A computer headset with a microphone is an extraordinarily useful work tool. Firstly, if you don’t want colleagues to hear both sides of your call, you can use it for internet telephony, be it via Skype or similar. Secondly, few people know this but all up-to-date Macs and PCs have built-in text dictation, and although I haven’t tried the Windows 8 version (or the coming Windows 10), on a Mac the voice recognition is really good. Just press the Function button twice and dictate away. (For this you obviously don’t need the headphones, but a boom arrangement makes the process much easier by placing the mic closer to your mouth.) Thirdly, if you are learning a language with, say, Rosetta Stone, you usually need a headset with a mic.
All good then, but the quality, both physical and electronic, of the PC headsets on the market is lamentable. Google around and you’ll see that £30 is quite a lot to pay, that there’s nothing beyond £60 or so, and that they’re pretty much all plasticky, unpleasant things. The reason I never got far with my Rosetta Stone Mandarin course was not lack of application, you understand, but the poor headset that comes with it. To be fair, cheap headsets work OK, but they make you look and feel like a call-centre worker – and the audio quality for listening to music is atrocious. They are just not meant to be serious headphones
Now I love to work with good-quality music comfortably clamped to my head and if I could make and receive VoIP calls and dictate the odd email, all while wearing the same apparatus, life, to some extent, would be good. Cast your mind back then to last November, when I introduced the fantastic MH40 headphones from New York startup Master & Dynamic. This clever little company, which combines Apple design quality with retro style, has now introduced this sublimely neat, dedicated boom microphone of equally superior specification that can be plugged into whichever ear cup of your M&D headphones is more convenient. There’s just one wire for the whole thing, which slots into the headphone socket, and you’re away. The precision, brushed-aluminium boom is entirely unobtrusive when not in use and works beautifully, providing, for me, the perfect storm – fine audio (both received and transmitted), along with handsome looks. It works as well with tablets as with phones.