Superbeam headset

GCN LAB REVIEWS

High-end headset — and no need to lower the boom

Whether you are traveling and need to relax on a crowded flight, are editing and reviewing video in an office, or are on an important teleconference in which you must hear every word, you have one pressing need: a good set of headphones. And for the teleconference, you probably should go one step further and get a headphone set with a built-in microphone because you will probably need to speak and listen.

The problem with the microphone on most headsets is its boom. It can get in the way when you are not talking, so you have to push it out of the way when you want to take a sip of your coffee. Then when it’s your turn to speak, well, remember that sip of coffee you took? Chances are the boom is not in position anymore, and that often that means you’ll have to take the trouble to reoptimize its position relative to your mouth. Or even worse, you will start talking and nobody will hear you. That happens more often than you think, as any teleconference veteran will tell you.

The SuperBeam Phones SB-405 from Andrea Electronics address that particular issue. The microphones are boom-free, meaning they are built into the side of each of the speakers to be out of the way when not used. You might even be fumbling around looking for them. Don’t worry, they are there. You just can’t see them.


SuperBeam Phones SB-405

Pros: Good, clear sound; no boom for mic.
Cons: Does not fit larger heads.
Performance: A-
Ease of Use: A
Features: B
Value: B+
Price: $150

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The installation of the SuperBeam Phones was quite easy. We just plugged the line-out and microphone mini-jacks into the provided USB adapter and plugged that, in turn, into one of our test computer’s USB ports.

The USB adapter is actually a little sound card with HD capability that also controls the stereo input coming from the twin microphones. That means it does not matter what type of audio setup the host computer has, or even whether it has audio at all. The HD sound card handles all the traffic from the computer to your headset and back.

The pads of the two speakers are smaller than you’d expect and are certainly too small to cover one’s entire ear. However, the material they are made of does a good job of molding to the outer ear, enabling good, clear sound to come through without totally blocking out the outside world. The sound is rich, with an enhanced bass system that really comes through nicely.

To be honest, we were skeptical of having the microphones positioned as far away from the mouth as these were. However, the ones in the SuperBeam use Digital Super Directional Array technology, which not only focuses on sounds coming from a narrow cone but also reduces background noise to nearly nothing. As a result, our tester’s voice came through clearly every time. It wouldn’t eliminate the noise from, say, a construction site or a rock concert, but for normal indoor use it worked just fine.

We found the SB-405B to be a little smaller than we would have liked. The headphones telescope out at eight different settings to allow a user to make adjustment so the speakers sit exactly over the ears. However, one of our testers, who wears a slightly larger than average size 7 3/8 hat, put the headphones on a maximum adjustment, and the speakers just barely came down to cover his ears. While they fit, they did feel tight. Anyone with a smaller head — such as the rest of our review staff, coincidentally — shouldn’t have a problem finding a fit.

These headphones rotate and swing up so the whole thing fits in a case that is only 1.5-inches thick. Although this is a good thing, the speakers don’t lock in place and tend to go any which way when they are not used. This stopped being a problem after we put the headphones on, but we felt it worth mentioning.

The SuperBeam Phones SB-405B retails for $150. Although that is a decent price, we were hoping to see it a bit lower than that. However, considering the new technology built into these, we can see the reasoning behind this pricing.

These headphones would do well at any office task requiring headphones, or even working on the go. And you can drink your coffee worry-free.

Andrea Electronics, www.andreaelectronics.com

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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