Plantronics Voyager Focus UC

by Volker Weber

Plantronics headset

As I was walking the booths at IFA being set up, I suddenly got very excited. A headset I had never seen before. A headset that would combine active noise cancellation, stereo Hi-Fi listening and an excellent phone headset for voice calls and tele conferences, all in one. Until now you had to set your priorities. Either you get a Bluetooth headset for phone calls, usually in ear, with a boom to pick up your voice and cancel out ambient noise from the audio you are sending. Or you buy a stereo headset for use while traveling, which cancels out the noise so you don’t get to hear it. You may be able to answer the occasional phone call, but they are generally terrible for tele conferences or even voice calls. One of the reasons being that you can’t really hear yourself very well, the other one being that the audio you are transmitting is not cleaned up. That is why carry two headsets: a Plantronics Voyager edge lives in my pocket almost at all times, while I wear the huge Plantronics BackBeat Pro while traveling. Both are excellent, but they serve different purposes.

This all changes today.

Plantronics headset

What caught my eye on this headset was the Voyager microphone boom, that works so well on the Voyager Legend. But it was sitting on one ear cup of a stereo headset which clearly had two sought-after features: Bluetooth and Active Noise Cancelation. This had to be it. The headset that would isolate you from your surrounding noise and at the same time a headset that would be excellent for phone conversations.
Fast forward a few hours and I have one in my hand. And it turns out there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. First of all there are sensors. The headset knows whether you are wearing it or not, or whether you are muted or not. A couple of scenarios, supported automagically:

The boom has three microphones which help the headset pick out the voice from surrounding noise. If you have a Voyager Legend, you know how well that works. I can talk while driving in my extremely noisy car (ROOOOAR) and you think I am at home. But this headset does more. It has two very comfy cushions that already dampen the noise when you simply put it on. Lots of high frequencies are gone. But then you add Active Nose Canceling (ANC) and it takes away the lower frequencies like an air conditioning. That means you can sit in an open office space in splendid isolation. You see what’s going on around you, but you don’t hear much of it. Then, when you are on a call, the parties on the call will also not hear any of that ambient sound because the boom only picks out your voice.

Plantronics headset

The headset I have is the UC version as a Microsoft variant. That means it comes with a small Bluetooth dongle that is already paired with the headset. Plug it into any computer and it just shows up like any wired audio device. Add Plantronics software and you get call control in most softphones. It’s also certified for Skype for Business and Lync. In the package there is a soft pouch that holds the headset, your dongle and a microUSB cable to charge the headset. It’s a standard plug on both ends so you can use any USB cable. In the box there is also a desktop docking station with USB plug. Put your headset on the docking station to charge it. You won’t need to charge it during the day. It’s rated for twelve hours talk time, 15 hours listening, the Bluetooth connection is class 1 and good for up to 45 meters so you can get a cup of coffee while in a call.

Plantronics headset

The left ear cup has play controls: volume up and down as a wheel, play/pause, forward, back on the side, ANC switch underneath. The right ear cup has the boom with mute button, Bluetooth on/off, microUSB charging and contacts for the dock. When you point the boom upwards it clicks into place when it is parallel to the headband and that will switch off the booms on the microphone, essentially also muting the call. When you lower the boom again the microphones come back on.

This all comes at a price. The Focus Voyager UC sells for $299.95. In Germany it will list for 299 € starting this month - before taxes. You will need to make a good business case to expense this headset.

The other Voyager models usually came out as a non-UC version without the Bluetooth dongle and the dock for a hundred dollars less. I don't see this option for the Focus yet.

More >

Comments

Wow. This is exactly what I need.

Or so I thought until I read the price tag. Maybe I can live with what I have for a little longer ;)

Mariano Kamp, 2015-09-04 12:50

Waiting it out for a little is what I would recommend. Prices usually drop quite a bit after a while. Not directly through Plantronics, but on Amazon.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-04 12:59

Sounds like another great product from Plantronics, although I prefer around-ear headsets. This is the reason, why I'm going to stick with my Backbeat Pro.

Mathias Ziolo, 2015-09-04 15:02

Can it pair with a computer and mobile phone simultaneously?

Richard Schwartz, 2015-09-04 16:51

Nice. This is what I've been waiting for. Excellent.

Rob McDonagh, 2015-09-04 17:00

I'll still be using mine when you replace yours :)

Ben Rose, 2015-08-17 17:15


So soon :O)

Ben Rose, 2015-09-04 18:17

Richard, yes it can.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-04 22:18

Einmal mehr hat der Besuch vom Volkers Website direkten Einfluss auf mein Konto (gut, dass Du nicht auch noch über Kameras berichtest). Ich wollte vor einigen Monaten schon ein Headset kaufen, bin aber an der Frage zum Unterschied zwischen der Microsoft Version und der "normalen" hängengeblieben. Weiss jemand, ob wirklich nur die Zertifizierung abweicht oder kann die MS Version mehr (oder weniger) als die Non-MS Ausführung? Kabel kann man nicht anschliessen (Flugzeug), oder?

Peter Daum, 2015-09-05 11:44

Aber sicher. Kabel ist dabei.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-05 12:04

@Peter: Wenn die Unterscheidung hier ähnlich ist wie beim Legend, dann ist zum einen bei der MS-Version noch das USB-Bluetooth-Dongle mit dabei und zum anderen eben die Zertifizierung - kann aber leider nicht meine Hand dafür ins Feuer legen.

Schönes Wochenende an alle - Matthias

Matthias Lorz, 2015-09-05 17:18

Das Bluetooth Dongle ist dabei, sobald man die UC-Version hat. Es gibt aber zwei UC-Versionen. Eine, die als Microsoft designiert ist, eine, die es nicht ist.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-05 20:27

If only there was an over-ear version of it....

