Monday, July 05, 2010

Truckers, Convertibles and Technology

Precipitated by a rapid degradation of my longtime Subaru, I recently indulged an early midlife crisis, replacing the all-wheel drive workhorse with the realistic car of my dreams, the Pontiac Solstice GXP. This 2-seater convertible is a blast to drive, and makes days that I don't make it onto the bike a commuting joy. In fact, the only downside of the Solstice is the wind noise: having a cell conversation is nearly impossible at highway speeds. I know, you are saying "get off the phone!" However, there are days I need to do early conference calls, and having to be trapped until the call ends is not my idea of fun. So, what to do?

First up, the Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth Headset from Amazon. Of the traditional BT headsets, I had already tried the Jawbone, as well as BlueAnt's offerings, all of which claim to have the ultimate in wind protection, and all of which most definitely do not. But the Plantronics was willing to go one step beyond: a video from the company showed actual sound from a tester in a wind tunnel. Add to that this wonderful copy:
The dual microphones are also stacked with three layers of WindSmart technology. Stainless steel mic screens, acoustic fabrics, and an electronic filter in the mic circuitry--all aggressively block intrusive wind noise. The adjustable boom, which allows you to wear the headset on either ear, positions the mics where they can best capture your voice, further enhancing the sound quality.
Ok, away we went. Well, I don't know what wind tunnel Plantronics uses, but the Solstice was more than a match for this offering: nothing but howling gales to callers. Strike 3.

The solution came in the most unlikely spot. I was on a recent drive from CA to AZ, and stopped at Love's Travel Stop, one of those truly enormous truck stops on the highway. These transit megastores always fascinate me: they are so purpose built. We're talking a Subway sandwich store inside that allows you to eat and see when the next shower is available, or a full appliance shop that allows you to outfit your cab with refrigerator/microwaves. As a simple car driver, I always feel like I'm getting a view into a world I have no business understanding when I stop here, and I continually marvel at the evolution of products for this vital market.

One case in particular stood out: a selection of special Bluetooth headsets for truck drivers. Unlike the Borg-like appendages that normally nestle in your ear, these were serious devices: over the head, big boom mikes, and large cushioned speakers. It never occurred to me that truckers would need special BT headsets, but it makes sense: the trucks they pilot are not quiet and they need to both be heard and hear on those long hours on the road. I looked at the windscreens on the mikes, and wondered: could this work for the Solstice?

Amazon and I had a tete-a-tete, and it came down to two models: the very well-reviewed BlueParrot and the basic, lower cost Emerson. Given that I'd been burned by so many high-end BT headsets before, I decided to try the low-cost Emerson: if it worked, I could always opt to try the BlueParrot. Ok, a word on these headsets: you won't be winning any fashion shows with these. We're talking big, clunky, and purpose built. But...we are also talking about the perfect handsfree solution for a convertible. Yep, it works perfectly. Even at speeds in excess of posted limits on major highways, the Emerson kept the conversation flowing. In fact, the callers on the other end had no idea I was even in the car. The volume was not quite as load as I would have liked for upper speeds, but perhaps the BlueParrot offers that. In any case, for casual topless commuting, these trucker headsets do the job perfectly.

Yet another way the trucking industry leads the way in America. On this Independence Day weekend, I thank the hardest working folks that keep this country running, and thank you for lending a bit of your road knowledge to a simple driver. Happy 4th Weekend!

1 comment:

john smith said...

Good Gadgets ! looking very beautiful good features, but as par backup i think i should go with this headset, 1 week battery backup, i bought last week from amazon and still gives me backup.