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Today's wireless phones are a lot smaller and more impressive than their older counterparts, but one area where evolution has been uninspiring at best is the microphone. It's only gotten further away from the user's mouth, and typical headsets let it dangle by the throat, leaving you to hope that it picks up the right sounds. theBoom headset from UmeVoice is designed to minimize background noise by canceling virtually every sound except the user's voice, just an inch away from the microphone.
In casual conversation, theBoom seemed as capable as any other headset, but we wouldn't expect you to pay $150 for the privilege of a normal chat. So we took it to a commuter train platform, where diesel engines loudly chug and rail brakes whine noisily. The resulting sound quality was about as good as advertised, with the recipient able to hear a conversational tone of voice crisply and clearly even with the train just a few feet away.
Our results were even better indoors. theBoom cancelled out all the sound of a stereo blaring hard rock until the wearer was about one foot from the speaker. theBoom did struggle at times, such as with a particularly loud brake screech from the train. Rather than blasting the listener with noise, the voice broke up as it might with bad signal power or poor wiring on a landline phone. But even though the headset speaker rests above rather than inside the ear, the other party was loud enough to be heard over the din.
The headset is flexible and can be rigged for either ear. The ear hook hinge felt shabby, however, and the high weight of the microphone head occasionally causes it to pull away from the mouth. UmeVoice will bundle a headset adapter for most phone designs from at least seven major manufacturers.
Are there cheaper ways to go handsfree? Yes, but theBoom definitely delivers on its noise-canceling promise.