Andrea SuperBeam Phones SB-405 Stereo Headset Review


If you are into voice recognition, then you need to have a good microphone. It’s a basic fact of life. Yes, you can use the built-in microphone on the MacBook Air (for example), and you’ll probably get good results. But if you want great results you’ll need something that’s going to help filter out the background noise; that means a good headset. Among the issues with such headsets? The best of them have boom microphones that make you look like a Bell telephone operator. Sure, this is all about getting the work done and dictating your text but what if there were a way to not look quite as dorky? That’s what Andrea’s new headphones make possible thanks to build in array microphones that don’t require a boom mic.

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From Andrea Electronics:

SuperBeam headsets deliver Hi-Definition sound. Our unique integrated array microphone system is designed for use with Andrea’s patented beam forming and digital noise reduction audio software, providing “The Freedom of Voice”. SuperBeam also provides a new audio capture feature, enabling 3D surround sound recording!

Advantages of the new SuperBeam computer headsets:

Sleek “boom free” design with digital noise cancellation technology that is Skype certified

Increased convenience, no need to position an annoying boom microphone in front of your lips

Look more natural during video chat, with no boom in front of your mouth and the ability to eat and drink during use

SuperBeam headsets employ powerful neodymium magnets in the speakers, providing a wide frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz. The earphone housings also feature a unique bass-reflex ported acoustic design for producing deep rich bass, complementing transducer output efficiency of clear midrange and sparking highs.

Patented adaptive beam forming: The Digital Super Directional Array (DSDA) signal processing algorithm powers Andrea’s SuperBeam array microphones, enabling “Boom Free” performance. The stereo array audio processing forms an audio pickup beam towards the users mouth and eliminates background noises that come from outside of the beam.

Award winning PureAudio: Digital noise reduction algorithms optimize VoIP intelligibility by reducing repetitive background noise from noisy communications audio. Available form microphone input as well as received audio playback. PureAudio NR Increases the sound quality of your VoIP calls on applications such as Skype.

3D recording and playback: Great for recording live entertainment, music, lectures and even environmental sound samples.

SuperBeam stereo array microphones are placed at each ear, so sound arriving at each microphone is in natural phase and duplicates real ear sound capture. Headphone playback then delivers a virtual 3D surround sound experience, reproducing one’s real listening experience.

USB digital audio adapter: Hi-Quality external sound card with HD quality digital sample rates turns old computers into HD audio sound devices. Provides stereo microphone input to enable SuperBeam headsets and powerful low noise amplified output. USB also provides SuperBeam headset compatibility for Macs and PCs.

IMG 6417My Thoughts:

When you first open up the box containing the headphones, you’re greeted by the wonderful carrying case that is pictured above. It looks good, is well-made and is impressive in its own right.

I mentioned this not only because it’s a nice carrying case, but because the case is nice enough that when you open it you may be in for some initial disappointment. You see, the Andrea SuperBeam SB-405’s look and feel a bit cheap. I hate to say it but they do. The white plastic doesn’t feel particularly great, and the silver “U-shaped” hinge that holds each of the earpieces looks silver but is made from plastic as well. Overall, when you first take them out, you really do get the sense that this is a fairly delicate piece of equipment that better be treated with kid gloves.

Now let me be clear and let me be fair. I’ve been using these headphones quite a bit since they arrived, and I’ve had no issue at all. But they aren’t heavy-duty headphones and they do need to be treated with respect. When you’re not using them, put them in the case. That’s why it’s provided. And when you put on or take off the headphones, grab both your pieces and lift at the same time rather than grabbing one and pulling it at an uneven angle.

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The earpieces have a nice cushioned feel to them, and they sit comfortably on top of your ears. It’s worth noting that they are cushy enough that once they are seated on top of your ears they actually do a pretty good job of sealing outside noise from making its way to you. The result, to a certain extent, is that you can hear yourself and you will hear rustling with any movement of the headphones against your ears and hair.

