Review Budget Headsets up to 40.- Euro
Part 1: Good and reasonable?
The first part of our big headset review covers budget headsets, which cost below 40.-€. We scrutinised a total of seven headsets with different qualities. The following comparison test covers whether there are in terms of sound quality and wearing comfort, good budget headsets available.
The following headsets were examined in our comparison test:
- Microsoft LifeChat LX-2000 - foldable chat expert
- Philips SHM 7500 - enjoy music at a small price
- Hama HS-450 - mobile companion with weak sound
- Logitech Clearchat Pro USB - telephony expert
- Digitus DA-10226 - reasonable general-purpose headset
- Plantronics .Audio 470 USB - compact heatset with good sound quality
- Creative HS-900 - fully-fledged headset with good sound
The Microsoft LifeChat LX-2000 is a foldable headset, which can be easily tucked into the provided bag. The only annoying thing is the rather long cable, which could have been clearly shorter for a 'mobile' headset. Quality and workmanship of the LifeChat LX-2000 are not really good.
The headset is attached to the 3.5 mm jack, and the volume is continuously variable at the cable. An advantage is the switch which does not only allow to turn the microphone off, but also to activate the microphone boost.
During our test we were unable to put this headset on in a comfortable way. It either slips or uncomfortably squeezes the pinna down if 'hooked' in the ear. Due to the weight of the microphone arm, the distribution of the weight is unpleasantly not even. The microphone arm is rather stiff, and the only position possible is close to the mouth, which might be annoying.
Not only because of the bad fit on the ears the sound quality is rather limited. Music sounds dull and tinny. In general the same is true for telephony, but, the bad sound quality is not that important here.
Unfortunately, the cheapest headset in our test, does not bring forward any arguments that it is possible to get a passable headset for less than 20.-€. The wearing comfort is unsatisfactory and the quality of the sound is just sufficient for mobile telephony, where the most important aspect is the transportation size.
- Netzkabel (180 cm)
- USB-Kabel (180 cm)
Philips SHM 7500
Even at the first glance the Philips SHM 7500 looks very good and it is actually easily adjustable. The earpads comfortably sit on the ear, and the contact pressure is alright. Nevertheless, you are still rather well isolated from noises of the environment. An advantage are the low weight of only 100 gramme. Unfortunately the workmanship is not that good. The earpads are very imprecisely sewed, whereas the two sides are different.
This headset is attached via 3.5 mm jack. The microphone can be easily switched off on the cable. Also the volume can be controlled there, however, the sliding controller is rather short, so, the adjustment is rather imprecise. Compared to other headsets in our review the sound was rather good. Even if it is not really designed for this purpose, it is, nevertheless, possible to enjoy music, even more, because the basses are considering the small size of the loudspeakers rather fat. The SHM 7500 was the only headset without a microphone arm in our review. The quality of the recordings are not good, the noise isolation average.
The Philips headset does also not cost much. Nevertheless, its sound quality is astonishingly good. Considering the price its weaknesses in workmanship and quality of recording are forgivable.
The Hama HS-450 is a foldable headset, which can be easily put into a bag. The quality of the used materials is not high, the workmanship is alright, however, the stability of the hinge appears to be low. The headphones do not completely cover the ears. Nevertheless the noise from the surrounding is still limited. The earpads uncomfortable slightly squeeze the ears, but, because the contact pressure is low, the wearing comfort is average. If you wear the headphones for a longer time, you'll miss a pad at the top side.
This headset is attached via USB. Thereby you won't need any drivers. The volume can be controlled via switch on the cable, the microphone can be turned off. The microphone arm is relatively hard to move. If you move it, the headset will inevitably shift. So, you'll need both hands to adjust its position. The quality of the sound is too limited for enjoying music. The basses are still good. The sound quality is sufficient for telephony, the quality of the microphone is about average of the test samples. Unfortunately, the noises of the environment are not well enough isolated. So, you probably won't like it in loud environments.
The HS-450 by Hama convinces by its compact design and its functionality, but it does not score points by its sound quality. Nevertheless, it can all what a headset used on-to-move is supposed to.
Logitech Clearchat Pro USB
The Logitech Clearchat Pro USB looks simple at the first glance. Thereby, the functionality is nicely integrated in the design. Considering the price, it appears to be very robust, and its workmanship is good. The microphone arm can be very easily fold upwards and downwards. The microphone itself has a good noise isolation. The Clearchat Pro USB does not completely cover the ears. So, noises in the environment are clearly audible. The headset has a comfortable fit, whereas the contact pressure is not too strong and it rests on the top pad. Furthermore, it weighs only 130 gramme, which is an advantage if you use it for a longer time.
The headset is immediately ready for use after it is attached and does not require any driver. Although, you can't expect a high sound quality of headsets of this price category, the Clearchat Pro USB sounds good enough for gaming and listening to music. Only the basses could be fuller. The Clearchat Pro offers the possibilty to switch between speech, music, and game by the built-in equalizer. In practice it turned out that this is very comfortable, although the difference between gaming and music was rather small. In music/gaming mode the basses are a little bit fuller, which would rather disturb when telephoning. The volume control is on the right headphone and the microphone can be turned off.
