Plantronics .Audio 476 DSP USB Headset Review

When it comes to headsets, I’m really picky.  In 2004 when I started playing on-line co-op games with my younger brothers in-law, I shopped around for various stereo headsets with microphones for gaming.  They were all either too uncomfortable, or had poor outgoing audio.  Eventually, I took drastic measures and made my own, and I’ve been extremely happy for many years.

So when I came across the new Plantronics .Audio 476 DSP headset, my expectations were low.  But to be fair, I gave it try.  Let’s take a look.

  • Intuitive folding design for on-the-go convenience
  • DSP provides wideband acoustic echo cancellation for clear calls
  • Digital equalizer optimizes 24-bit hi-fi stereo sound for enhanced listening
  • Noise-canceling microphone for clear conversations
  • Soft foam ear pads and lightweight materials for a comfortable fit
  • USB connection provides true plug-and-play ease
  • Easy-to-use inline controls for volume and mic mute
  • Cable length:  2 meters
  • Speaker driver size;  32mm
  • Speaker frequency response:  20Hz – 20kHz
  • Speaker impedance:  32 Ω
  • Microphone frequency response:  100Hz – 10kHz

Packaging

Headset unboxed

In-line remote with volume and mic mute toggle

Closeup of headband

The outer side of the boom microphone

Inside view of the microphone

Boom mic is flexible

Showdown! Home made Sennheiser/Boom headset on left, Plantronics on right

But how do they stack up against my Franken-Headset?  First, the specs (parenthesis for the Plantronics):

  • Frequency response 12Hz–38kHz (Plantronics: 20Hz – 20kHz)
  • Speaker impedance 300 Ω (Plantronics 32 Ω)
  • Microphone frequency response: 50Hz-20kHz (Plantronics: 100Hz – 10kHz)

The headphones are the Sennheiser HD 580 from roughly the early 1990s, and cost $300-400 when new.  They are super comfortable and do not hurt after hours of wearing them.  The microphone is unique.  It’s from UmeVoice theBoom, cannibalized from a Model V4 headset.  What’s special about theBoom microphones is that they provide superior noise cancellation without any battery-operated DSP circuitry.

The UmeVoice theBoom mic is attached via lots of messy hot glue

Yes, it's really a higher-end (circa early '90s) Sennheiser HD 580 set of headphones

Behold the super cushy around-the-ear velvety goodness!

I’ve created a video clip so you can judge for yourself.

Click to download movie (.m4v file at 21.7MB)

I was quite surprised that the listening quality through the headphones was quite good.  Clarity and music listening was satisfying when compared to the mighty Sennheisers.  The microphone picked up my voice clearly, although it picked up a tad bit more background noise vs. the customized theBoom microphone.

Plus, the 32 ohm impedance of the Plantronics meant that I didn’t have to crank the volume as high to get an acceptable listening volume.

Although my homebrew Sennheiser headset is by far more comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions, the Plantronics wasn’t too bad, either.  Plus the Plantronics doesn’t have the rat’s nest of cords that come with my handiwork, nor does it have the fancy in-line remote for volume and mute.  A very clean package with good performance at a reasonable price.

 

Product Information

Price:$54.95
Manufacturer:Plantronics
Pros:
  • Mid-priced headset provides good audio playback and good outgoing audio in a folding, tidy package.
Cons:
  • USB only
Posted in: Computer Gear, Gaming Gear, Reviews

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Cyberg00se May 5, 2010, 12:45 pm

    You’re freaking kidding right. Ever plug the Plantronics into the kind of hi-fi rig that the Senns are capable of? Are you powering the Senns directly from a soundcard? It’s not even close.

    It’s better to compare mics to mics than bringing the headphones into play as well. Because you’re comparing open audiophile headphones, capable of sounding better and better depending on how much you put into the audio setup… to cheap “stock” headphones meant to plug into and be powered by a poorly powered soundcard.

    A more fair comparison may be HD580s with boom mic, compared to some of the Beyerdynamic headsets, like basically 600ohm new version dt990s plus mic.

    1
  • Cyberg00se May 5, 2010, 12:49 pm

    By the looks, these seem kind of dt770-ish, which is a very different beast from the HD580s, but at least sort of in the same ballpark. http://shop.beyerdynamic.de/gaming-multimedia/mmx-300.html

    2
  • Andy Chen May 5, 2010, 12:49 pm

    I will not deny you are right. I am simply comparing to what I have… a clunky, comfortable set of headphones with a boom microphone attached via gloppy hot glue. Nothing more.

    This is why I included a recording of outgoing speech to also compare microphone quality.

    I don’t have any Beyerdynamic headsets (anymore!)

    3

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