On the same day I went to Circuit City to buy my new optical mouse, I decided to kill two (or was it three?) birds with one stone, so to speak, and replace my Labtec stereo headphones and a cheap-o microphone which was the last legacy of my first custom-built PC. The stereo headphones, sadly, broke when I carelessly stepped on them while I was cleaning around my desk area; I'd left them perched perilously close to the desktop edge and probably fell to the floor unnoticed...landing where I'd distractedly step on them. The microphone, which I considered to be of lesser priority since I rarely use any of the available voice chat options on Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, or AOL, had died several months earlier (ironically, in one of the rare instances when I really wanted to talk with someone online). The mike was not a clear and present necessity, but because I listen to mp3 files and CDs late into the night, the stereo heaset was a priority.
Recommend this product?
So, once I had chosen to purchase my Microsoft Basic Optional Mouse and had it in my hands, I asked the Circuit City sales guy if the store had any good headsets for under $30. He said that there were several really good ones for that price range, and the first one he showed me was the Cyber Acoustics AC-201 stereo headset with microphone.
I looked at the price tag: $19.99. The mouse had cost around the same, so considering that I'd been prepared to pay $30 for the mouse, I knew that I could splurge a little. After all, I wasn't going anywhere on vacation and all my other bills were taken care of, so heck, why not? Even if I didn't do much Internet voice chatting, it still would be nice to have a way to talk with someone and not worry about holding the mike or figuring out where to place it close to the monitor or within vocal range. So, without much internal debate, I decided to purchase the headset along with my badly-needed mouse.
The Cyber Acoustics AC-201 Stereo Headset with Microphone: Like most stereo headsets designed for both computers and stereo systems (such as my prematurely departed Labtec one), the AC-201 has an adjustable headband, two leatherette ear cushions, and two small but powerful stereo speakers built into the earpieces. The microphone can be moved to an up position when not being used to chat, but is so sensitive that it can pick up one's voice even if not in the classic "talk" position.
Although my older headset was not as bulky as the 1980s vintage top-of-the-line stereo ones -- you know, the ones that look like an air traffic control officer's headphones in movies such as Airport, it wasn't as slim or streamlined as the Cyber Acoustics AC-201. Even with the added weight of the microphone, the AC-201 feels a tad lighter, a result of Cyber Acoustics' newer slim profile and lightweight design.
Features and Technical Specifications:
Noise canceling microphone
Deluxe leatherette ear pads
Ultra comfort design
3.5 mm gold plugs
Sensitivity: -67dBV / microbar, -47dBV / Pascal /- 4dB
Frequency Response: Headset: 20 to 20,000 Hz; Microphone: 100 to 16.000 Hz.
Impedance: Headset: 32ohms; Microphone: 2.2k ohms
Experiences with the Cyber Acoustics AC-201 Stereo Headset with Microphone: Although the bubble-pack it came in was hard to open (at least for me it was, since I have problems with dexterity at times), setting up the headset with the microphone wasn't difficult at all. The two plugs (one for the mike, the other for the stereo headset) are color coded (pink for the microphone, green for the headphones, with pictograms on each to reinforce the idea) and fit in the input/output jacks on any PC.
What was a bit tricky was finding the right fit for the headset; I had to fiddle for about five minutes with the adjustable headband, making sure it wasn't too tight or, conversely, too loose. Even so, just when I thought I had the headset fitting "just right," I found out that if I made an unexpectedly sharp movement such as bending down to pick up a pen or in reaction to an unexpected sound (a boom of thunder, or my mom calling me from her room), the darned thing would almost literally fly off my head. It took some trial and error on my part (and more than just five minutes' worth) to find the right fit, but once that was done my Cyber Acoustics AC-201 headset seems to have been tailor made for me and it doesn't slip or fall from where it's supposed to be...my head.
The sound quality is excellent. I have listened to various classical music and movie soundtrack albums on them since I purchased them, and the quality of the sound is crystal clear -- it feels as though I had the London Symphony Orchestra in my own private concert hall.
As for voice chat? I've only tried it out with a friend of mine in England who had never heard my voice before even though we've been friends for over three years, and vice versa. We tried the voice option on MSN Messenger first; my friend said the microphone is too sensitive if the boom is extended and placed in the "talk" position; she said she could hear my breathing and that I sounded like a less-sinister Darth Vader. Again, after trial-and-error, we discovered that even in the "stored" up position, the microphone will pick up not only what I say, but also the clicking of keys on my keyboard if I'm typing away while I'm chatting.
Now, MSN Messenger's voice chat has nice sound qualities, but it shuts down when you have to leave the Instant Message (IM) window, as I had to do on the first opportunity I had to chat with my pal in the UK. Fortunately Yahoo! Messenger's new phone call option doesn't have that flaw, and although it does have some limitations, it stays connected most of the time; for best results, it is recommended that one doesn't have too many applications running at the same time -- the voice quality declines if the user has lots of programs running simultaneously.
All in all, this headset thus far has performed well, and even though I won't be using it for voice chat much, it is nice to be able to use a hands-free microphone.