My work involves working with people in a variety of places, so I don’t go a single day without spending at least an hour on the phone, and some days it approaches six or seven.  So a good headset is a must for my work.  For the past six years I’ve been using a combination of a Plantronics H61N and an M12 amplifier.

It’s been a good system, and I especially like the binaural model because it helps me block out most of the sounds around me.  But I’ve found that working from a home office has some unique distractions that I wouldn’t have faced back in the office, like a whiny dog wanting to go out or someone at my front door.  I’ve been contemplating some sort of wireless headset, but what I was seeing just didn’t seem to fit my requirements.  There seemed to be only two approaches:  Bluetooth ear dongles and 2.4GHz phone systems.  I’ve never had much luck with over-the-ear/on-the-ear types of headsets.  With my oddly shaped head they just end up falling off or knocking my glasses askew.  Or should I manage to get one to stay on, eventually it feels like it’s going to bend my ear into some odd new shape:

So, that put Bluetooth out of the running.  The 2.4GHz systems were also out of the running because I’ve banned all non-802.11 2.4GHz devices from the house.  And aside from the frequency, I didn’t want a whole other phone system, I just wanted a headset (all the 2.4GHz devices were complete phone units).

Every so often I take another look around to see what’s out there and that’s when I stumbled across the Plantronics CS361N:

It’s binaural, noise-cancelling, and it operates at 1.9GHz.  It’s a little too futuristic-looking for my tastes (I like the old-style simpler look of the H61N), but it’s not as bad as the Bluetooth models.

Now the list price on this headset is a bit steep ($349.95), but I’ve found that Plantronics is bad about that.  There are tons of resellers that sell their stuff for significantly less than buying direct.  I have to wonder if anyone actually uses Plantronics’ web store at those prices.

I managed to find it for $261.81 at Amazon.com and it included the HL10 lifter (which is another $79.99 on the Plantronics site).

Most Plantronics headsets work by plugging into the phone and taking the place of the handset.  The handset plugs into the Plantronics adapter so you can still use it if you’re not using the headset.  This setup allows them to make headsets to work with just about any kind of phone.  The downside is that it means you have to life the handset off the hook before using the headset.  The HL10 is a little device that sticks to the phone and sits under the handset.  When you press a button on the headset it sends a signal and the HL10 lifts the handset so as to take the phone off the hook.  My phone, unfortunately, has a hanging hook that’s molded into the base and that fits into a slot on the handset (the phone is designed for desk or wall mounting).  So I had to do some fiddling to make it all work right.  At first the HL10 nearly threw the handset across my desk before I found the right spot where it would lift the handset about 1/2-inch without it falling down.  Now I can take the headset with me and answer calls just by pressing the button on the side.  The base unit will activate the lifter which will take the handset off the hook and then put it back when I’m done.

Anyhow, for the amount of time I spend on the phone, it’ll be worth it if this model works as well as the old H61 I have.  I suppose time will tell.  It’s got rechargeable batteries, which are the bane of my existence, but as long as they don’t have problems with memory I think I’ll be OK.  The few calls I’ve made with it so far seem to sound OK as well (sound quality is decent, although not quite as good as the corded model, but that’s to be expected).  And the HL10 is a nice addition.  Maybe the headset is a little dorky looking, but I find as I get older that my dorkiness quotient has increased so I’m not as bothered by it as I used to be.


  1. Kevin White says:

    When I was a trader with Fidelity I wore exactly the same headset as in the first picture. I too liked the binaural model (and had to fight to get it) because it felt like the voice was coming from the middle of my head rather than way off to the side with the monaural model.

    Now in my new position I’m not on the phone that much but when I’m in a conference call where I’m going to be there a while and/or need both hands, I use an Avaya binaural set (over VOIP) that sounds much better and feels more substantial. Looks similar to CS361N above.

  2. Monty says:

    I’m one up on you Kevin.  I get the voices in my head without incurring the expense of a headset of any sort.

  3. Andrien Wang says:

    Why not just buy a 5.8 GHz cordless phone and attach a wired headset to it.  Seems like it would be *A LOT* cheaper than the wireless headset.

  4. Jay says:

    I had totally forgotten, but when I worked at Corporate Software/Stream, I had a single-ear “headset” that was almost unique in the place.  I’d started with a perfectly good headset.  It died.  They replaced it with one sized for a child’s head or something, and I ended up with a sore spot across the top of my head.

    When I complained, instead of giving me one meant for a person of any size, they offered to let me try one that clipped onto an ear and was really funky.  I ended up using that for the rest of the time I was there.  They’d gotten two or three as a trial thing from the company, so I was one of the only people ever to use one.

  5. I’ve got a 5.8GHz wireless that I have for *personal* use.  I even have a headset for it.  But no one makes a headset as good as the Plantronics sets for wireless phones.  And I hate being tethered to the wireless handset when I use it (I’m always trying to find a place to put it where the cord won’t yank it off the desk).

    Even the wired Plantronics headset doesn’t feel “wired” like the headsets for the wireless phones (until you try to get up and move around).