Looking for Recommendations on Real World Things

I am going to lump together a few things I have been looking for into a single post to see who recommends what in the hope that it might help break a log jam or two.  Normally I save these sorts of “not quite gaming related” posts for the weekend, but I figured I would try to catch some of you bored at work on a Friday.

USB Headset Replacement

I have a five year old Plantronics .Audio 510 USB headset that performs very well.  The sound is good and the mic boosts my very quiet voice so that people can actually hear it.  And it kills background noise very well.  Using it was a requirement when appearing on podcasts, back when I was getting invited to appear on podcasts.

And as a unit, it remains simplicity itself.  One USB plug and you’re done.

For the visually oriented

For the visually oriented

The only problem with the whole thing is that they are a bit too small for my head in just about every dimension.  I can wear them for an hour at a stretch no problem, but after that they start to annoy, irritate, and eventually hurt at about the three hour mark.

I replaced the Plantronics set with a Turtle Beach Ear Force X11 set a while back.  The new set was very comfortable, I could wear it for hours on end.  The mic was decent and sound was okay, even if connections were a bit more complex.  It isn’t just a simple USB plug.

X11 Exposed

X11 Exposed

So I started using that at home while I brought the old set to work where having the USB powered mic helps with speech app work I do and lets people actually hear me on conference calls.

The problem is that the X11 has not proven to be a very durable unit, and less than two years down the road, the headset was coming apart, the mic was crackling (much to the annoyance of the rest of the instance group), and the volume adjust/mute fob on the cable was clearly on its last legs, feeling loose and likely to break at any moment when I used it.

So the X11 set had to go.

As a stop gap, I now drag the Plantronics set back and forth with me to work.  But I would really like to get a headset that works as well and is as durable as the Plantronics.  I would buy another one of the same model, except that they don’t make it any more (I am not buying used) and all of the new Plantronics models are different enough that I won’t buy them sight unseen.  And, of course, there is no place I can go to try them on.  I am not one of those people who can rip open sealed boxes at stores just to see if something fits, and my wife won’t return things to Fry’s for me.

So, I am looking for, high quality, durable, USB powered, headset with noise cancelling mic.  Comfortable for fat-heads like me would be a bonus.

Video Editing Software Upgrade

Over the last couple of years now I have have created a few video for YouTube related to gaming.  They have tended to be pretty simple  Part of the reason for that was because simple was what I wanted;  import video, trim video, add credits, add music, and upload to YouTube.   But another part is that the video editing software I use, Windows Live Movie Maker is really geared towards simple.  It doesn’t do much more than I have already done with it.

But now I feel I want to do more.

That means going out and spending some money on some better software.

However, within my budget, which is the ~$99 price range, there are a number of options, and choosing between them is hindered by my inability to articulate what the “more” I want to do really is.  I’ve only been in the video editing kiddy pool so far, so I am not sure what the options really are.  The only aspect I am pretty sure I don’t need is any high end audio editing, as I have a couple of such packages for doing just that sitting on my shelf already.  Audio I do at work.

And, of course, I don’t wholly trust the end user reviews (when did shipping problems become a reason for a 1-star product rating?)  or the glossy data sheets one finds at the company web sites.  So if you used a video editing package in my price range and are happy (or even unhappy) with it, let me know.

Should I Sell My Soul to U-verse or Xfinity?

I think I have a quorum  now that agrees that our seven year old DSL plan is not giving us the bandwidth we clearly need as a household.  Basically, even my wife is complaining about interned speeds now, while my daughter thinks YouTube is a radio and streams videos just to listen to the music while she draws on her iMac.

Due to where we live… Silicon Valley FFS… I cannot just call up AT&T and ask them to boost my DSL package.  I have all they offer for losers like me who dare live so far from their local CO.

So, to get a speed increase, I have to buy into one of the separate upgraded services.  This leaves me with only two choices at my address, AT&T’s U-verse and Comcast’s Xfinity.  Both can theoretically bring me an internet only upgrade, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find strings attached or other barriers in place.

Battling for my immortal soul...

