Thanks to technology, small business owners can work productively from just about anywhere - the car, the airport, home - with pretty much just an internet and/or cell phone connection. However, while you’re working from home just as well as at the office (or maybe your office IS in your home) you may not want to announce to the world that that’s where you are. A barking dog or neighbor’s lawnmower may not be the background sounds you’d like for an important conference call.
Over the past few months I’ve been trying out three different noise cancelling headsets, to see if I could make use of those times when I can talk on a business call, but can’t control my environmental noise. The models I tested were the Plantronics Voyager Pro, Jabra BT530, and TheBoom v4.
My test locations included the car, home office when everyone was home, and swim practice (kids’, not mine). It involved many calls to people I am comfortable asking, “Can you hear the car radio? Can you tell I’m outside?” or “Can you hear Sesame Street?”
All three of the headsets greatly reduced background noise vs. using the handset alone. The Jabra and Plantronics were tied for noise reduction - usually callers couldn’t tell that I was walking down the street, or driving, but loud noises like kids yelling did come through. TheBoom had the greatest noise cancelling strength.
TheBoom v4 looks like a serious headset and I felt a little like a pilot or a phone operator, depending on my mood. It has a large ear gel insert that takes a while to get used to - you can take the insert off, which won’t affect your oubtound sound quality, but it does make the whole thing harder to keep on your ear.
The Plantronics looks a little like an old-fashioned hearing aid with a short microphone attached, with the bulk of the headset resting behind the ear. However, it was the most comfortable and easy to put on with no adjusting or fiddling.
The Jabra is the smallest, and the one I found most difficult to adjust, but once I finally got the eargel at the correct angle to the part that hooks over the ear, it was very comfy. The instructions say it can be worn without the hook, but I couldn’t get it to stay in my ear without.
At first I liked the concept of using one headset for both my cell phone and desk phone, but quickly realized that it’s much easier to keep one in my handbag and leave the other one on the desk, each paired with its correct phone.
The only corded (and therefore non-Bluetooth) headset of the group, TheBoom was great to grab on my way out without worrying about whether the battery was charged. The downside was that it’s not tiny like the others and the microphone stem and the cord would get tangled with other stuff in my bag.
The Plantronics and Jabra both were easy to pair via Bluetooth with my Blackberry Curve.
Neither the Plantronics nor Jabra came with a car charger. I would have liked to be able to use the same car charger I have already for the Blackberry, which I can do with my old Motorola headset. Jabra came with an ac charger and a USB charger, plus an extra ear clip and gels Plantronics came with just the ac charger.
The Boom has a PC adapter you can buy for an additional $15, if you want to use it for voip calls or web conferences. The Plantronics and Jabra can be used if your PC or notebook has Bluetooth.
Plantronics Voyager Pro $99
Jabra BT530 $79
The Boom v4 $149
Overall, the best noise reduction was definitely from TheBoom. The Plantronics was most comfortable, and the Jabra won for most handy because it can be charged via USB and connected via Bluetooth to my laptop.
Laura Leites is the assistant editor for Smallbiztechnology.com