Do you need a headset for Google Voice?
What is the best headset for Google Voice?
With Google Voice now allowing people to have a phone number and make free calls to the US and Canada from their computers, many people are wondering what they need to use Google Voice. In particular, do you need a special headset for Google Voice. What about a headphone for Google Voice and what’s the difference? Do I need an expensive headset or some special headset? Let me answer some of these questions for you.
Let’s start with “Do I need a headset for Google Voice?”
The answer is: yes and no. If you have a microphone and speakers for your computer that work, you CAN make phone calls with Google Voice. Just like you could talk to your neighborhood friend with a couple tin cans and a string. It works but there may be problems with voice quality.
It has to do with noise cancellation, echo cancellation, gain, and distance. A bunch of jargon that really means that the closer your mouth is to the microphone and the less sound your microphone picks up from anything else (especially the speakers) the better everything sounds. If the microphone is close to your mouth, then less gain (or volume) needed for the computer (and Google Voice) to hear your voice. That means your voice will be loud and clear and other distracting noises will be quiet or even silent during the call. If you have ever tried to talk to someone on the phone while they are on a bus you will probably get the idea.
The other problem is echo. If your microphone picks up sound from your speakers, you or the person you are talking to may hear an echo. Sometimes the echo can be very distracting and make having a conversation difficult for some people. Phone companies and also Google Voice try to filter that echo out, but still it can happen. It’s more a problem when you are using speakers and a microphone because the speaker volume is usually a lot louder than a phone’s speaker would be near your ear and often the speakers are placed where the sound is aimed at the microphone.
It is possible to use a microphone and speakers with Google Voice but unless you have a good microphone and have made sure it does not pick up much sound from the speakers, it is not going to work well. Use a computer headset, the people you call will thank you for it.
Here is the video for this post on finding the best headset for Google Voice
For a good quality sound from your computer with Google Voice you should use a headset.
A headset keeps the microphone near your mouth the mic volume can be low. It keeps the speakers near your ears so you can hear clearly with the speaker volume low that it probably cannot be hear by another person. That keeps noise and echo well under control so Google Voice doesn’t have to filter it out (which would also degrade voice quality). It also limits any distortion that might come from increasing gain.
Using a headset, you can get amazingly good voice quality with Google Voice.
Do you need an expensive headset for Google Voice?
You do not need a special headset for Google Voice. Nearly any headset that works with your computer will do just fine. You will need one designed to work with a computer. Most cordless phone headsets do not work with computers. While I do not recommend running to your local Wallyworld and buying the cheapest headset you can find, you don’t need to get a very expensive one either. Stay away from the bottom line models even from name brands. Besides being more likely to fall apart soon, the cheapest headsets will also not have as good sound quality.
If you already have a headset, you probably do not need a new headset for Google Voice. If the mic and speakers in the headset you already sound good for other uses, they are going to be just find for Google Voice. If you don’t have a headset, you are going to get the best results with Google Voice on your computer using a headset. It can be a very wise investment as you can use a computer headset for a lot of other uses on your computer.
What to look for in a headset for Google Voice:
- USB or plug connectors: Unless your computer is very slow, consider a headset that included a USB connector. For some reason, I seem always get better results with the headset plugged into a USB port. On my old laptop, the microphone port eventually stopped working reliably but recording was always great using a headset with a USB adapter. It’t always nice to have the option to use either one. For most computers, if you do not use a USB adapter, you are going to need a headset with separate headphone and microphone jacks. The typical one plug type of headset used with a cordless phone will not work.
- Over or behind the head: If you don’t want “headphone head” with a deep line in your hair after a long call, get a “behind the head” style headset. You can talk all day without flattening your hair. I find this to be the most common style for headset now, so it is easy to find this.
- Speaker size: Most computer have speakers that are flat against your ears or completely surround them (closed ear). There are a few that go in the ear like iPhone ear buds too. Closed ear headsets are very comfortable to use for long periods of time and cut down distracting noises around you. Unfortunately, your wife may need to call your Google Voice number to get your attention even if she is sitting right next to you as may be too well insulated from the outside world to hear anything less than a bomb going off in the same room. A bomb in the next room will probably be unnoticed by you. It can be annoying to have to remove a headset every time you want to ask a question of someone next to you instead of someone on the other side of the country. It really comes down to what you think is comfortable and what you prefer. Remember, more than one family member may be using it (ear buds may be a bit of an icky idea if this is the case).
