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Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset

Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset DSP-500

Plantronics DSP-500

The world of ear attachments is now a fairly complicated one, and any decision-making tree based on the premise that you actually want to buy something with which to process audible content is going to be fairly complex. For starters, what are you going to use your headphones for - portable audio, gaming, listening to music? Do you want earbuds to keep the travel bag to a minimum, or do you want folding cans for a compromise? Do you need a microphone on the side to talk to your buddies in Counter-Strike, or are you more concerned with having noise-cancelling circuitry to drown out the sound of the office air conditioning?

Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset DSP-500 Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset DSP-500
There is also another choice - do you want something with just a jack on the end, or do you want it as USB? If you're running a desktop or a laptop, you will almost certainly have headphone out and mic in jacks running off your soundcard, whether it's a X-Fi or simply integrated motherboard sound. This is a fairly uncomplicated method of setting up your sound ins and outs. However, what if you want something a little more sophisticated?

On your decision making tree of audio add-ons, I'm going to assume that you've gone down the tree which says 'desktop PC', then 'gaming', then probably also online. This is where this set of cans could be perfect for you. Because it uses USB, it shows up in Device Manager on Windows as a separate sound device. If you're using Skype or another VoIP application, you can set it to use the DSP-500 specifically, rather than your normal audio device. This means a couple of things. One is that you don't have to keep unplugging your headphones to plug your speakers back in when you're listening to music. The second is that you can continue to have the sound from your game pump out the speakers, whilst using the headset to listen and chat to your friends over VoIP - making for great team communication in whatever game you happen to be in. This is, unashamedly, the Xbox Live approach.

Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset DSP-500 Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset DSP-500
Some may balk at this idea. If you're one of them, no worries - but this is where the separate USB connection of the headset really comes into its own. Thankfully, the USB is more than easy to set up - although it comes with a driver disc, we found that we didn't require it in either Windows XP or Mac OSX. In both these operating systems, simply plugging in allowed the operating system to recognise and configure the headset correctly.

With that feature out of the way, what do these things actually sound like?