Plantronics Blackwire 725

by Volker Weber

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Francie complained recently why we can fly to Mars but cannot build great headsets. Well, we can, better: Plantronics can. You just have to choose the right one. If you are looking for a great Bluetooth headset, look no further than Voyager Edge. It's is incredibly light and comfortable and provides great sound quality. (If you have an older Voyager Pro or Voyager Legend, there is no rush to update.) These headsets have a long boom that has three microphones, which let the software focus on your voice and dial out the background noise.

Somebody recommended the BackBeat Pro, but that one has a different design point. It's built to suppress noise and let you listen to music while traveling. It's not a great headset for phone calls, because it does not provide noise cancellation on the microphone and cannot focus on what you say.

I brought a new headset back from CeBIT, and that is yet another design. It's built to work with your PC or Mac. You plug it into USB so you never have to worry about a battery. It sits very comfortably on both ears and suppresses noise, much like the BackBeat Pro does, yet without isolating you too much. On your ears, not over your ears. And it has a beam with multiple microphones so it's great for phone calls. There is an inline control for mute, call and volume control. The only thing this particular model is missing is Bluetooth access to your mobile, so that it could be used with both PC and mobile.

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I made a few phone calls, both via a softphone as well as Skype, listened to music in iTunes, and I was not disappointed. I have yet to find a bad Plantronics product. The only thing I could not yet get to work is call control. Volume and mute work fine, but I cannot make or break calls with the button. Need to investigate more.

Who wants this? Everybody who works in a noisy open plan office environment, wants to listen to music on his PC or streaming across the Internet and spends long hours in telephone conferences. With active noise cancellation both on the receiving and sending channel, the Blackwire 725 is also great if you work from your notebook in Starbucks or while traveling. Plantronics provides a nice pouch to keep it safe in your bag.

If you think you know headsets but have never tried one of those, you don't know. ;-)

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Comments

You should try the Blackwire 720.

The 720 has a battery in the part that holds the switches, you just unplug the cable between the hand part and the usb socket and it's now a wireless headset that works via bluetooth with your PC and Phone. It still works with your phone via bluetooth when plugged in and charging via usb too.

It doesn't have ANC though.

Carl Tyler, 2015-03-18 14:24

Thanks, Carl. Yes, you are right. The Plantronics person wanted to show me this feature on the 725 and then found out, right there on the spot, that this feature is not only on the 720. Both Bluetooth and ANC are desirable. Currently you can only have one with the Blackwire.

Volker Weber, 2015-03-18 18:18

Please help me to get this right. Both the 720 and the 725 have the microphones to counter/ filter out the 'other people talking' in the office so my voice gets across more clear. Is that correct?
Going one step further would the 'ANC' be the listening part and would that be comparable to the thing that BOSE is always being used for as a reference (plane etc)?

The 720 has Bluetooth and USB, but no ANC.
The 725 has USB + ANC, but no Bluetooth.

Trying to find the right one, I get ridiculed all the time for not having any headset for Lync calls, I have to give in now I guess. It worked for years though, and so many others have so lousy quality in those calls, I need a good one. 180 bucks (Plantronics web site) is a bit steep though (725), probably a bit more difficult to get that approved. The 725 at Amazon is 145 though, and 720 is down to roughly 100.

I am sorry, I did not find the difference between the normal and the -M version, I see the pages on the Plantronics site update (refresh) but do not see the difference. Sorry if you already know this or if I miss something obvious.

I would appreciate any feedback, this post came at the absolute right time to be honest.

Alexander Koch, 2015-03-19 02:43

Long answer coming up. Get yourself a cup of coffee.

In its simplest form a headset just provides audio in and out. The software in the computer has to figure out the rest. One of the things you can do is echo cancellation. If a pattern comes back, you discard it. Typical example: earbuds with inline microphone, as shipped with most phones. As bad as it gets.

How do you blend out noise that make it hard to hear the other party? The simple way is you put cups over your ears or insert the ear buds into the ear canal. Both will seal out the sound around you, to a certain degree. Then you can add ANC, active noise cancellation. It subtracts the surrounding noise from your incoming signal to cancel it out. This is what the 725 can do and the 720 cannot. When do you need it? If you are in noisy environment. It puts cushions on your ears, lets you listen to quiet music and in addition cancels out noise. It's designed to isolate you from your environment. Less noise, less distraction, more concentration.

How do you enhance your voice on calls? First, you need more than one microphone and you need to place them in a way that they can figure out from which direction the sound comes in. Plantronics puts them on a boom that you point towards your mouth. Sound that comes from your mouth takes the longest time to travel from one mic to the second. Everything that comes from the side hits it at the same time, everything from behind has a negative time diff. If you have one mic on the outside of the boom and one on the inside, you get an additional vector.

What does it all mean? An advanced headset gives you a better voice. And frankly, if you sound well, you are more convincing.

What about the connection? If you are working with a PC, a USB connection is best. Everything happens inside the headset. It is the sound device, not the computer. There are no latencies, no dropouts. But you cannot connect to a mobile phone this way.

Signal processsing, Bluetooth, all of that needs power. A Voyager Pro lets you talk up to six hours when fully charged, a Voyager Edge up to four. With a USB headset like the 725 you don't worry about power. It does not draw from a battery, but from the computer itself.

tl;dr: You want a headset, by all means. A good one, even if it seems expensive. The features you need depend on your particular use case.

Volker Weber, 2015-03-19 08:15

Vielen herzlichen Dank!

Alexander Koch, 2015-03-19 12:05

Volker, I think you mean boom when you say beam.

Carl Tyler, 2015-03-19 15:31

I certainly do, Carl. Thanks for the heads up.

Volker Weber, 2015-03-19 17:08

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