Review: Plantronics DSP-400 USB Foldable Headset

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Date: Monday, August 29th, 2005, 10:48
Category: Review

Plantronics DSP-400Today we’re going to be discussing the DSP-400 Foldable PC Headset from Plantronics. First off I’d like to say I’m a big Plantronics fan, and my perception is that out of all the myriad of PC computer headsets out there Plantronics seems to be the only company that “gets-it” from a price / design standpoint, and recently they’ve been expanding their product line to offer a good range of selections for us tech-gadget-misers. I’d also like to give Plantronics props for a great Web site. Have you checked it out lately? As a big PC gamer I really appreciate their whole section dedicated to gaming. They have Xbox gear up there, and two levels of “GameCom” stereo headsets (DSP & non-DSP versions.) I’ll be keeping an eye out for a certified “Xbox 360″ certified headset in the future. C’mon guys let’s kick it up a notch and really come out with a revolutionary console game set.
Click through for six more paragraphs of headset goodness…


Plantronics DSP-400Today we’re going to be discussing the DSP-400 Foldable PC Headset from Plantronics. First off I’d like to say I’m a big Plantronics fan, and my perception is that out of all the myriad of PC computer headsets out there Plantronics seems to be the only company that “gets-it” from a price / design standpoint, and recently they’ve been expanding their product line to offer a good range of selections for us tech-gadget-misers. I’d also like to give Plantronics props for a great Web site. Have you checked it out lately? As a big PC gamer I really appreciate their whole section dedicated to gaming. They have Xbox gear up there, and two levels of “GameCom” stereo headsets (DSP & non-DSP versions.) I’ll be keeping an eye out for a certified “Xbox 360″ certified headset in the future. C’mon guys let’s kick it up a notch and really come out with a revolutionary console game set.
Head size Adjustor Rant
Ok, so back to the DSP-400. As I’m putting the headphones on I have to adjust them to fit my head with the size adjustors on the sides of the headset and I’m looking to see if there’s any difference between the mechanism on my cheapie (US$30) Plantronics set and the DSP-400’s; they seem almost identical. I think the idea with these adjustors is when starting out they’re tight, but then get loose over time. I’d like to see a mechanism slightly more robust in this area with greater repeatability of movement from start to finish. I don’t mind seeing corners cut in the lower price models, but for these higher end ones I’m not so sure. The other faulty feature in my older pair of headphones (similar to the Plantronics .Audio 60 headset – US$29.95) is the weak connection between the floating earpieces and the main body of the headphones. It’s weak and will snap if you’re like me and you take the headphones on and off by holding / grabbing them by the floating earpiece part. I think I can assume a lot of people grab the earpiece when they’re removing the set from their head. The connection is just too weak and needs to be increased in strength. Because there’s a foam buffer where the earpiece swivels are I can’t tell if they’ve improved this connection on the DSP-400 model.
Cord Length
Now I have to rant about the cord length for a minute ? it’s super long and I’m trying to get used to it. Once I got the unit home and installed it into my PC tower setup I was grateful for the generous cord length, however if you’re planning to use this set at the LAN party or down the street at Starbucks you’re definitely going to need some of those Velcro hook & loop fasteners to get the cord under control. I find it ironic that the set folds up to fit into a tight spot, but you’ll never get it in a small backpack pouch because the cord and DSP module will take up a relatively big space! Another annoyance is the length of the cable between the mute / volume dongle and the headphones. It’s just way to freaking long.
Cord Specs
Between USB connect & DSP Dongle ? 2′
Between USB Dongle & Headset ? 9′
Between Volume / Mute Dongle & Headset ? 3′
DSP Dongle Dimensions ? 5″x1 3/4″x1″
Grand Total: Nearly 11 Feet
What is going on here? Why so much cable. And why is the DSP Dongle so Huge??
Bundled Software ? PerSono
Ok let’s move on to the software. Plantronics offers the “Persono software” download. What is basically is, is a control panel with EQ presets and a few sliders. I’m kind of disappointed that you can’t create your own “custom” equalizer presets here, but oh well. Overall I’m really unimpressed with this control panel. I’m fairly sure there isn’t’ anything in here you couldn’t accomplish with normal windows control panels on the most standard computers.
Now before you think I’m just in a rotten negative mood and pointing out all the bad stuff, let’s get into what was good!
Plug & Play
As a bonus all I had to do was plug the unit into my Windows XP box, and the sound came right up on the headphones. No need to install drivers or anything else, just plug & play away. This is a BIG relief because when USB devices aren’t properly setup in firmware things can get buggy and frustrating real fast. Any PC guy will tell you that. I’m always happy to get instant gratification out of a gadget while I’m testing so this is a major kudos for Plantronics.
Sound Quality
My first test was quake 3. I don’t have any special testing gear in my lab, but I have to say the bass is GREAT! I used the “Games” EQ Preset in PerSono control panel and it’s rockin’. The Plasma gun couldn’t sound better, and of course I cranked up devmap q3dm17 in god mode giveall to give the BFG & Rail gun a whirl. Once again, great sound.
Spatial Quality
Lately I’ve been playing a lot of NR2003 (NASCAR 2003 Season) online multiplayer car racing, and I have to give the Plantronics a big thumbs up for spatial sound. Hearing what cars are coming up behind you is critical to not crashing out in this game, and since using the DSP-400 I’ve had a noticeable improvement in this area. Great 3D spatial sound quality all the way around.
Microphone Quality
I tested out the microphone with Counter-Strike and talked around on the server’s a little bit to see what people thought of the quality. I know the voice channel on the FPS games is a bit narrow, but I thought this would be an excellent real-world test of the microphone. After playing around with the gain a little bit I was able to achieve a relatively high quality voice-channel in counter-strike. In my book this is huge. The DSP-400 passes the microphone test with flying colors!
Overall PROS/CONS
PRO ? Plug & Play with Mac OS X and Windows XP ? instant gratification, great USB firmware setup
PRO ? Great BASS, Especially for games using the “Gaming” EQ setup
PRO ? Good 3D spatial sound output
PRO ? Good Microphone Quality Especially for gaming.
CON ? Headset Size Adjustment Mechanism not up to par with price point.
CON ? Potentially weak connection at earpiece swivel point ? can’t tell because of foam.
CON ? Headset folds up, yet cord & DSP module is so long it won’t allow the total set to fit into a tight spot.
CON ? Length of Cord between volume dongle & headphones too long, DSP Dongle too big.
Wrap up
Ok, well that’s about it. I’m going to go crank up a game of UT2k4 now, and I’m sure with the DSP-400 I’ll be fragging my way to the top no problem. I would recommend this headset a valuable addition to any gamer or non gamer’s home setup.
I’ve been using a DSP-400 for a few weeks now and have to concur with Bart’s assessement of the DSP-400, I love everything about it except for the folding hinge and the speaker height adjustments – they’re servicable, but could be better. I use my DSP-400 most for VOIP in applications like Gizmo Project (ogrady) and Skype (jason_ogrady) and it kicks major ass all around. Next step will be to use it for podcasting via VOIP but that that’ll have to wait until after vacation. -Ed

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