Partial disclosure (the full disclosure is at the end): Since receiving Version 1.0 of the FREETALK® Wireless Stereo Headset about two years ago, it has become one of my few “must have” accessories. I’ll try to keep to the descriptive details and let other bloggers comment on their experiences with it.
In the fall of 2007, In Store Solutions introduced the 5191 FREETALK Wireless Stereo headset; its feature set has resulted in its becoming a best seller amongst Skype headsets and number 1 amongst wireless headsets for Skype. From my experience:
- Its fifteen meter wireless range allows its use around the house; in my particular case the limitation of range to “one room away” resulted from the steel studs in the walls – crossing two walls sometimes made a difference. However, I could readily answer the front door when Fedex came (they only come during calls, right?) or I needed to let the dog out the back door without interrupting a call. I’ve often used them to listen to my iTunes music or listen to podcasts as well while working around the house.
- The audio quality has continued to amaze:
- Its AvneraAudioTM chip has supported the various wideband codecs that Skype has provided over the past two years, including the recently released SILKTM codec with its support of 12KHz audio for Skype calls. In fact, when Skype provided me with samples of audio with progressively larger audio bandwidths – 4KHz (narrow band), 8KHz (wideband) and 12KHz (superwideband supported by SILK) – I could only detect a difference between the 8KHz sample and 12KHz sample when using this headset.
- But the speakers actually support a wider bandwidth; they support the full 20KHz required for high fidelity music listening.
However, there were issues with the wearing comfort over a long period of time and the robustness of the headband over time. As a result In Store Solutions recently released “Version 2.0” – the Model 5192 FREETALK Freedom Wireless Stereo Headset – with a much more robust headband and redesigned ear pieces including leather padding for improved wearing comfort.
For simplicity here’s a brief comparison of the FREETALK Wireless Headset and the FREETALK Everyman Headset:
|Replaces PC Audio Chip||Yes. AvneraAudioTM chip||Yes|
|Speaker Audio Bandwidth||20 Hz to 20 KHz, stereo||20 Hz to 20 KHz. stereo|
|Supports Skype’s SILK codec||Yes||Yes|
|Adjustable Headband with Mic||Yes||Yes|
|Ear Pad controls||Accept/End Skype calls, adjust volume; Power On/Off (hold) plus mic mute (tap)||No|
|Connection to PC via USB||2.4 GHz WiStereoTM wireless protocol, 15 meter range||Two wire connection via USB dongle|
|3.5 mm Jack for iPod, iPhone, BlackBerry, etc||No||Yes, for listening via speakers only (no mic)|
|Ear pieces||Leather padding||Foam pads|
|Plug-and-Play||Yes, PC and Mac||Yes, PC and Mac|
|Weight||142 g||124 g|
- Up to 5.5 hours continuous use per charge (in “ready” mode)
- Continue conversations while the 2 meter charging cable is attached to headset
- includes a compact travel case to contain the headset, USB dongle and battery charging cable
As for the battery management, I have usually kept the charging cable plugged in when at my PC but can readily disconnect when I need to walk away. This is just “gut” feeling due to many years of experience with battery powered devices.
While operating in the same unlicensed rf band as WiFi, I have never encountered interference between WiFi and the headset. So how does this unique WiStereoTM protocol work in terms of effect on the user experience?
- It’s intelligent enough to work outside any active WiFi channels
- Between 10 to 15 users in the same room have been able to use headsets concurrently.
- It is designed to support the full 20KHz audio bandwidth much more readily and effectively than any Bluetooth protocol
- There is a sideband channel for the control signals that manage Skype calling via the right ear piece.
- It adapts the active rf power levels, in real time, to the distance between the USB dongle and headset.
- If the user goes out of range and returns to within range, the wireless connection is automatically re-established
The Model 5192 FREETALK Freedom Wireless Stereo Headset is available on Skype Stores via the In Store Solutions Shop supporting 40 currencies and 67 countries under “Headsets”. All In Store Solutions products come with a 7-day (from delivery) “No Questions Asked” return policy.
And, which do I use? Everyman or Freedom Wireless? – both: one on my laptop and the other on my desktop PC.
Full disclosure: In Store Solutions has become a client of Denali InterConneXions, publisher of Voice On The Web, building on the author’s previous business development experience with establishing partnerships that can assist with the promotion of a primary vendor’s offerings. A more complete statement will follow shortly.
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