Battling for my immortal soul…

The question is, which one to choose.  Having the phone company on one hand and the cable company on the other is clearly a no-win situation.  I have no love for either company, neither the reassembled AT&T deathstar nor the Comcast cable anaconda.

So the question probably is, which one will hurt me the least?  I have heard bad tales about both running with “up to” bandwidth numbers that are nowhere near what you end up getting or that either company will screw you on bandwidth if you try to order without their TV package.

Thoughts and/or experiences with either service?

Bonus Questions

Anybody have any experience with devices like the Lag Buster that Cringely wrote about a while back?

And, to totally leave computers and electronics, is anybody else in the market for a new dog kennel… I mean a new mattress?  My wife’s work and research has come up with the Simmons Beautyrest as the most likely candidate for us at this time.  But to me, buying a mattress seems to be somewhere just behind buying a car in anxiety about making the wrong choice.  The end result, in this case, is literally “you made your bed, now sleep in it!”

31 thoughts on “Looking for Recommendations on Real World Things

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Alikchi – Ooh, and I am sure it would integrate seamlessly with the Sony audio editing software I have.


    Sorry, my cynicism controls me some days.

    But I will take a look. Thanks!


  2. NoAstronomer

    Don’t really have much to add except to say that I just bought a Plantronics USB headset and mic. It’s my own fault because I went cheap and didn’t do any research, but it’s basically a POS. My local division of Comcast never hit even close to the advertised speeds but then again I also have a teenage daughter and my wife has discovered Downton Abbey online and Game of Thrones and … so I’m hosed.



  3. Anonymous

    With my current 25mb/s xfinity plan I’ve never had any technical problems. Speedtest.net gives me an average of 35mb/s down and 6mb/s up. Every single time I’ve dealt with comcast customer service has been a nightmare though…


  4. Pia

    Finally, a topic I can comment on with some experience. I have been an Xfinity subscriber for the past five years and I love it.

    I unbundled my services, dropping my landline and TV, and pay $72 a month for Xfinity (including taxes and modem rental) for a 25 mbps connection. i used to have the Blast addon for an additional 10 mpbs and it very nearly always delivered the target speed. I just tested now and got 25.49. They say I share bandwidth with anyone else on the pipe, but I rarely have issues.

    I am bombarded weekly with offers from AT&T to come sit in their camp, but they don’t offer anything significantly better price or speed-wise. Their bundles start out with (let me today’s flyer out of the trash) speeds at a ‘blazing 3 mbps’. That’s “pro”. The next levels are Elite, Max, Max Plus and Max Turbo, with speeds of 6, 12, 18 and 24, and prices (when bundled) are 41, 46, 51, 56 and 66 dollars. That’s for bundled services, plus activation and monthly equipment rental. No thanks. i heard that you have the pipe all to yourself, but frankly, it’s not worth the hassle to switch – for what is a lesser speed for the same price. Some of their offers include free activation and/or reward cards with $100-$400 on them. Sometimes there is a contract. So confusing! So, just no.

    Mattresses: I am on my 2nd Monterey Mattress brand mattress, and I have loved them both. They build them down here where the hotel industry eats lots of them. I added a memory foam mattress topper from Costco and my bed is seriously the most comfortable place in the house. It’s fantastically comfortable. I never, ever want to get up in the morning. Srsly.


  5. Jason

    On headsets: I don’t use an all in one solution like that; I’m currently using a pair of Sennheiser HD555s with a Zalman clip mic. Mic quality is good for its $10 price tag, although the overall construction on the headphones was a touch lacking(mine are duct taped together). They are, however, ridiculously comfortable on my moderately large head(US hat size 7 3/8), and there are other models out there. So, something from Sennheiser would be my recommendation, despite the minor issue I’ve had. And yes, I would call it minor; they still sound fantastic, even if the band split.

    As for internet, stay away from AT&T if you do any kind of streaming. Vote against their archaic data caps with your wallet. Comcast may not be much better in that regard, but until they start enforcing the caps, they’re at least slightly better.