Unfortunately I find on-ear headphones uncomfortable quite quickly, otherwise I'd be on my way to the shop to get these.

Armin Grewe, 2015-09-06 10:14

I think that over the ear does not work when you need to use it as a phone headset. It also makes it quite a bit smaller, so it's more conventient when traveling. I find these extremely comfortable, since the cushions are very soft. Plantronics told me they use "memory foam".

Volker Weber, 2015-09-06 10:20

I'll have to see if I can try them on somewhere. My main problem with on-ear is that the sticking out thingy at the front of the ear (according to what I can find on the internet it seems to be called "Tragus") for some reason starts hurting. May be it won't be that bad with memory foam.

Armin Grewe, 2015-09-06 12:45

I know what you mean. I have this problem with the Urbanears Humlan, but not with the Plattan ADV (Wireless). And certainly not with this headset.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-06 15:09

Ich denke mal das ist wie bei allen Plantronics Headsets. Die M-Version verwendet eine andere Hardware-ID, die dank Zertifizierung direkt von Lync (Skype for Business) erkannt wird und ohne extra Treiber funktioniert. Die nicht M-Version funktioniert auch mit Lync, man braucht dann aber noch die Plantronics Hub Software - wie für die anderen softphones auch.

Bei den BT Headsets ist nur der Dongle unterschiedlich, die Headsets sind identisch und "können" gleich viel. Der neue Dongle ist übrigens interessant. Der alte BT300 konnte kein A2DP, also kein Stereo.

Max Nierbauer, 2015-09-06 19:35

Any idea whether this will work with Cisco Jabber?

Tom Weeghmans, 2015-09-07 09:47

It certainly should, Tom. Plantronics Spokes has a Cisco Jabber plugin. Just Google it.

Max, Du bist wie immer eine gute Quelle für präzise Information. Danke.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-07 10:40

I tried both on and over the ear models before buying my headphones and phone the over ear models were considerably better at external noise insulation..

On the ear models are way better and more comfortable for those who wear glasses though, which I'm assuming applies for Volker. If I'm wearing my sunglasses, the noise leakage increases as the arm of the spectacles breaks the seal between the foam and my head.

Ben Rose, 2015-09-08 10:13

Indeed, over-ear usually provides better isolation. Especially if on-ear has foam without a cushion. With this one, the cushion is so soft, that it provides a remarkable isolation before you even turn on ANC.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-08 12:28

486 € at Amazon. That´s a bit steep. Prices might come down after the holiday season, I hope.

Richard Donninger, 2015-09-08 16:03

Max

Danke für die hilfreiche Antwort. Weisst Du zufällig auch, ob man die MS Version auch mit der Hub Software und anderen Softphones benützen kann oder ist das dann MS only? Danke!

Peter Daum, 2015-09-08 18:47

Max darf das gerne noch mal bestätigen, aber nach meinen Informationen hat die M-Version keinerlei Einschränkungen.

Volker Weber, 2015-09-09 00:06

Soviel ich weiß unterscheiden sich die M-Varianten nur durch die Hardware-ID und den dadurch installierten Default Treiber (plug & play ist Voraussetzung fürs "Optimized for Lync" bzw. "Certified for Skype for Business" Logo). Sonst gibt es keinen Unterschied und man kann von Hand die Treiber und Software installieren die man will. Ich gehe davon aus das das beim Voyager Focus genauso ist. Aber wenn man dem nicht traut kann man ja einfach die Standard Version kaufen (B825 vs. B825-M).

Max Nierbauer, 2015-09-10 00:06

Wen es noch interessiert (und das hier sieht): Der Kopfhörer ist jetzt bis zu 30% reduziert bei den Schweizer Onlineshops und bei Amazon in den USA erhältlich. Habe ihn gerade auf dem Kopf. Bis jetzt sehr zufrieden :-)

Peter Daum, 2015-11-21 12:36

Ja, das ist das normale Geschehen bei Plantronics. Die steigen immer relativ hoch mit einem Wunschpreis ein, der sich dann rasch normalisiert.

Volker Weber, 2015-11-22 13:45

Hattest Du damals das Noise Cancelling getestet? Nach meinem Eindruck ist sie nahezu wirkungslos, verglichen mit meinem Bose.

Peter Daum, 2015-11-24 16:53

Sie ist überhaupt nicht wirkungslos. Nur eben anders. Das Bose setzt Dich unter Wasser. Das Plantronics nimmt die Bürogeräusche weg.

Volker Weber, 2015-11-24 18:02

Looks like a great product. Since I unmute-speak-mute all the time on my many conference calls, I'm afraid the verbal feedback for Mute-On will start to annoy me.
Or are you saying that the three microphones remove the need to mute in a noisy office environment?

Maikel

Maikel Maes, 2016-01-04 14:24

Muting and unmuting is very natural. Just raise the boom to vertical position and put it back pointing towards your mouth. I have no idea how good it is dialing out annoys the office. I know that you cannot hear my car when I'm driving. And my car is very very loud.

Volker Weber, 2016-01-04 14:29

Am happily following Volkers recommendations (Sonos, several featured Plantronics devices over the years, Logitech keyboard and some Lumias).

The only thing that breaks my workflow with this wonderful device which I am now using for over a year is that it always takes precedence with its voice messages ("phone 1 connected", "PC connected", "mute off"...) over the calls and what I need to hear.

Is there any trick to stop it telling me its status?

Armin Roth, 2016-08-05 23:05

Explore Plantronics Hub. It has a few settings.

Volker Weber, 2016-08-05 23:54

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