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Customer Interaction Solutions
October 2006 - Volume 25 / Number 6

GN 9350 DECT 6.0

GN Netcom, Inc. 77 Northeastern Boulevard
Nashua, NH 03062
Web: www.gnnetcom.com

By Tom Keating
CTO, Executive Technology Editor,
TMC Labs

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GN Netcom’s GN 9350 DECT 6.0 headset is one of the most versatile headsets I have ever reviewed. When GN Netcom told me they had a new headset for both PC audio and phone audio while leveraging the range and interference-free characteristics of the DECT 6.0 standard, I knew I had to review this headset. (Note: DECT 6.0 operates at 1.9Ghz so it is less apt to experience interference from WiFi (News - Alert) 2.4Ghz signals.) With the GN 9350, you can get your Skype on, your iTunes on and your phone on, all using one wireless headset.

Comparatively speaking, the GN 9350 is similar in functionality to the Plantronics (News - Alert) Voyager 510 Bluetooth headset. Both support VoIP, both can use any PC audio application, both use USB and both are wireless. However, the similarities stop there, since the Voyager 510 uses Bluetooth and the GN 9350 uses DECT 6.0 for wireless connectivity. The advantage of the Bluetooth wireless spec is that you can use the same headset on both your PC (using the Bluetooth USB dongle) and your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. The GN 9350 was not designed for mobile phones, but rather for traditional enterprise desktop phones, to which the Voyager 510 cannot connect. Thus, these products target a slightly different audience. I should mention, however, that Plantronics has a higher-end model of the Voyager 510 called the Voyager 510S, which supports mobile phones, desktop phones and PC audio (VoIP) using Bluetooth.

One advantage of the DECT 6.0 spec over Bluetooth is range. When I tested the Bluetooth-enabled Plantronics Voyager 510, the audio started to get choppy just 15 feet away. On the other hand, the DECT-enabled GN 9350 worked flawlessly with no choppiness even 250 feet away. GN Netcom claims 300 feet of range for the GN 9350.

Installing the GN 9350 was a breeze. You simply connect the phone wire to one of its ports and the handset cord to the other RJ11 port. I will say that attaching the phone connectors was a bit tricky because the ports are recessed about one-half inch with a lip that hangs over and a tiny opening, making it difficult to get your fingers inside to connect the phone clips. I had to hold the wires from the outside and gingerly aim the RJ11 clips into the female ports — I felt like I was defusing a bomb like the injured “Cappy” in the movie Executive Decision.

It was then that I realized that the cover is actually removable, making it easy to make the connections. Silly me. Under the cover, I was surprised to discover an LCD display and a four-way thumb pad, which allows users to customize various features, including volume, bass/treble/normal, hook switch selection, range/power selection and protection level, which guards against sudden spikes in volume (acoustic shock). There is also a switch for choosing which type of phone system you have. In any event, after hooking up the phone wires and playing with the LCD settings, I then connected the AC adaptor and the USB connector and was good to go.

Base Unit Features
On the front of the base unit are two buttons for switching from PC to phone, and seven LEDs. One LED indicates when the headset is charging on its base (flashing) or when the headset is in use (solid). Another LED, red in color, indicates when you have the headset muted. Yet another LED indicates USB connectivity, another for power, and two blue LEDs indicate whether you are in PC or phone mode.

Headset Features
The headset is very flexible in its wearing styles. You can wear it headband-style, neckband style (it wraps behind your head) as well as “over the ear” style. It features automatic volume adjustment that sets the volume on all calls (phone or VoIP) unless you set the auto-volume protection to level zero. The headset also features noise reduction, which can remove background noise from your environment.

The headset features a noise-canceling boom microphone, a charging port and a three-way switch on the end that performs volume up/down, as well as mute when you press it in. On the outside of the headset is a blue LED that blinks when in use and is off when not in use.

