I just had a chance to test drive the Plantronics .Audio 480 USB Headset also known as the Virtual Phone Booth. While I generally have problems with all in-the-ear headphones, these felt better in my ears than many others I have tried.
For example the Shure E3c Sound Isolating Earphones (currently discontinued) don’t fit in my ears well and subsequently I have to resort to the ear plug type adapter that you roll tightly and then let expand in your ear.
The problem with the Shure ear buds is that if your fingers are not absolutely just-washed clean, the buds get dirty and don’t work as well — they then need replacement. This includes the carbon residue from newspapers that you don’t even realize is embedded in your fingers.
Another problem is if you take one of these foam ear buds out to speak with someone on a flight you have to take time to roll it again before reinserting it back in your ear.
I am somewhat impressed with the sound quality of the Plantronics headset. In tests of dance, pop and classical music, I thought the range of frequencies transmitted to be good. Don’t expect body shaking bass but for a headset of this size, the sound quality is above average.
Where these headphones shine however is as a portable VoIP headset allowing you access to Skype or any other soft client. There is a wire thin and light microphone boom that comes down to your mouth from the left headphone.
I have experienced this microphone slowly dragging the left headphone out of my ear and an easy fix was to just twist the mike up and over the ear bud.
In addition, there is a USB dongle the size of a small pack of gum which also has connectors for headphones and microphone. This device works with PC and MAC and could be used in situations where a USB connection is more handy or if there are no connectors for microphone and speaker.
Thoughts on how to make the .Audio 480 better are a button to kill the sound (there is a mute button and volume control slider) and I would extend the length of the cord by about 18 inches. Update: I would also bump up the frequency response on the high end to 20 kHz from 10 kHz.
Other than that, the .Audio 480 seems like a must have for the road warrior’s laptop case.