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I’ve worn the headphones for an extended period of time during a few dictation sessions and to watch a movie or two on my iPad, and I found them to be comfortable for extended periods but, after some time, found them applying a bit too much pressure on my head despite being opened as wide as possible.

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Now here’s where the headphones get interesting. Andrea is known for their microphones and for their headphones that include microphones. Most of the time that I have  been using voice recognition dictation I’ve used one of their products. I have owned a number of their headsets that covered one ear and had a boom microphone and, a number of years ago, I purchased and used an array microphone that I actually sat on the top of my computer monitor. This allowed me to dictate without having to wear a headset and gave me the added benefit that comes with using array mics.

These headphones don’t have a boom, but they do create an array. That’s done thanks to the microphone that is embedded into each earpiece. The microphone is hidden in the small square area that unattractively extends from the center of each earpiece. That allows the microphone to extend slightly beyond the case of the headphone itself and create the array around your head as you speak.

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It is a rather unusual set up, but it is one that works exceptionally well. (In fact I am dictating this entire post using this headset and Nuance’s new Dragon Express program.)

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If you look at the cable for the headset, you’ll find a small control a short distance down the cord. On one side of it you’ll see a mute toggle that allows you to turn off the microphone quickly and easily. This means you can turn off the dictation process without having to shut down the program itself.

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On the other side is an old-fashioned volume control that simply dials up or down to increase or decrease the audio coming into the headset itself.

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The headphones are a bit unusual in that they have two prongs at the end of the court instead of a single one. This actually is brilliant on the company’s part since it allows the headphones to be as flexible as possible. For example, I can plug the headphones into a computer that has separate mic and headphone jacks.

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Or I can included USB adapter that not only turns the two 3.5 mm jacks into a USB connection; it also contains a sound card so that the audio processing takes place outside the computer and doesn’t tax the system as much. As the company explains:

USB digital audio adapter: Hi-Quality external sound card with HD quality digital sample rates turns old computers into HD audio sound devices. Provides stereo microphone input to enable SuperBeam headsets and powerful low noise amplified output. USB also provides SuperBeam headset compatibility for Macs and PCs.


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In addition, you can purchase (and the company sent to me) an adapter that allows the to 3.5 mm plugs to merge into a single plug so that you can use it with a device such as an iPad or an iPhone.


Earlier in this review I beat up on the headphones a bit for looking and feeling a bit on the cheap side. I still feel that way about them, but there’s a much bigger point to be made about these headphones than how they look and feel to the touch. That is… they work incredibly well. They sound good and are perfectly fine for listening to music, enjoying a movie, or having a voIP chat with someone halfway around the world. You’ll be able to hear whatever it is you want to hear with great clarity. In addition, they clearly work well with regard to capturing your voice as proven by the accuracy of the dictation that is created while using them. I love the fact that I can have good quality audio being captured without having to have a microphone boom extending toward my mouth. If you do a lot of voice recognition, or you do a lot of video chat, this is a product you should check out. The company has a reputation for putting out great microphones, and there is a reason for that.

In addition, the software download that is available through the site gives extra control to your use of the headphones. The PC version appears quite rich, while the Mac version is far less developed.

It’s also worth noting that the company has also released a pair of headphones that are actually earbuds, yet they create the same array microphone setup. We will hopefully be checking those out at some point in the future.

To summarize everything: these headphones are not going to win any awards in the looks category, especially not with Dr. Dre continuing to up his game in the headphone department, but if you’re looking for a good pair of headphones with a fabulous microphone and good clarity on both sides of a conversation, you should check these out. Details and ordering can be found here.

MSRP: $149.95

What I Like: Come up with a great carrying case; Offer excellent sound and superb voice capture for voice recognition or video chat; Separate 3.5 mm plugs that you have a great deal of flexibility; The included USB adapter is effectively a sound card that makes things even more accurate and clear; Great voice recognition without the need for a boom microphone

What Needs Improvement: Look and feel a bit on cheap side; Not the most fashionable headphones you’re going to find

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.