In addition, your headset can also be used with DECT cordless phones, which are GAP- (generic access profile) compatible. You simply pair the headset with the cordless phone’s base station by pressing the headset’s talk and mute buttons simultaneously for five seconds after entering the cordless telephone’s GAP mode. Additionally, the headset supports a multi-unit conferencing capability. You simply start a call, then place a second headset on the base unit for two seconds. When you remove the second headset, it will be conferenced into the call. You can repeat for any additional two headsets for a total of four headsets in the call.
Here’s an interesting feature: emergency dialing via VoIP. The base unit supports “speed dialing” emergency services using your VoIP application (soft phone) simply by pressing the PC mode button and the phone mode button simultaneously for five seconds. This is useful if your workstation is locked; you can shave seconds off calling for emergency services. Of course, most of us can type our passwords in less than five seconds, but perhaps the emergency is that you injured your hand, which would make it a little difficult to do the three-fingered salute (i.e., pressing ctrl-alt-del) to log on.

The voice quality was excellent and I was very impressed with the approximately 250-foot range before the audio started to cut out. Overall, I was pleased with the sound quality, range and the ability to switch from streaming music (PC) to an incoming call (phone). If your phone is supported, you’ll even hear a beep in the headset alerting you to an incoming call. If you have the optional handset lifter, it can even lift the handset so you can take the call without being at your desk. The unit also supports EHS (electronic hook switch) to automatically answer a call, which does not require the handset lifter. Only certain phones support EHS. You can log on to www.gnnetcom.co.uk/UK/EN/EHS-setup.htm to see if your phone is listed.

Unfortunately, when you set the base unit to default to the “phone,” it appears that you can’t toggle from music to phone and then back to music using the headset button. You can go only from music to phone. For example, say you are away from your desk, listening to streaming radio when an incoming call arrives. You click the headset’s button to switch to the phone connection, which uses the remote handset lifter to answer the call. After you end the call, you cannot return to the PC’s streaming audio remotely. You must press the button on the base unit to revert to the PC audio. 

Similarly, when you set the base unit to default to PC audio, on an incoming call, you cannot switch to the “phone” using just the headset. You must be at the base station to press the phone button.

I didn’t find this to be a big deal, however, since in most cases, you will be near your PC and phone (and therefore the base unit). Nevertheless, wireless headsets do add some nice office mobility, so it would be a bonus if you could hold the headset button for perhaps three seconds to toggle to the opposite (PC or phone) connection.

I found it a bit of a pain to put the headset back on the base unit to charge it. If you are slightly off, the charging prong hits the plastic on the headset and won’t insert all the way. I had to wiggle the headset a bit to get it to dock. However, with a little practice, I was able to get it docked on the first try about 80 percent of the time.

Beeping And Blinking... Beeping And Blinking
When simply using the headset to listen to PC audio (music), I found that the microphone picks up sounds and plays them over the earpiece. For example, if you are listening to music with the microphone unmuted and you hit the microphone boom with your hand, it picks up the sound and plays it over the ear piece. Or, if you turn your head and the mic hits your cheek, it will pick this sound up. I was able to mute the mic, but found that it beeped every 10 seconds, which was a little annoying.
Beeping is a great reminder when you are using the phone feature, so you don’t forget you are muted. When I’m in PC mode, unless using VoIP software all the time (which requires the mic to be unmuted), I prefer the microphone be muted with no beeping.

Even with the beeping issue and the toggling issue, overall, I was very pleased with GN Netcom’s GN 9350. It is now my office headset of choice due to its excellent range and very good feature-set. This multi-purpose headset is great for the office, since you can be working, listing to streaming music without distracting fellow employees and then switch instantly to phone mode on an incoming call. All these features, range and sound quality will set you back $349 MSRP. However, I checked Amazon and I see the GN 9350 listed on Amazon for $271.99.

Pros Cons
• Better range than Bluetooth headsets (300 feet);

• Battery life is nine hours PSTN talk time and six hours VoIP   talk time;

• Connects to both desktop phone and PC (USB);

• Uses DECT 6.0 spec and DSP for excellent sound quality;

• Integrates with DECT 6.0 cordlesss phones;

• Offers three wearing styles; and

• Offers multi-unit conferencing capability.
• Slightly heavier than the Plantronics BT headset;

• Can’t toggle from PC/music mode to phone and then back to   PC/music. Can only go once from PC to phone. When in PC default   mode and on a call, you can switch only once to PC and cannot   return back to the phone mode;

• Slightly tricky to dock the headset into the base unit; and

• Can’t disable the “beep” when muted feature is on.
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