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Feature Article
April 2000


Headset Manufacturers' Roundup

[Go Right To: Headset Manufacturer's List]

Headsets have been a feature in call centers for a very long time, but the incidence of their use has been steadily rising in recent years due to a combination of factors, including OSHA's recent focus on the ergonomic health of both call center and general office workers. While wearing a headset used to be a matter of convenience, studies have shown that repeatedly picking up telephone handsets, or even worse, cradling the telephone between the ear and the shoulder to free up the hands can cause irreversible musculoskeletal damage. Additionally, the use of headsets with cellular phones has spiked within the last several years, as more people spend extended periods of time using their cell phones and the increasing popularity of legislation prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cellular phones while driving. Studies have shown that drivers who use cellular phones while operating their cars are more likely to cause an accident than a drunk driver. (Easy to believe if you've ever been stuck behind a weaving driver who seems to be paying more attention to his or her conversation than the road.)

The good news is that headsets are getting better and better in meeting the needs of the call center market. Users can choose from a traditional headband design or may venture into the realm of over-the-ear or in-the-ear styles, depending on preference. Many are ultra lightweight, cordless, available in monaural or binaural models, durable and extremely adjustable, feature noise-cancelling microphones and are even available color-coded so groups of agents can be easily identified (not to mention fashionably coordinated). Some good examples of each type are provided below.

Plantronics' new 900 MHz CT10 headset telephone was designed to provide users with the ability to move around while carrying on a conversation, hands-free use and freedom from the ergonomic stresses that telephone handsets can cause. The CT10 Cordless Headset Telephone includes a lightweight headset and a pocket-sized remote unit with a full telephone keypad. Users can slip on the headset, clip the remote unit to a belt or pocket and roam during use. Calls can be taken or made within a 150-foot range. The compact remote unit measures 3 inches high by 1.75 inches wide by 1.75 inches deep and has a full telephone keypad with flash, redial and 10-number memory. The ergonomically designed remote unit includes a "talk" button to let users answer or initiate a call, plus controls for mute, channel selection and incoming volume adjustment. There are also in-use indicator lights for both talk and mute, and when mute is engaged, the user hears a "beep" as an audible reminder.

The Trinity headset from Pro Tech Communications is an ultra-light model that was designed for users in noisy environments such as call centers, brokerage firms, direct marketing companies and public offices. The Trinity introduces a new design intended to suppress surrounding noise while improving user comfort. It employs a one-half ounce "acoustical ear cup" which surrounds the user's ear, resting in a broad area of contact around the ear, helping induce comfort for extended time periods. A background noise reduction of up to 20 percent can be achieved by enclosing the ear, helping improve the clarity and strength of reception. The design is capable of being worn on either ear and can interface with most electronic and telecommunications systems.

Ultra Lightweight
Hello Direct's Ultralight EX was designed to be lighter and stronger than the company's Ultralight model. It has a thicker headband, pivoting speaker and wider headpad that helps to conform to a user's head snugly. Hello Direct has added a lighter, more flexible cord designed to make maneuvering at the desk easier. The Ultralight EX was beta tested for auditory clarity to help ensure that static does not become a problem. The EX's noise-canceling microphone aims to make a perceptible difference in conversations in noisy environments. The product is available in two styles. Single-speaker EX (covering one ear) lets a user stay current with the office surroundings while on the phone. Dual-speaker EX covers both ears and was intended for noisier environments.

The Computer and Telephone Headset System from VXI Corporation in-cludes the VXI PARROTT 60V switch box which was designed to allow a user to alternate seamlessly between talking to the computer and speaking on the telephone with the push of a button. The VXI PARROTT Switch 60V helps ensure universal compatibility to all PC, laptop and palmtop sound cards and includes VXI's "keep alive" feature, which stops a user's software from shutting itself off if he or she is talking on the phone.

The Profile SureFit by GN Netcom was designed for maximum adjustability and durability. Often, adjustable headsets suffer damage from repeated flexing of the movable parts. GN Netcom made the SureFit to be able to repeatedly move to accommodate a user's (or different users') needs and retain structural integrity. The headset includes a commercial-grade flexible ear-hook which can be shaped to custom fit a user's ear and it will stay that way. The Profile SureFit offers three models to choose from, each with three interchangable wearing styles. A user can choose either over-the-head or on-the-ear styles of the SureFit.

Are you fretting because you've found nothing to complement the lovely colors of your new iMac? GN Netcom has come to the rescue, offering its new EarShades headsets...in your choice of strawberry, blueberry, lime and grape.

The following is a list of companies that manufacture headsets and headset products. We hope this list will help you meet all your call center- and office-related headset needs. These manufacturers sell their headsets through a combination of direct sales, through distributors and in some cases, directly off their Web sites (in the cases of VXI Corp., Plantronics, Pro Tech and Andrea Electronics).

Headset Manufacturers

Andrea Electronics
(800) 442-7787
VXI Corporation
Contact: Hank Gale
Comfort Telecommunications, Inc.
Contact: Customer service dept.
Nortel Liberation
Unicon, Inc.
GN Netcom, Inc.
Contact: Martha Boissonneault
Nady Systems, Inc.
Koss Corporation
Hello Direct
www.hellodirect.com Contact: Dion Blundell
Lucent Technologies Business Communication Systems Division
JABRA Corporation
(800) 327-2230
Pro Tech Communications
Starkey Laboratories


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