Road Test: Bose SoundComm B40 Comm Headset

Evaluating a new headset outfitted with proprietary acoustic noise cancellation technology and more.
The new Bose SoundComm B40 headset.

Like many live audio engineers, I dislike wearing comm headsets. It’s not the headset’s fault – it’s just that I’m supposed to be listening to the mix, so having my ears covered presents a fundamental issue.

That said, there are a number of events for which I do have to wear headsets – corporate work, for one, and shows on which I’m functioning as a playback tech and need to call cues for the other members of the crew.

On these events, I’m treated to the unique kind of annoyance only understood by those who must wear headsets and eyeglasses at the same time. Since I’m usually not excited about being on comms to begin with, I can only hope that the headsets in use will minimize the discomfort as much as possible.

Big Improvement

Against this backdrop, Bose recently sent along two of its new SoundComm B40 headsets for me and other crew members to check out. And I’ll start there: this thing is seriously comfortable, “one giant leap” compared to the headsets owned by the venue we were working in. We utilized it with Radio Active Designs UV-1G beltpacks (which I’ll be reviewing in the next issue).

Equipped with proprietary acoustic noise cancellation technology, the SoundComm B40 is designed to reduce crowd noise and distractions while providing very high audio clarity. It’s equipped with a weather-resistant dynamic noise cancellation microphone intended to optimize intelligibility and provide far-field noise rejection to help enable clear communication within a live event production team.

The mic’s frequency response exhibits a logical, gentle low-frequency rolloff and presence peak, which is ideal for speech intelligibility. While my ears took some time to adjust to the rolloff, I thought it was a functional choice in that it significantly reduced breath noise and wind rumble, which are usual sources of annoyance with a bunch of folks on the same comms network.

The SoundComm B40 package.

The SoundComm B40 is sold in three variants: single-earcup with left earcup and mic, single-earcup with right earcup and mic, and a dual-earcup version with a side-swappable mic, which is the version that I tested for this review. Side-swappable means that if you prefer to have the mic on the opposite side, the mic boom assembly can be detached and moved to the other earcup in a few minutes. It’s also available in 4-pin XLRF and 5-pin XLRM variants, making it compatible with many popular intercom systems that provide monaural or binaural audio.

The headset is also designed to withstand diverse environmental conditions. Lightweight materials, intelligent weight distribution and low clamping force are intended to provide long-term comfort and years of use.

Going A Long Way

The SoundComm B40’s active noise cancellation feature is strikingly effective, activated via a switch on the battery pack that is placed inline with the cable, near where it connects to the comms back. The pack itself takes two AA batteries and comes with a few mounting options for either beltclip use or attaching it directly to the side of your existing comms back. (No current is drawn from the batteries when active noise cancellation is switched off. The battery life is a stated 48 hours from a new set of batteries, but if they die during your show, your comms will continue to work just fine.)

Our stage manager, who needed a wide and free range of movement, preferred not to have the extra pack hanging his body, but for folks who are more static when working (console and camera ops) the active noise cancellation is well worth the tradeoff – when activated, it cancelled the loud, bassy music in the venue to such an effective degree that it was really only audible when someone else had their mic enabled.

As an audio operator, this is probably “too much of a good thing,” and I’d prefer the single-earcup version so I could keep an eye (ear) on what was happening acoustically, but for folks who need to work despite the sound in the room, the dual-earcup version with cancellation enabled probably goes a long way towards reducing fatigue – I’m thinking spot-ops and camera ops who spend long hours getting blasted by festival-scale PA systems. Between the comfortable fit and the noise cancellation, wearing this headset can be oddly peaceful.

In conclusion, the SoundComm B40 is an excellent offering for those who operate in loud environments, and/or folks whose work requires them to wear headsets for extended periods of time. It can be purchased through select Bose dealers and online here.

U.S. MSRP: $749.95 (single earcup); $849.95 (dual earcup) version.

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