Review : Stereo Headset with Microphone

Well-priced, comfortable, and versatile.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Altec Lansing

Price: $39.95 US

The Good

  • A simple product very well executed. Included USB adapter. In-line volume and gain control.

The Bad

  • Quality is just short of studio sound, but thatís expected in this price range.
Altec Lansing's AHS302 usb, Stereo Headset with Microphone, is an above-average headphone and microphone combination that works well with whatever Mac you have. The company has courteously enclosed a USB adapter with the headset so that, if you don't have a microphone line-in, you can plug the device directly into your USB port. I tested the headset with my PowerBook G4, using both the line-in and the USB port, and with my white iBook, which only has USB. Sound quality with both systems was similar and very good. Strangely, I encountered weird tonal artifacts while trying to use the USB port on my PowerBook to create a podcast in GarageBand. This turned out to be a problem with the PowerBook itself, as I encountered the same problem with another headphone and microphone combination.

Simply Done Right

The Stereo Headset with Microphone is such a simple device, yet Altec Lansing has done everything right. Besides the included adapter, that makes this a good choice, there is an in-line volume control for audio output, and a gain selector for audio input. You can raise or lower the volume on the earphones by rolling the dial, you can turn up or mute the microphone simply by sliding a switch on a controller built halfway up the headphone's cord. I found this to be tremendously useful, as my portables don't handle these functions nearly quickly enough.

Comfortable Sound

The 36 mm Neodymium leatherette ear-phones are very comfortable. The plastic band rests behind the neck, and I had no trouble keeping the headphones on for a couple of hours without any discomfort to my ears. They even sounded very full for such an inexpensive pair of headphones. I played through all of The Beastie Boys Check Your Head, and they handled the B-Boys funkiness with aplomb.

Accurate Speech Recognition

Using the headset with speech recognition was a mixed bag, but I'm not ready to blame the microphone. Apple's Speakable Items have always been twitchy, and I have never needed more advanced speech recognition software. I would say that 80% of the time, when the CPU wasn't already laden with processes, I could get accurate recognition from the microphone, even on proper names and application-specific commands that I created. Testing the microphone for clarity in GarageBand, and then using the freeware Audio Recorder 3.0, I got very clean sound from the microphone. Background noises were still slightly audible though. The advertised noise rejecting technology employed means that it limits surrounding noise, so that it doesn't interfere when you are talking to someone in Internet voice applications, it doesn't dampen background noise for the microphone user.

This is a well-priced, comfortable, and versatile headset.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor