Author Topic: Help shopping for a headset - specifically, help understanding connectors!  (Read 2164 times)

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TarytheA

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I'm finally investing in my own headset to use as I freelance, so I always have something comfortable to wear. But I'm feeling rather overwhelmed by the options and would like some help! The last threads I found about headsets were from a few years ago.

Specifically, what is confusing me is the variety of connectors. As I look at various headsets, some of them specify that they come with XLR (like the Eartec Slimline Single, and Production Intercom's 710 & 910), and some don't (like the RTS PH-88, and the Eartec Fusion and Eartec Cyber). On the Eartec Slimline Single page, the description says that it comes with XLR, but on the side of the page, where it says "Buy Now," the only options are for other connectors - one- and two-pin Motorola connectors for radios. So are those adapters? Or are those some options you can choose instead of the XLR?

What does A4F and A4M mean? (I'm guess the F and M are female and male, but beyond that...I'm lost.)

I'm worried about getting something and then not being able to use it at the various places that I work. But I don't want to rule something out if I can just get an adapter and call it a day. What is normal? Is it even as simple as getting adapters for the various types of connections you might encounter? I think I've seen 4-pin XLR as pretty standard for headsets but when I started shopping I became overwhelmed by what looks like lots of options for connectors.

I want to get a good headset, and I'm willing to spend $100 or $150 to get something decent. Comfortable is key - I wear glasses and am rather prone to headaches. I'd prefer a single-sided muff, and want to be able to wear it on both sides (though if I have a really comfortable one, maybe I won't need to switch from the left ear, where I wear my headset primarily, to the right!). A nice bonus would be something that would shut off the mic if I flipped it up - I know some headsets come with that feature, but most of them don't seem to and it's not crucial. I'm pretty used to doing that manually. Obviously something that is reliable and will last is important too!

Is it better to order from the manufacturer or a dealer? Some of the manufacturers don't seem to sell directly - or if they do, they make it difficult to figure out how. I'm having a really hard time finding prices for some of the headsets that I'm looking at, which makes comparing them all the more confusing.

All this to say that I really need some guidance! Any information, from basic explanation about what is industry standard to specific recommendations about headsets to purchase and where/how to get them, would be helpful. I always thought that headsets weren't that complicated, but shopping for one has made me second-guess everything I thought I knew! :)
Thanks all!!!

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

KMC

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Funny, that as I read this I am in the midst of ordering a huge amount of gear from HME/Clearcom.  Most of the time you will need to go through a dealer for stuff if you are ordering from the big manufacturers.  Some do sell on B&H, which is a distributor that does direct to consumer sales on their website.  Speaking as someone who has knowledge of what dealers and distributors pay for the equipment and in turn sell it for, B&H's prices are extremely tough to beat.  So if you see something you like on there, that price is probably the best you will get.

A bit about connectors.  Don't let that intimidate you too much.  Most headsets can be ordered with different types of connectors.  Looking at the spec sheets of the RTS PH-88, Eartec Cyber and Eartec Fusion, these can all be ordered with XLR4F plugs.   As an aside, I'd probably recommend staying away from the Eartec models you mentioned - those are specifically listed as "PTT" (push to talk), which means you will actively need to hold down a button on the cable whip of the headset to talk.  So the option of leaving your mic open during long calling sequences goes out the window.  To me, at least, that'd be annoying.

The big thing is that you need to specify the correct connector for the type of beltpack you intend to connect with.  If the beltpack has a 4-pin XLRM, you need a 4-pin XLRF.

What type of comms are you using most frequently?  That will determine the best connector to buy. 

Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

TarytheA

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I think I've seen ClearCom the most, though to be honest it hasn't been something I paid special attention to. I used whatever the venue gave me, and their headsets always plugged into the beltpacks they had so I didn't worry too much. I mostly work in theatre and dance, but in the last year or so have been moving into managing special events, or performances where the audience moves around (which means I do too). The schedule is much nicer for my little family on those short gigs, and I like the variety. :) In those cases, I occasionally have a radio instead of a beltpack. But I think I would lean toward having something compatible with a beltpack, and get a connector for a radio...

So it sounds like some beltpacks have male connectors and some have female? Why would they not all be the same? I can understand different types of connectors (kind of), but I'm not sure why the same type (4-pin XLR, for example) wouldn't all be male or female on the same part of the system.

Thank you for your help so far!
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

Mac Calder

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Basically because there was concurrent development going on - as well as vendors attempting to lock out competitors - Most 2 wire systems (those cabled up with 3 pin XLR) will tend to have a male socket on the beltpack and require a female connector on the headset. In broadcast, where they use matrix intercom systems, many of them used to use a female on the panel and need a male connector on the headset - now most are either female on the panel or you have the option to pick your connector.
« Last Edit: Dec 05, 2015, 08:50 pm by Mac Calder »

bex

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I've had a Telex PH88 with a 4-pin female XLR connector since fall of 2011... I was going to post about how reliable it is and how well it's held up, but it broke literally today during my matinee. (The piece of plastic that lets the earmuff part swivel cracked in half, so my headset is now in 2 pieces that won't go back together.) It has survived pretty much constant use for over 4 years, and being shoved in my backpack etc., so it has actually served me pretty well. I've also only been in one venue where it didn't connect to their beltpacks, and the venue tech was sort of bizarrely apologetic/frustrated on behalf of the nameless person in the past who ordered a headset system that doesn't use XLR connectors. I work pretty much exclusively straight theater though, so I don't know if my experience with connector-type should be used as a basis for someone who does other types of performance events.
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

KMC

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If you are mostly using ClearCom you should be good with an XLR4F plug on the headset.  ClearCom beltpacks have a XLR4M jack on the pack. 
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

leastlikely

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I like Bex also have a Telex PH88 XLR4F (though mine is still in one piece) and I love it! Super lightweight, great for glasses (no pressure at all), single muff that can switch sides. It doesn't have the flip-up/turn-off feature but it's got everything else you want.

