Headsets are an excellent accessory for your amateur radio station. There are so many to choose from it might seem overwhelming to pick one. They come in large sizes to small and work with some radios while not with others. This is a description of the process I used to select my headset in the hopes it will help others decide if, when and which headsets they should consider.
While I was preparing for the Virginia QSO Party this year, I put up all kinds of antennas, coax, coax switches, etc. My new, to me, Icom 746 (non-pro) was ready for action. The radio came with a big silver Heil iCM microphone which I put atop a short desk stand. I received good reports using this microphone, but still wondered what a long contest would be like always having to maneuver to it rather than the other way around.
I decided a headset was well worth investigation. So I sent out an email to the local club for their advice. Most reported having large headsets that fully cuffed the ears to provide the operator with great isolation. A common theme to every headset owner was the word Heil.
With this knowledge I reviewed E-ham on various Heil headsets. All had mostly good things to say. After some research I realized there were two issues for me to resolve: headset size and radio compatibility.
From the start the glowing reviews from my friends for various big Heil headsets had me looking at the Heil Prosets on their web site.
Then I noticed the BM-10… a small headset.
I went back to E-Ham to see what the reviews for the Heil BM-10 had to say. One common theme was flimsy construction. However, many still opted for this headset for the following reasons:
- Lightweight means less operator fatigue
- Small ear cuffs mean you can hear the surrounding sounds
I thought about that last reason for a moment. Why would you want to allow surrounding sounds to be heard while trying to operate?
More reviews on E-Ham suggested for some with small children might actually want to keep a cocked ear out for trouble, but still have the radio sound dominate. I have children I need to hear on many occasions so this makes sense.
I included the smaller headset in my trade study.
Reading Heil’s web site brought attention to a low microphone sensitivity issue designed into my Icom 746. Sure enough, the Heil iCM microphone that came with my radio was designed specifically by Heil to strengthen the signal to compensate for the low gain of the microphone audio input stage. Later Icom rigs don’t have this problem so I had to be careful in my selection.
What I wound up with is the BM-10 with the iC cartridge specifically designed for my Icom 746 and its weak mic pre-amp.
I ordered one from a vendor and here it is.
Note the iC part of this is built into the mouthpiece. Also note the separate interface cable. This cable takes the microphone portion combines it with a foot switch and plugs straight into the Icom 746’s Microphone input. The large phone plug of the headset plugs into the radio’s headset jack.
The word flimsy is quite true about this headset. The cables are very thin. One of the silver end caps on one ear piece fell off quickly. I have to constantly worry about where the cables are to ensure they never receive a tug for fear of having them pull out.
That said, the Heil BM-10 iC works. I can lean back and talk freeing me from leaning near the desk microphone. I can even talk if I turn my head. The audio reports are just fine. Having a foot switch makes all the difference in the world.
While the surrounding audio from the children is still audible, proper adjustment of volume on the radio allows me to hear the radio activity just fine while still keeping an ear cocked. For me this works out very well.
The E-Ham reviewers mentioned that fatigue would be an issue with the larger headsets and this smaller one is much easier to wear for long periods. I can’t speak for wearing a large headset for hours and hours, but I can tell you the Heil BM-10 is so light you barely know it is there. This is the most comfortable headset I have ever worn. Plus your ears don’t sweat.
If you are considering a headset pay close attention to compatibility issues. The manufacturers have plenty of information to help you make the right choice, but you will have to do the research yourself. Don’t rely on any vendor’s advice; Get the information yourself.
This is a delicate headset so you will have to take good care of it. If you can, then you can benefit from lightweight great sounding operation.