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The Pitch & Product

Plantronics VoIP Wireless Headset
Summary 900 MHz cordless USB headset that interfaces with many popular VoIP softphones.
Update None
Pros • Wireless mobility for PC-based soft-phones
• Smart and intuitive design
Cons • No way to originate outbound calls
• Telephone audio quality

Plantronics VoIP Wireless Headset

Earlier this year, Plantronics introduced the CS50-USB, a wireless headset specifically intended to work with software-based VoIP phones such as Skype.

The CS50-USB combines several pieces of technology into its overall solution, including a base station that plugs into a USB port on the host computer, a small over-the-ear headset that communicates with the base station via 900Mhz radio, and a software component that integrates the hardware with the user's preexisting software-based phone (a PDF list of compatible phones can be found here).

The base station is the heart of the package, and appears to the host system as a regular USB sound card with its own volume controls. When the base station is connected to a powered USB port, it will draw power from that connection to charge the headset, but a separate transformer is also supplied that can be used if you don't have any powered USB ports available.

The wireless headset component is small and lightweight, and looks like many of the over-the-ear headsets commonly sold for cellular phones. The ear piece snuggles into position without pinching, while the microphone hangs beside the cheek, away from hot coffee and snacks. The headset is remarkably light and holds up well to extended wear, but a traditional headband is also provided which can be used instead of the ear-loop if preferred.

There are a couple of buttons for turning the radio on and off and adjusting the volume, and a status indicator to let people know that you're on the phone and not just mumbling to yourself, but most of the call-management functions are expected to be handled by the soft-phone running on the PC, with the headset being spartanly designed with that usage in mind.

The software component is called PerSonoCall (Figure 1), which runs in the Windows system tray (2000 and XP only) to show the current radio status. A tabbed dialog-box provides information about any calls that may be active, the state of the mute button, and other extended information. PerSonoCall is able to integrate itself into a handful of soft-phone packages, so that you can answer and disconnect calls just by activating the headset radio, without having to touch the software phone itself.

Figure 1: PerSonoCall

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