Can you hear me now?


On Sept. 21 I ran a column on the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) front, a realm that is common on Saipan. I’m happy to follow up with an item that I didn’t mention in that column for the simple reason that I hadn’t solved it yet. The problem was finding a worthy headset that would let me use my cell phone hands-free. It has finally been solved.

I don’t spend much time on the phone, but when I do I often want to take notes, thumb through reference materials, and so on. At some point a long time ago I bought a Bluetooth headset to handle the hands-free angle. That thing was, however, way too finicky to trust. I decided to get a “wired” headset, one that would plug into the phone’s 3.5mm jack.

That’s a common size of jack, but not all phones use it.

Anyway, there are many designs of headsets out there. I’d never suggest that one approach will suit everyone’s needs and preferences. As for my preferences, I wanted an old-fashioned sort of headset that covers both ears and has a boom microphone. That’s not a super-diminutive design but it’s ideal for sitting at my desk or on my beach chair. Not that those are always two different things.

Anyway, you’d think the headset gig would just be a minor errand, but it turned into a doggone toothache of a process. Nothing that I tried was worth a darn. This routine dragged on for several months.

One of my pals was aware of my struggles with this mission, probably because I started griping about it incessantly. Just to stop the griping he sent me the same type of phone headset that he uses. He’s a real pro in the phone realm and uses his phone all the time. Upon receiving the package, however, I could not bear to open the product’s box. That thing cost hundreds of dollars. This was overkill. I don’t particularly like phones, so I refuse to feed mine anything gourmet.

So I sent the headset back to my friend, thus making me look like an ingrate on top of being a griper. I am still catching flak for that episode.

I decided to give this idea one more try before giving up entirely. My final shot, and my only successful shot, was a product called the “Mpow 071” headset. It was about $22. If you happen to share my preference for this style of headset you’ll want to know about this product. Having gone through so many lousy ones, I am extra-appreciative of its competence.

The headset is attached to a 4-ft. long cable that has a single 3.5mm plug at the end. It can also be connected to a computer via a USB plug. This is done by plugging the 3.5mm plug into a pod that’s roughly the size of a Tic Tac box. The outer side of the pod is attached to a 4-ft. cable with a USB plug at the end. So this gives you about 8-ft. run of cable between you and your computer, which is more than enough for any need that I can think of.

As for the pod, it has four buttons: An on/off button for the mic, an on/off button for the audio, a volume-up button for audio, and a volume-down button for audio. You can therefore adjust these parameters without having to touch your computer. If you use Skype or something similar, this would be very convenient.

As for the mic’s on/off button on the pod, it is illuminated so you can see its status (blue for on, red for off).

I tested the quality of the mic by making voice recordings on two devices. One was my phone via the 3.5mm phone plug. The other was via my computer via the USB plug. The quality in both cases was excellent. I went to a moderately-noisy cafe and ran the same tests. The background noise was dampened effectively and the voice came through strong.

The headset is reasonably comfortable, although I don’t go long spans of time on the phone so I can’t offer a calling-center scale of experience with it. Its padding on the top, where the cross-member rests on your noggin, is fair. Its padding on the ears is very good.

The ear pieces swivel (castering like a shopping cart’s front wheels) so the headset can take a flat profile for packing.

I seldom listen to music on headsets, but, for my simple needs this headset is certainly up to the challenge.

Anyway, this nagging problem has been solved. Victories don’t come easy in the SOHO world, so I’m always happy to report any good news I can find.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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