As its name implies the Logitech Clearchat Pro USB is designed for telephony, but it also scores points in other fields of operation. Even if other headsets are better for gaming and music, the Clearchat Pro is a reasonable alternative even if you need it except for telephony also for more demanding tasks.
The Digitus DA-10226 is a foldable headset with removable microphone. Considering its weight and size it can still be easily packed, because also the heaphones can be turned. Due to the used materials the headset and the accessories do not seem to be of high quality, the workmanship is acceptable.The headset does not cover the ears. So, noises in the environment are clearly audible. First, the headset fits well, but after a short while, the headphones uncomfortably pinch the pinna. Furthermore, also the comparably high weight - this is the heaviest headset reviewed - does not have a positive impact on the wearing comfort.
This headset is attached via 3.5 mm jack. In addition it can use a USB port as power supply. As alternative, the DA-10226 also comes with a battery pack, which allows to also use the amplifier on-the-move. Unfortunately, you can permanentely hear a whirring once the amplifier is turned on. The active amplifier clearly changes the sound, unfortunately, to the worse. While the quality of the sound is good without it, it now appears to be artificial and tinny. The sound is much nicer without it and especially free of noise. Compared to our reference headset, the DA-10226 sounds dull, but, the basses are good, the best bass of all headsets under review.
Digitus offers a headset, which is fit for gaming and music and scores points in telephony, at a low price by the DA-10226. Disadvantages are the workmanship and the wearing comfort, but, the sound is comparably good.
Plantronics .Audio 470 USB
The Plantronics .Audio 470 USB is a foldable headset, which can be adjusted to the individual shape of the head. The workmanship is good, the wearing comfort acceptable if you consider it is a mobile headset, but it slips easily and you'll miss a pad on the top side. The wearing comfort, of this very light headset, which weighs only 70 gramme, is overall good. The microphone arm is partly stiff, but the front end can be moved, so, it is altogether very well adjustable.
The .Audio 470 can be either attached via 3.5 mm jack or, by means of the provided adapter, via USB. The headphones are on the ears, and noises in the environment are well audible. The good noise isolation of the microphone is without doubt one of the advantages of this headset. Together with a good sound quality, it is appropriate for Internet telephony. The sound is, considering it is a headset that sits on the ears, good. Nevertheless, it is only fit for gaming and music with limitations, but, passable for use on-the-move.
We had a good impression of the Plantronics .Audio 470 USB, which is light, can be easily packed, and has a passable sound. It would have been nice to also get a bag for use on-the-move, but, this is only a small disadvantage compared to its strengthes.
Weighing 180 gramme, we assumed that the HS-900 by Creative could be a fully-fledged headset. The HS-900 is the biggest headset in our test, because it is not possible to fold it, it is only limited ready for use on-the-move. Due to the provided bag, it is still reasonably easy to transport it. The HS-900 workmanship appears to be good and its quality can well keep up with the quality of more expensive headsets. The microphone arm is relatively stiff, but, nevertheless well adjustable. The noise isolation of the microphone is good. This is the only model under review, where the headphones completely cover the ears. Due to the good padding, it has also a top rating in the wearing comfort of this price class.
This headset is attached via 3.5 mm jack, the volume can be stepwise controlled via cable remote control, the microphone can be switched off. The big advantage of the HS900 is for sure the sound. Of all headsets under review it had the best sound spectrum and is, so, fit for music, telephony, and gaming without limitations. The basses could be a little bit stronger, but overall, the HS-900 has a good quality, which compares favourably with more expensive headsets.
Creative offers a fully-fledged headset with good sound and good workmanship, the HS-900, at 30.- €. The disadvantages in size and weight can be neglected if you consider its adavantages. If you do not like to cut back in sound, the HS-900 can be recommended.
We reviewed very different headsets in our budget test, some ultra-mobiles, some bigger ones, lighter and heavier ones, well-fitting and bad-fitting ones. The differences in sound quality and wearing comfort were especially big.
The cable lengthes of the headsets are in between 2.35 m and 3 m and therewith long enough to also connect them to a PC. Connected to a notebook, the long cables are rather hindering. However, it's a waste of time to look for headsets with short cables and optional extension in this price category. It is not really necessary to have a manual for a headset. Most manufacturers only provided a short description of the articles, only Logitech and Microsoft provide a fully-fledged manual in German. There aren't many accessories provided either, only Microsoft and Hama products come with a transport bag.
The test proved, that light headsets do not necessarily mean bad sound. Here the headsets by Digitus and Creative were especially good. If you want to use a headset in a loud environment, a good noise isolation is important. In this aspect the models by Logitech, Plantronics, and Hama were partly clearly better than their competitors. You do not need to compromise in wearing comfort with the Hama HS-900, the headsets by Digitus and Logitech also convinced in this aspect.
The Winners of the Test
Regarding sound quality the Creative HS-900 is best, and the difference to the competitors is clearly audible. Its workmanship leaves hardly anything to be desired and the microphone of the HS-900 does also not have any disadvantages.
Even if the headset by Creative is the most expensive in this test, it receives the price/performance award. The differences in terms of quality are bigger than the price difference. To summarize, it is an absolutely recommendable headset.
The Plantronics .Audio 470 is able to well combine mobility and acceptable sound. Due to its low weight and small size it got the mobility award.