Skype Freetalk wireless headset does not work properly for me

Jun 02, 2008

I wanted to buy a wireless headset. And not just a Bluetooth one-ear tiny thing, but a proper headset with two earpads and boom mike. Looked like the Freetalk headset was exactly what I needed, so I bought it.

The first experiences were great. I really liked the form factor, i.e physical form of it. The instructions, initial charging and setup were straightforward. "Great," I thought.

But the trouble started when I actually tried to use it. On my Mac, no less. It works really great for listening and the playback sound quality is excellent. But the microphone simply does not work on a Mac. It does capture some sort of signal, but it is quiet and very crappy. Reading the Skype gear blog comments and forum, others seem to have the same problem.

I tried it out under Windows with Parallels. Funnily, the mic functioning seems to be different there, and it captures a better signal in Windows. I don't understand what's going on here -- how can drivers influence the signal capture? I thought most of the logic is on hardware side? But booting to Parallels for a call is not realistic for me, and in any case, there's something up with my Parallels setup so I'll use Skype on Mac only.

In any case, I bought this headset to use it with a Mac. The microphone does not work as expected. Maybe there is some setting to tweak somewhere, but the Skype site or bundled instructions aren't helping me here.

Unless something comes up over the next days (like do I have to tweak my Mac sound settings somehow to get it work better? And don't tell me about recording volume settings in System Preferences, as this was the first thing I tried :) ), I'll probably end up returning this to the store.

There are a few more short points.

  • The purchase process from Skype store and payment with PayPal was ok. Pretty straightforward. Shipment was also fast, just something like 2 or 3 business days, instead of the 5 to 7 that was said. I like vendors exceeding my expectations.
  • The SkypeOut voucher coming with the headset was delivered to me at the time of the transaction on the web. This was the only time that I saw it. It wasn't sent in an email or anything, this was strange. Had I clicked away from the webpage, I would have had no way to see the voucher again.
  • This headset is Skype certified. And claims to be working with Mac. Yet it isn't working. What does this tell me about whether or not I should trust the "certified" label in the future? [UPDATE: the Skype blog says that certification was done on OSX 10.4 Tiger, whereas I'm running 10.5 Leopard.]
  • The return instructions are confusing. There is some ugly legalese policy on Skype hardware store site (and what's with the ugly typesetting there?), and a printed sheet in the headset box. I probably have to follow what was in the box, but it is in really unfriendly legalese and sends me to Dell site (???). There seem to be many vendors involved in the whole flow. I hope the return process works out. [UPDATE: I've spoken with Skype and sounds like there was a little distribution glitch... I'll do another post when I'm done with my return.]
  • There are more "bad" than "good" in the above. This makes me really nervous about recommending anything Skype-related, especially hardware, to my many friends in the US and elsewhere.

Anyone, please let me know if there's something I can try on my Mac to get the mic working properly. I tried to search on the forums and web a bit, but didn't find anything.

Another question is, are there any wireless headsets that actually work with Mac? I don't want a Bluetooth one-ear thing. I want an actual stereo headset, probably with boom mike. Freetalk was almost it.

UPDATE: Skype has acknowledged the problem. As seen in the comments below, this seems to be a Leopard-only problem. Which doesn't fix my personal situation, but it's good to hear that they (Skype and the manufacturer) are developing an understanding of what's going on. I hope that the new headset driver comes out soon.