About USB Headsets
A USB Headset is...
A USB headset is a headset that will plug into your computer through one of your computer's USB ports.
There are many applications for a USB headset, including using it for conversations over Skype or Instant Messenger, or using it for computer games. Corded USB headsets are the headset of choice for people using voice recognition software.
USB headsets are plug-and-play with almost all newer operating systems, meaning that you don't need a special audio driver or sound card to use them, you can just plug them in to get started.
Comparing USB to Other Computer Headsets
Computer headsets that plug into your computer through the microphone and headphone jack are referred to as analog headsets or 3.5mm headsets. Analog headsets convert audio through the computer's sound card and the sound quality can be variable depending on how good your sound card is.
USB headsets convert the audio in the USB printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) located in your headset or the headset controller and the sound quality is generally much higher than a standard analog headset.
The Corded USB Headset
Corded USB headsets have a cord with a USB plug at the end, which is the part that plugs into your computer. They generally have the best sound quality for computer headsets. They often have sound enhancing features such as noise-cancelling microphones, which cancel out background noise so your voice is clearer. Some offer digital signal processing (DSP) which improves overall sound quality.
Because voice recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking requires clear incoming sound to work properly, corded USB headsets are the best option when using this software. It is best to make sure the headset chosen has both a noise-cancelling microphone and DSP.
There are corded options that come with analog plugs (3.5mm jacks) and a USB adapter. These give more options of how you will use them, but the sound quality isn't as high as with a straight USB plug. The connector can tend to be a little bit bulkier as well.
The Wireless USB Headset
Wireless USB headsets connect to your computer with a wireless connection, generally either Bluetooth or an RF connection and a USB adapter that plugs into your computer. Because the wireless signal can be slightly variable, it is generally not a good idea to use wireless headsets with voice recognition software. However, these headsets generally still sound great and it can be very freeing not to have a cord attached when you are using Skype or playing a computer game.