefit of specialist buttons or modes.
This isn't to say that if you use both Zoom and MS Teams you need to buy the certified headsets for both - simply work out which platform you are spending the most time on, and buy the headset certified for that, as it will still work across all tools and apps.
Microphones: Tube vs Noise Cancelling
Where possible choose a noise cancelling or ultra (active) noise cancelling mic, your customers & colleagues will thank you as they will be able to hear your clearly.
The most simple of microphones there is. A tube mic is a microphone on the end of a stick - it is not set up to cancel any background noise, however it gives a stable, amplified sound. There are still quite a few headsets on the market that use this type of microphone.
Noise cancelling microphones are designed to cancel background noise in a passive way. The noise cancellation is not done through electronics, but rather in the way the microphone hardware is designed.
These mics are fine for the average office environment where the background noise is at 1.5-2meteres between desks. The mic can block out a low consistent sound, and there are multiple sound pick up points within the mic so you do not need to worry too much about where your mic is positioned.
Ultra Noise Cancelling
The HD of noise canceling mics, where electronics come in over the top of the audio to help the mic and the audio itself cancel out the background noise. This is known as active noise cancelling, or ANC.
This type of mic is great for loud office and call centre environments, and even at home where there can be unpredictable noises like loud neighbours, children, barking dogs and construction work, as the mic will cancel out background noises.
“Insider Tip: Because today's modern ultra noise cancelling mic’s are so good and remove noises as little as 5cm away, you need to be careful to place them near your mouth, or it may think you are background noise too and cancel you out.”
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Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you’re trying to decide between passive and active noise cancelling, consider your work environment and how you are going to be using the headset. If you spend the majority of your day speaking, then an Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headset probably is not the right headset for you. However, if you spend the majority of your day listening, then you want active noise cancelling so that you can fully focus on the audio. ANC headsets are also great crossover headsets for when you want to use them for other purposes such as the commute home to listen to podcasts or audiobooks and want to cut out any background noise.
Passive Noise Cancelling
Similar to the passive noise cancelling microphone, this type of headphone uses the physical structure and build to cancel out noise. Passive noise cancelling relies on the nature of the hardware earcup, and uses the physical foam connection between the earcup and outside of the ear to create a barrier preventing outside noises entering your ear.
As a basic feature, this type of headphone works well for the majority of people. If you are in an office environment, even a loud office environment, if the earcup is good quality then passive noise cancelling will work for you.
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
As the name suggests, active noise cancelling actively works to cancel out any unwanted noise. These headsets have microphones positioned on the outside of the earcup (and possibly on the inside too) to listen for background noise. When background noise is detected, an equal and opposite soundwave is played through the speaker to create silence, leaving only the intended audio. Smart stuff!
This feature is designed to solve the problem of too much background noise impeding on what is coming through on the speakers. While the technology is great for situations with intrusive loud audio (such as home offices where the noise of neighbours or traffic cannot be controlled), there are some drawbacks within corporate office environments. Perhaps the biggest issue for office environments is that these active noise cancelling headsets are large, over the ear sets, and so if you are speaking and have the ANC feature on it will prevent you from hearing yourself clearly. When you are talking, you want to be able to hear the level of your own voice, and so with duo passive-noise cancelling headsets there may be a ‘hear through’ function. However, if you have this function on your ANC headset, this cannot be used at the same time as the ANC function - you cannot amplify the sound of your own voice coming in whilst also minimising outside noise.
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Security & Encryption
When it comes to security, the most secure system will always be wired, as there is a physical cable connecting the headset to your device, and no data is sent wirelessly between devices.Wired headsets are legally required in some industries such as defence. Still, wireless technology is used by many companies because both DECT & Bluetooth have security built into the system anyway.
Built In Standards Around DECT & Bluetooth
Some companies have a legal requirement for data to be encrypted when it includes voice at certain levels. This comes under the peripheral device security standards, which exists for any device connecting into the network. Depending on your organisation, you will have a different level of security that you deem acceptable. Generally speaking, the inbuilt security for DECT and Bluetooth systems are fine for the majority of businesses.
Acoustic Shock Protection
The Industry Guideline G616 mainly focuses on Acoustic Shock Protection and the prevention of noise spikes and excessive noise pressure. This is the standard determined by the government, and is the minimum standard that headsets sold in Australia by Aussie companies need to be manufactured to.
As with anything in life, when you find a product at a price that seems too good to be true, it almost always is. So if you see headsets sold overseas at a fraction of the cost, it is likely that they are not manufactured to Australian standards. These standards are in place to provide protection against hearing loss, and there is a reason that it is a guideline adhered to by reputable brands. Don’t gamble with your health to save a few extra dollars - where your ears are your income, you need to be mindful of keeping them protected as much as possible.
More Than A Work Headset
Headsets are not just used during office hours, and so if you want one dedicated headset for business and personal use, consider a crossover solution. You may want to wear them on a commute to listen to music, at home listening to podcasts or ted talks, or on the move as your go between cafe, home, and desk. That is why crossover headsets exist, and they are designed in a way so style meets function.
Think about how much time you will spend using your headset on these different activities and create a list, prioritising what is most important at the top and moving downwards. If you will only be using the headset for conversations at the office, then you won’t need a crossover headset and a wired or DECT narrowband is a great option for you. If you are a digi-nomad, working from different spaces during the week and listening to music in between, you will want a bluetooth headset that allows you the freedom of movement and connection to multiple devices, with ultra wideband audio to get the best listening experience whatever conversations you are having or media you are consuming.
We have gone through the steps & questions you should ask yourself when buying a new headset. but as there is so much information you may still need further assistance with your choice. A headset is a very personal piece of equipment, so think about what is most important to you and your business. Once you have that in mind, give us a call and let us know what your priorities are and we will recommend a device most suited to you.
The general rule of headsets (as is with most things in life!) is that you get what you pay for. A premium headset has a standard warranty of two years, but realistically it will last 4-5 years. For a piece of equipment that you are using 5-7 days a week to conduct essential business, investing in great quality is a no brainer. Invest in something that does what you need, when you need it, and protects your customers and their data, and yourself and your ears! When you have your headset on day-in-day-out talking to customers, clients, or listening in on audio files or lectures, then comfort and clarity is the key to a happy and productive workplace environment.