Plantronics has a long history of making good quality headsets primarily for office users, so it was with some pleasure that I was looking forward to the latest addition to the stable, the .Audio 995 wireless headset.
The package includes a plug-and-play wireless USB connector that operates at 2.4GHz - in other words it's not Bluetooth - so while this provides better range and reception, those hoping to avoid using another USB port will need to look elsewhere.
The headset is quite bulky, compared to some other wired headsets out there, but the 995 is quite light and does have a comfortable padded headband and swivel-mounted ear cushions covering 40mm speakers, so I had no discomfort wearing them for several hours at a time.
The microphone boom is adjustable, both telescoping a little as well as bendable, and it folds up nicely out of the way when not in use. As an added bonus the mike automatically mutes when stowed, so you don't have to worry about manually muting and un-muting during a call or if you use speech recognition software. I tried it out with Skype and Dragon Naturally Speaking and found the microphone works very well in both video calls and for dictation.
The speakers are good, but not an audiophile's dream, in particular heavy bass feels a little washed out, but the range is quite impressive and should be fine for the majority of users. Most importantly, voices are crisp and clear so using the 995 for VoIP calls works very nicely.
I was also impressed with the reception on the 995 headset. Plantronics reckons the headphones have a range of 40 feet from the transceiver, but this seems to require that the intervening space is unobstructed as I found the signal started getting a bit erratic after about 30 feet, although that was with walls in the way. Judging by my experience, unless you're hoping to be able to wander around your entire house or office with these on, you should be fine.
Streaming music constantly I got a little over six hours of life from a single charge, slightly less than the seven hours touted by Plantronics, but still more than enough to ensure that you don't have to lose the wireless benefits by constantly having to charge them. Another nice feature is that the headset charges over mini-USB rather than some proprietary connector.
The 995 also includes some handy media controls on the side of the headset making it easy to control the volume as well as pause, play and skip music tracks, but it takes a little bit of practice to remember which button does what by feel alone. I found this feature works in Windows Media Player, iTunes and WinAmp. According to Plantronics it should work for most media players, although some will require the application to be selected rather than just running in the background.
Possibly my biggest gripe with the headset is that unplugging the USB connector doesn't automatically restore sound to the speakers, meaning you have to manually enter the speaker settings and reset them every time you want to switch back and forth between speakers and headphones.
At a retail price of around £80, the Plantronics .audio 995 wireless headset is not exactly cheap, but if you find yourself constantly tangling yourself up in your headset or like to pace about while dictating to your PC or listening to music (and don't want to disturb those around you) I reckon the 995 is a worthwhile investment.
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