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TarytheA

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Thank you so much, all! This helps a ton. I'll do a bit more poking around and let you know what I end up with and how I like it!
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

KMC

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Let us know what you decide and how it turns out!
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

TarytheA

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Okay guys, I'm back with my report!

I ended up buying a Pro Intercom 310 (http://prointercomllc.com/category/headsets-handsets/300-series/). They don't sell directly, so I bought it from a local dealer (Kinetic Artistry, for anyone who is the DC area). When I went to pick it up, I brought my 3-year-old with me and he REALLY wanted me to buy him a safety cable. I actually did, and now he shows it to anyone who comes over and does a demonstration on how it works, using one of his large toy trains (lighting fixture) and a baseball bat (batten). He tells them it is "a precautionary measure, because does anyone want a light to fall on their heads?"

Anyway, I love it. I got it a couple weeks ago and haven't called a show with it yet, BUT was able to use it on Tuesday night backstage of Les Miserables on Broadway! I went with some other people to take a workshop with the SM team of Wicked, and then that evening we each got a chance to shadow a different show. (Arranged through connections, and independent of the workshop.) Pretty cool that I got to break it in on Broadway. :)
So, the report on the headset itself: It was definitely lighter than what I'm used to wearing, so I kept feeling like it might be falling off, but I was just imagining it - and I think I should get used to the weight quickly. The cable was plenty long enough but not insanely long and thin enough to easily tuck away between the beltpack and my waistband. I'm still figuring out how to bend the gooseneck in just the right way to get the microphone to sit where it is really comfortable, but I think that will come with a little more trial and error. A caveat, you can't switch it from one side of your head to the other, but it was light and comfortable enough that I didn't feel the need to. I've always been a chronic side-switcher, but I  went ahead with this purchase, banking on it not killing my head and therefore being fine on the same side for a long time. We'll see how it is as I continue to use it (and sit with it through my next tech in a couple months), but it is promising! It cost me about $120, which included what Kinetic Artistry charged me for their shipping costs to get it to their store (I could have then had them ship it to me for extra, but I just went and picked it up). I'll post a follow-up on its performance after I use it for some months.
Thanks to all for the suggestions and the help!
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

CueCaller6

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Headsets
« Reply #10 on: Dec 12, 2016, 01:55 am »
What is the best available headset for a reasonable price? thx

Moderator Note: Topic merged with existing topic on the subject.  If OP clarifies the post to a different specific subject than covered in this existing thread, then new topic will be split. -KMC
« Last Edit: Dec 14, 2016, 08:50 am by KMC »

Maribeth

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Re: Headsets
« Reply #11 on: Dec 13, 2016, 08:27 am »
That's pretty subjective...what's reasonable to me might not be reasonable to you. Try a search for "headset" in the upper right-hand corner of the page- you'll find a couple of threads about good headsets for purchase.

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TarytheA

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An SM friend of mine, Matt Balfour, told me tonight that he was reading through old posts and stumbled across this one. It reminded me that I owe a follow-up report of my headset! As a reminder, I bought a Pro Intercom 310 about a year ago.

Pros:
  • It is pretty light and comfortable. I have worn it through several techs and shows in the last year and while I used to chronically switch sides of my head (literally every 5 or 10 minutes), this one is comfortable enough that I honestly didn't feel the need to do that. I took it off every few hours for about 5 minutes and that was enough. I wear glasses and am prone to headaches, so this was HUGE for me. I've never known a headset to not put horrible pressure on my head after about 30 minutes of use.
  • The cord length feels just right to me - plenty long to reach everywhere I've needed it to so far, and thin enough to tuck behind my beltpack if I'm on the go.
  • So far none of the parts have broken or look particularly worn. I keep it in the box it came in while it travels to and from work, but I put it to pretty good use while there and it has stood up to it so far.

Cons:
  • Nothing that I didn't know when I bought it - it doesn't switch off the mic when lifted, and you can only use it on the left ear (again, it's comfortable enough that I'm not particularly bothered by that). Interesting things to note, but not problems.
  • It doesn't auto-tune my voice to be soothing and melodic when I'm calling cues. I was really hoping for that but alas, my crews will have to continue listening to my voice as God made it...

At $120, the price was right and I've been very happy with it in the first year! Here's to many more shows with Rogelio as my companion! (A good name choice, no?)
« Last Edit: Jan 07, 2017, 08:55 pm by TarytheA »
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
-Herm Albright

Michelle R. Wood

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Thanks for the update on the headset, I've been considering a purchase (or a well-placed hint to relatives seeking to get me something) and I like the point you made about the comfort. I've never switched back and forth but often in a show I lift one side off my head to take the pressure off. Do you mind a followup question? How adjustable is the headset? I have a very small head and find I need to adjust headsets I work with as small as possible, and even then I often find them slipping off if I don't set them just right.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

bex

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Y'all. I have a new favorite headset. Yes, it's even better than my beloved PH-88.
drumroll please....
The Sennheiser Air Traffic Control Headset.
http://catalog.avispl.com/Sennheiser-Air-Traffic-Control-Headset-with-Dynamic-Microphone-and-1.85m-Singlesided-Round-Cable/Accessory/702089

I used it while I was running at show at Children's Theater Company, and it is AMAZING. The most comfortable headset I've ever worn. 6 weeks and I never got a headset headache. Wear it on either ear, adjustable mic. I cannot say enough good things about it. The only downside is the price tag- at $350, it's far less affordable than other headsets on the market.
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

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