Mobile @ Home …. Coming Fast II: …A Day of Wireless Audio Liberation

Ever since I first experienced Skype I (along with many other Skype users) have wanted to be able to talk on Skype via their PC without being physically tethered to their PC. And we always wanted to also have the flexibility to listen to our media players (Windows Media Player, iTunes, etc.) and the audio on our SlingPlayer. Oh, and did I mention all those YouTube videos?. But you always had to sit down near your PC, plug in a headset’s mic and speaker jacks. And sometimes you had to play with Windows’ Sounds and Audio Devices to get the correct hardware involved when switching amongst applications using audio. In my case that always sets me up for a physical disaster should the headset cable become entangled in my office chair and I move away too quickly. And, during a Skype call, "Excuse me, the dog is barking and wants back into the house"; "Fedex is at the door delivering the latest Nokia N-series phone". You get the picture.

Today is my day of liberation! Yesterday in New York I was provided with the ideal solution: the FREETALK Stereo Wireless Headset from those entrepreneurial hardware vendors at InStoreSolutions. Recall their philosophy of not only providing Skype Certified product but also the packaging to ensure easy adoption by, and sell through at, retailers. To cut to the chase, this headset is easily set up and provides excellent quality audio. So far I have used it for Skype calls, SlingPlayer audio, YouTube videos and am currently testing out the audio quality with a BBC recording of Beethoven’s 9th which not only tests audio bandwidth but also dynamic range with its quiet phrases and choral fortes.. Oh, and when the dog needed to be let in during a call to Europe this morning, the call continued uninterrupted; in fact, the other party only knew I had left my desk because I was also sending him High Quality Video.

On opening the package you need to charge the battery via your USB port; turn off anything that’s going to put your PC to sleep during the charge period of about 4 to 6 hours (this is my only complaint and minor at that). When you plug in the USB dongle Windows recognizes it automatically as an audio device; you may have to check Skype’s Audio Options to ensure Skype has recognized it. Follow the simple pairing instructions (even easier than Bluetooth pairing) and you’re ready to go. First test was with SlingPlayer; watching early morning television; then a 50 minute call to Europe on Skype. Takes full advantage of the latest Skype HD voice (and, as mentioned above, was also running High Quality Video to my European contact who was on a Mac). And now listening to BBC Symphony on iTunes. Just amazing!

Other features:

  • Built-in noise canceling microphone
  • Swing the mic boom up to a vertical position and the mic is muted.
  • Press the pairing button in the right speaker for one second to answer a call; push it for two second to hang up.
  • Volume adjust tab on the right speaker pad.
  • Charge and Talk; if a recharge is needed, you can continue to use the headset while recharging.

OK, now it’s time to pull the punch (you know there has to be a Skype issue somewhere). Most of you can buy this headset through your local Skype store … but not we Canadians. Hello Don and crew in San Jose; as I once, in my role of a Canadian country manager, told a former boss when he misunderstood some geography, Canada is in North America! Arggh… Fortunately I was in New York yesterday and, unexpectedly, received one. Combined with the Eye-Fi Wireless 2GB SD Card on which I reported earlier today, this has been my day of wireless liberation for two of my most common activities.

OK, for the geeks — by now you’ve got to be wondering:

  • OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS X
  • Range: up to 15 meters (16 yards for the U.S.)
  • Listening time from full charge: up to 6 hours
  • Standby time: up to 9 days.
  • Charge time: 2 hours
  • Audio quality: uncompressed audio for music (CD quality) and voice.
  • Frequency range: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Distortion: <0.8%
  • and, the question every geek is asking, what is the wireless protocol: WiStereoTM, for advanced 2-way digital transmission in the 2.4GHz frequency band.
  • Note: all specifications taken from vendor’s packaging and manual

Beethoven’s 9th has finished now; the pianissimo phrases were soft, the chorale fortes did not distort; you could clearly hear every word of the chorus in the fourth movement. On finishing the first draft of this post I received a Skype call, answered the front doorbell and let the dog back in at the back door, all while continuing the conversation. At US$79 or £50, this is probably the one most useful new technology hardware item for everyone on your gift list with either a Windows or Mac PC.

Tags: Skype, Skype Voice, Skype Audio, Skype Certified, FREETALK 5091 Wireless Stereo Headset, Eye-Fi Wireless SD 2GB Card, Skype Store, SlingPlayer, Windows Media Player, iTunes, YouTube, InStoreSolutions, Skype High Quality Video

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.


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