Microsoft LifeChat ZX-6000

Microsoft LifeChat ZX-6000 PackageIt’s not new to hear of wireless microphones but you can’t deny that the convenience of not being tethered to your PC by some annoying cable is much welcomed. There are is a plethora of choice out there when it comes to wireless microphones and choosing the right one comes down to many things.

Unlike its predecessor, the LifeChat LX-3000, there is only one speaker and no extended microphone. Instead the ZX-6000 features the same design as the wireless headset for the XBOX 360 down to every detail with the exception of the colour being black.

As always the packaging for Microsoft products is always very appealing using very simplistic designs and few colours.

Features:

  • Digital Speaker Advanced speaker deliver crystal-clear audio
  • Noise-cancelling Microphone The noise-cancelling microphone automatically picks up your voice with remarkable clarity
  • Padded Ear Cup and Adjustable Earband Comfortable earpiece and two adjustable earbands for a custom fit
  • Optimized for Windows Live Messenger Seamlessly integrated with Windows Live Messenger for easy setup and use
  • Wireless Headset Convenience Four LEDs indicate out-of-range, battery life, charging, and connection status
  • Wireless Technology Wireless 2.4-GHz technology with up to 30-foot range
  • Rechargeable with Eight Hours of Talk Time The advanced battery delivers up to eight hours of talk time on a single recharge
Microsoft LifeChat ZX-6000

So you can see the ZX-6000 is almost identical to its XBOX 360 counterpart. You are provided with 2 ear loops just in case the standard doesn’t fit comfortably for you. It’s interesting to note that the actual technical specifications of this product are not clearly stated even on Microsoft’s website.

Microsoft LifeChat ZX-6000 Adapter

The wireless receiver clearly says “Microsoft XBOX 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows”. So what does this mean exactly? It means exactly what you’re probably thinking. You can use your XBOX 360 headset with this receiver too in much the same way as the ZX-6000 headset itself.

I’m not really a fan of wireless microphones though and so I can’t say I am optimistic about this headset but only testing will reveal whether or not this is a definite replacement for my wired microphone.

Those of you running Windows Vista will be pleased to know the device is supported rather well under the Microsoft Common Controller.

Device Manager

Connecting the device is a cinch, just plug the receiver straight into the USB port on your computer and you’re pretty much there. You do have to get the headset to pair with the receiver of course and this is where the rest of the hardware installation procedure carries on. Upon pairing the headset with the receiver Windows will add a new playback and recording device to the sound control panel.

Capture 1 Capture 2

The only downside to the pairing procedure is that sometimes it doesn’t quite work. You need to press and hold the button on the receiver then do the same for the headset so that they communicate but this can sometimes take a while and can be quite frustrating.

Once you do manage to get them paired you will be able to use the headset like normal. You will see the below window when loading the LifeChat options dialogue:

Settings

The neat feature of the software is its ability to pause and resume any music you may have playing in your media player. This is convenient if you want to make a quick call without having to worry about cycling through your many open windows just to pause your audio track.

Testing & Performance
When talking to your contacts through WLM sometimes it’s hard to make out what the contact is saying as the sound quality isn’t that great. The same goes for your contact trying to make out what you’re saying. I came across numerous occasions where I had to keep repeating myself as my contacts complained of unclear audio. I was hoping it was only an issue with my installation and configuration of WLM so I decided to fire up Sound Recorder to record a wave file so I could hear the results myself. I have to say my voice didn’t sound too good. In fact I didn’t quite sound like ‘me’. You will notice the sound quality isn’t that great upon using the device straight away. All sounds played through the headset’s speaker sounds somewhat noisy and unclear. Of course this is designed for voice chat only and is not a replacement for headphones in which case you should be allowed the option of having only voice being played through the headset. Unfortunately if you select the ZX-6000 as the default playback device then [all] your sounds will be played through this little device which makes things rather annoying especially if you plan to use it as a gaming headset on the PC. You’ll have to put up with your game audio coming through the tiny speaker on the headset.

This pretty much sums things up for the LifeChat, it really is designed for one purpose and that’s making voice calls only. Upon pressing the center button located on the side of the device, Windows Live Messenger will pop up with a dialogue asking you to select a contact however I could not get past that point. Upon selecting a contact form the list and clicking on ‘Ok’, I just got the old Windows default sound as if an error occurred so I had to open a conversation with someone instead and start a voice chat that way, this problem also occurred on another computer system, not just mine. I am quite happy to say that I managed to get on average around 7 hours of constant use with the device.

Conclusion
Well as I mentioned earlier, I am not a fan of wireless microphones that’s not to say wireless microphones don’t deliver because I am sure they do but I personally prefer wired for optimum quality. I am not the only one who has experienced poor audio quality with the ZX-6000, a quick search on Google™ will come up with a list of customer reviews on various online retailer websites mentioning some of the things I did. As far as design and ease of use goes it’s typical of Microsoft to make stunning looking hardware peripherals and the ZX-6000 is no different. It is just as beautiful looking as the headset for the XBOX 360 with the same ease of use and reliable wireless range. If you’re looking for an easy and quick wireless solution that won’t bog you down then this could be for you. After wearing the headset for a few minutes it will feel like it’s no longer there, it is that comfortable. You can purchase the Microsoft LifeChat ZX-6000 for around £35.

Overall I have to say though I am not impressed by the sound quality of the headset I am very much impressed by the connectivity and flexibility of this device as well as its design and the fact that the battery life is also fantastic. I hope in the future the LifeChat becomes a product of absolute quality because at the moment it is lacking slightly in sound especially when compared to other wireless microphones using the 2.4GHZ wireless frequency.

Pros:

  • Excellent design (as always from Microsoft)
  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Helpful LED indicators
  • Easy to setup
  • Easily integrated into with Windows Live Messenger

Cons:

  • Audio quality
  • No options for voice playback only, all sounds played through speaker when device is selected as default playback regardless of application
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