  6. mbp

    Snap Jason I also use Sennheiser HD555s and a clip mike. The 555’s give absolutely superb sound quality and are really comfortable to wear. My only concern is that the padding material (on head band and ear pads) seems a bit flimsy but mine is still in one piece after almost 4 years of heavy use. The lapel mike is another story though. I found it very difficult to find a satisfactory one. I tried several before settling on a Hama mike. The sensitivity is low so I had to turn the setting to maximum in Windows control panel but it does the job well enough now.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    The clip mic could have potential, if it can pick up my voice well enough. I already have a pair of Aiwa HP AK-100s that, while not the best sound quality, are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn. I could wear those all day.

    So, lots of details from you guys on the part I have covered, and model numbers on the mics?


  8. Helistar

    For a completely different approach to headsets: I use an Andrea NC-181, monaural headset. I switched to monaural because it allows me to use the loudspeakers for audio and keep in touch with the reality around me (of course it works because my home is quiet enough).


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Doug – I have actually looked at that headset before. My only reservation is that I speak softly and have had very little luck with mics that were not powered, and USB generally, but not always, means a power boosted mic.


  10. Atnor

    About 6 years ago my Plantronics headset was destroyed (dog got tangled up and ripped them out of the computer) After reading reviews I got a new set from Sennheiser. They were by far the best headset I’ve owned – so when one side finally died recently, I again went with Sennheiser – spent a bit more than I was planning to and went with the PC360)

    Really excellent, but expensive. Also had a hard time finding them since it looks like a new line is coming out soon. Great for gaming as it comes with a mike on the headset that works pretty well. I also prefer USB, so I’m using the USB-to-audio connector from the old headset with these new ones. I’ll echo others and say my experience is that it’s an excellent brand even with their more sanely priced products, and I’d be surprised if you couldnt get a quality product from them. :)


  11. UFTimmy

    I swear by my Logitech G930’s. They are USB, but wireless. Not being tied down by a cord when using headphones is liberating.


  12. Anonymous

    Try Comcast Business Class. There really isn’t a comparison to illustrate how much better their business class support is over their residential support.


  13. Mekhios

    Very happy with my Plantronics GameCom 780 headset. Good sound, excellent mic quality. I also have a big head and big ears and they fit comfortably on my head without the vice-like grip some headsets have.

    Most of my corp mates are using this model without any issues. Best part is it didn’t cost the earth and US pricing is approx. $50.

    I refuse to buy any more headsets that cost over $100. Avoid anything made by Steelseries as their cables are not durable. Also try to avoid inline mic/volume controls as the module tends to put extra stress on the headset cable. Once the cable breaks your expensive headset is useless.


  14. Vatec

    Headset – I’m currently using a Sennheiser headset (PC 350, I believe; non-USB). Very comfortable and have had no complaints about the microphone. The only downside is that they seem to slip off very easily (they’ll slide forward if my cat jumps on the back of the chair and headbutts me, a fairly common occurrence, unfortunately).

    ISP – I have used Comcast/Xfinity for years and have no complaints about the performance. Like most digital products, it either works flawlessly or doesn’t work at all :^P Currently I’m stuck using AT&T Uverse. I don’t hate it, but I have found that ping in World of Tanks can suffer dramatically if extensive streaming or downloading is going on anywhere else in the house. Of course, YMMV. Both services are provided by “evil” mega-corporations with … let’s say “inconsistent” customer service.


  15. Random Poster


    I second the Carcharias. By far the most comfortable headset I have ever worn.I wear glasses so most times an hour tops before my ears start hurting with most headsets, but with the Carcharias marathon sessions of 6+ hours and never hurt. Also not overly expensive(80 bucks or so)

    If USB is a must they do have the Megalodon which uses the same construction as the Carcharias so extremely comfortable, but does use USB with a powered mic and simulates 7.1 surround sound with the built in soundcard (also a hell of a lot easier to spell and pronounce :P ). It does however reach the higher end of the price range ($150). I only upgraded to it because Razer had a massive sale not too long ago and I snagged a pair for around $60


  16. Shintar

    I use Sony Vegas 11 as well and have been very happy with it. I’m still very much an amateur and it looks annoyingly complicated when you first start, but in the end it’s only really as complex as you need it to be, and if you want to try anything new you just put “how to do X in Sony Vegas” into Google and you’re good to go.