- Headset Brand: Logitech, Creative, Microsoft, and Plantronics all make good computer headsets and have several price levels to choose from. I might trust Asus and some of the better computer component companies if the user ratings on Newegg and Amazon are good. I bought a Logitech laptop headset several years ago and I am still very happy with it.
- Volume and other controls on the headset: Having a volume control on the headset or on the headset wire can be very convenient. It is really nice when you suddenly find the volume too loud and can’t find the volume control in Windows quickly. A mute button on the headset is nice too. Just don’t get on and off confused – that could be annoying or embarrassing depending if you can’t figure out why no one can hear you or if you said something you shouldn’t have while you though it was off. These are really nice features to have and you miss them when you use a headset that does not have them.
- Storage: If you have a laptop and want to use your headset on the go, look for a folding model with a hard case. I’ve gone through several headsets that could not take the abuse of being loose in my laptop bag no matter how careful I tried to be with them. My folding Logitech headset has been carried all around in it’s hard case. It still works great after several years and often that hard case is at the bottom of the bag under everything else. For home use it’s not really needed but for travel with a laptop, a headset that folds and has a case can save you a lot in replaced headsets.
- Stereo or Mono Speakers: There are mono (one speaker) headsets for computers but I have no idea why anyone would want one. Your computer’s sound jack is going to be stereo anyways. Stereo or mono will not make a difference with Google Voice, but you will use that headset for doing other things with your computer like movies and games. You will want stereo for those uses.
- Wireless or Wired Headsets: There are wireless options now for computer headsets. You will pay a premium price for this feature and sound quality may not be as good as a wired headset (especially with cheaper wireless headsets). A bluetooth wireless headset may be convenient to use with both your computer and mobile phone. It would be even more convenient with a laptop that has built in bluetooth. It is an option and eliminating wires can make life simpler. You won’t be stuck sitting right at your computer when making calls but you still will not be able to roam the house like a regular cordless phone. Again, for computer use, I suggest only considering stereo wireless headsets, no matter if it is bluetooth or other wireless technology.
- Price: The cost of a computer headset for Google Voice is really the only cost you need to consider at the moment if you want to try it. You can find headsets that cost as little as $6.00. I wouldn’t recommend them. You can pay as much as $300.00. That would most likely be more than I would want to pay. I think reasonable models will be found in the $20-$40 range.
- Rating: I always check the user ratings on Newegg and Amazon before buying something like this. No matter what brand there is always going to be some lemons. If a model has good reviews from the overwhelming majority of buyers with a few bad ones it is probably ok. If the opposite is true, no matter how cool, no matter how good the 1 person out of 40 reviewers said it was, choose another model. Then even if you should get a bad one, you can expect the replacement to work at least. It’s hard to find a product where no one has had some problem but most people should have a good experience before you decide it’s worth your money.
A headset is a very useful accessory for your computer.
You can use it for many other things besides Google Voice. Spend a little bit more than you would at Wallyworld and you will probably find it to be a good investment. It is something you may end up using every day. If you take advantage of Google Voice’s free calls to the US and Canada for the rest of the year, you can end up saving a lot of money. I plan a buying another headset, canceling my home VOIP line and just using Google Voice. Right now, I’m looking at one of the Logitech models in the $30-$40 range. I’ll save over $200 dollars this year including the cost of those headphones over keeping that VOIP line. I hope to let you know how that microphone works sometime in the future.
Take care of your headset when you get it. Don’t throw it around. Don’t let any pets get near the cords. That goes double if you have a pet rabbit! The most fragile parts of any headset I have seen are the wires and the microphone. The wires are often as cheap as they can be (one reason to avoid Wallyworld and low end models in particular). The wires can break easy especially near the plugs and where it attaches to the headset itself. Be careful not to pull on the cords (a big plus for wireless models). Microphones can be damaged when they get knocked around. If you throw your headset on the desk after a bad game session (or Google Voice call) don’t be surprised if the mic does not work.
Do you already have a headset for Google Voice or your computer? What brand and model? Do you like it? What do you like or not like about it. Please let me know in the comments below. I’ll also appreciate if you thumbs up the video on You Tube and like this page on Facebook.