Review: Plantronics C310 Headset

I had a stereo Logitech headset with mic that I bought for Skype calls years ago, but I hated it: It was hard to modulate my own voice with my ears covered. It also provided no sidetone. I always had this lingering doubt that the mic might was picking up my voice at all. I eventually moved to a Chat 60 USB speakerphone, which worked great in a home office.

With my recent move to a mechanical keyboard, the Chat 60 stopped being such a good idea. It sits very close to my keyboard, and people were telling me it picked up too much ambient noise anyhow. So began the search for headphones that would be more comfortable than my Logitechs, and that would provide side-tone.

There's a great roundup of the USB office headset market over at Wirecutter that I read several times over. It's skewed toward the headset being used not only for voice but for listening to music when not on a call. Since I'm in a home office with a stereo, I don't worry about listening to music.

After a few days of reading reviews, digging around in Amazon, and trying to figure out what might work, I stumbled into the "business headset" category and was reminded that single-ear headsets that prioritize voice over music or games are still a thing in places like call centers and sales offices.

They're pretty utilitarian things: You want a decent fit, an adjustable mic to better direct your voice, comfortable padding, and a way to control the mic via hardware (i.e. physical mute and volume switches, for when you get caught needing to respond and you can't find your Hangout tab to unmute.)

The Plantronics C310 was the best reviewed, came in at under $40, and seemed to meet all the criteria. A lot of the reviews were from people who left comments like, "tried this out with a small team, now I'm buying a few dozen." The "people who bought this also bought" feature on the Amazon product page showed the same model, just with slightly different SKUs due to vendor variations, which suggested to me people were buying the same model over and over, just sourcing it differently each time: return customers!

The Software

There's some software you can download from the Plantronics website that's supposed to make the headset integrate more nicely with some VoIP applications: You can mute the mic from the taskbar, use the pickup button with a specific app (e.g. Skype), and update the firmware.

I tried the software on a call, and Skype went mildly bananas, cycling between online/offline states, muting and unmuting, cutting out, and generally wreaking havoc. I had to quit Skype, unplug the headset, and kill a bad process I was able to identify because it was flooding the logs with errors.

Once I managed to get control of the situation, I plopped the software in the trash and called it a day: The headset doesn't need it to do the basics, and I don't need the pickup button to work.

First Week Impressions

After a week of using it, I'm happy with it:

  • A few calls to the Skype 123 test call service helped me hear how I sound with it, and I think the mic is pretty good. It sounds warm and crisp.
  • The mic boom is bendy, so it's easy to flex it around to point at my mouth.
  • Other people with decent headsets and mics sound great, too.
  • There's a tiny tone when muting/unmuting that tells you the button has been pressed, and there's a red light to let you know you're muted. People complain that the tone is too long and cuts out the conversation, but that hasn't been my experience. It's pretty brief.
  • Since it has a single-ear design, I can hear myself talking. Since it has sidetone, I can hear a faint resonance that tells me I'm not muted and that the mic is picking up.
  • It fits my large-ish head comfortably. I've used it for 90 minutes at a time without noticing it.
  • The software seems to be a dud, and I'd avoid it if I were you. Considering I'm on El Capitan, which is recently new, that could even be something that'll work itself out. I just don't think I need the software enough to track the issue.

I think the thing to watch out for at this point is how well it holds up over time.

About the Plantronics C310 Headset

Summary: A single-ear USB headset for VoIP and video chat.

Purpose: Using it with Skype and Google Hangouts.

Date bought: October 22, 2015

Good buy? So far, so good.

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Things is © 2015 Mike Hall.