  17. Coppertopper

    Going to join the chorus for Comcast over AT&T Internet. I even have FIOS in my area but after 6 months with it (bundle package), just wasn’t happy with gaming results. FPS pings were high and mmo’s laggy. Went back to Comcast and suddenly there were a ton more server choices with low pings in Battlefield 2. I’ll never go back to AT&T.


  18. Dorath

    I have been using a Sennheiser HD 485 since 2006 and I love it. They’re not a headset like you’re looking for but the sound is fantastic. Well worth the price I paid. Sennheiser will be the first place I look for a replacement.


  19. Ysharros

    I agree with the general chorus about Comcast/Xfinity, having had both them and AT&T in the past and despite being a rabid cable-hater when it comes to TV (their DVR/TV service is so 2003). Their internet though… oh, fond memories. Now that I’m stuck with ~150kb/s downloads through Boonies CenturyLink, I’ve made a solemn vow that the next place we move to will be determined by Xfinity availability. Seriously. (Granted it’s mostly because it puts a serious crimp in my work, since my work is internet/home based, but it kinda helps for gaming too. ;) )


  20. David

    Enjoy your posts sp thought I’d help out with an opinion.
    I have the razor megaladon. Very happy with then in general,
    Now that I have purchased a powered USB hub. These things must use a bit of juice and I could plug them they’d be recognized but no sound. I noticed this if I had an Xbox controller plugged in at the same time.
    Very comfortable, good sound and mic, bit warm in summer. Nice cable and I like the mute and volume control.

    I would like to try an open ear design sometime as a comparison. Other than price and some disappointment that it seemed to require a powered hub in my setup, they’ve been a good buy.


  21. Ryan Finley

    I’ve been under both Uverse and Xfinity camps in the past. If you’re ONLY looking for Internet, I would have to recommend Xfinity over Uverse for speed and reliability.

    Now, if you need TV service, I much prefer the Uverse experience. The technology isn’t 10 years out of date like it is with Xfinity. But the quality of Uverse is really dependent on, you guessed it, your proximity to the box. They have dedicated boxes on the street that support Uverse, and the closer you are to them the better off you’ll be.

    Be glad you have choice, though. I have no choice where I am now, it’s Comcast or nothing. No Uverse, and DirecTV couldn’t get a signal.


  22. Attic Lion

    I thought I’d throw in my own 2 bits about the Carcharias since I’ve been having recent headphone woes myself.

    Like the others have said, it’s a very comfortable headset with good sound and a good mic. However, like every other Razer product I’ve ever owned it was not very durable.

    I’m always very careful when handling my electronics but my Carcharias, just like both of my Nagas before it, just up and died just a few weeks ago after little over 25 months of use with absolutely no warning.

    Currently I’m trying out a Logitech G930 and, although I’m not wholly pleased with it, it is a good headset overall (and a damn sight better than the Razer Chimaera abomination I originally tried to replace the Carcharias with.)


  23. SynCaine

    G930. Wireless is a lot better than you would think for gaming, the sound quality is great, and the buttons on the side can be useful (keeping a vent convo going while in the kitchen is a pretty wonderful thing). Mic is solid as well.

    I’ve gone through about a dozen headsets over the last 10 years (yup…), and I like the G930 the most. Turtle Beach was great for sound, but yea, mine broke as well.

    (Side note: Logitech G700 mouse is amazing as well. The perfect combo of extra buttons for MMO gaming without going full-Naga).


  24. scott

    I need a new headset, the one’s I normally buy are cheap Copper’s, and they keep dying. First one speaker will die then the whole thing just gets shoddy. But the mic is good. The problem I think, is that it’s not a USB headset. I was looking at the Turtlebeach stuff and it sounds amazing, and look crazy, but I don’t know if I want to dish out that kind of money for a head-set. Anyone tried the Turtlebeach stuff? Any recommendations?


  25. Armagon

    After 2 cheap ones I got a Sennheiser PC 320 G4ME for ~60 EUR and I think I’m set with Sennheiser for the next 10 years. Also got the CX-300 II in-ears a year ago and I’m as happy with my headphones as I haven’t been ever before.


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