GN Netcom GN 8210
If you spend a good deal of time glued to a landline telephone, you've likely experienced the aggravation of background noise produced by callers using cell phones and pay phones or, for that matter, any phone call originating from a busy location. While you can't control the racket, you can reduce it, thanks to GN Netcom's GN 8210 digital headset amplifier ($130). GN Netcom is a seasoned provider of hands-free communications products for contact centers, business offices, and mobile phones, and it shows.
No larger than a typical PDA, the GN Netcom GN 8210 sits beside a regular landline telephone set and plugs into the phone's handset socket to digitize incoming signals using a DSP (digital signal processor). By digitizing the incoming call, the GN 8210 is able to filter out unwanted background noise while amplifying the caller's voice. Unfortunately, the GN 8210 won't work with a regular telephone handset and instead requires a GN Netcom headset, which is not included. Our review unit shipped with the lightweight GN 2120 noise-canceling headset, a $123 option. Your only other choices are GN Netcom headsets since the GN 8210 doesn't work with other branded units.
There are three buttons located on the front on the GN 8210: a sliding headset volume control, a Mute button, and a switch to toggle between headset and handset modes. A slightly curved panel on top of the unit lifts up to reveal a microphone-volume knob and an audio-mode switch that lets you choose between three levels of tone control, all of which provide protection against excessively loud, incoming sounds. On the right side is a nine-way telephone termination switch that's used to lock in a clear dial tone, and the rear panel contains headset, handset, and telephone jacks, as well as a power adapter socket and a plug for the headset stand (included).
Setting up the GN 8210 is a simple matter that involves disconnecting the handset from the telephone and connecting it to the GN 8210, then using the included handset cord to connect the device to the vacant telephone handset jack. The GN 2120 headset plugs into a proprietary jack that is hardwired to the amplifier. You then choose an optimal sound setting, and you're ready to go. To test the unit's noise-canceling features, we received calls from a construction site in New York City via a cell phone and from a roadside phone booth on the Long Island Expressway during rush hour. The results were impressive. On our regular, nonamplified phone, the incoming calls were overloaded with background noise, and the caller had to speak loudly to be understood. We switched over to the GN 8210-equipped phone and noticed a marked decrease in background street noise, and the caller's voice sounded smoother and less harsh, especially on the call originating from a cell phone.