Plantronics BackBeat PRO Review

By Danny Hayasaka

October 28, 2014

Plantronics BackBeat PRO Wireless, Active Noise Canceling Headphones + Mic is another great addition to a solid Plantronics portfolio.

First the packaging is kind of cool. It was somewhat of an “experience” and I hadn’t even used the headphones yet.

What’s In the Box: Wireless, active noise canceling headphones, Ballistic nylon travel sleeve, 3.5mm inline cable (with 4‐pole for Apple), Micro USB charge cable

Set Up: First thing I did was start charging my BackBeat PRO headphones by connecting Micro USB charging cable to headphones (port on left speaker) and USB portion to PC. (Please note I charged them on 10/16/14). Once headphones were charged (after 3 hrs) I quickly and easily paired to my iPad and iPhone. The first time you power on your headphones the pairing process begins. In addition to being able to pair via Bluetooth, BackBeat PRO also supports NFC (Near Field Communications). The NFC zone is also on left speaker. Additionally, you can pair to the Plantronics BT300 USB Dongle for use with softphone applications.

Actual Use: These headphones have tons of features. Let me get the one ding out of the way however it’s a minor ding considering how these would actually be used.  The microphone isn’t the best. It works well in terms of I can be heard clearly however, it does pick up background noise. Again, minor ding. Also, this is not really a “contact center” device. I see the knowledge worker using these to help them “focus” while at home, coffee shop, airport, subway, train, plane…you get the idea.

There is a power on/off button on right speaker in addition to answer/hang up button, Open mic button: allows you to listen to surroundings if you have ANC activated – If in a call, it acts as Mute button, volume up/down wheel. If your smartphone supports, you have voice-enabled assistant. Using answer/end button you can decline call as well as call back last number dialed.

The left speaker controls include Active Noise Canceling (ANC) switch, Play/Pause music and track selection wheel.

Here’s yet another cool feature! The Backbeat PRO has Smart Sensors like their Voyager Legend. Putting on headphones will play music, activate noise cancelling (when switched on) and answer call. Taking headphones off will pause music and deactivate noise cancelling (when switched on). So let’s say you’re in the kitchen cooking dinner jamming out to your favorite tunes and your significant other taps you on the shoulder to talk, just lifting the left speaker off ear pauses music so you can hear her. Once you’re done with conversation, place speaker back on ear and back to your song right where you left off!!!

Speakers lay flat for easy storage into the really cool bag that’s included.

 

Remember I stated I charged these back on 10/16/14. It’s now 10/28/14 and when I turn them on, the voice message states “Battery High”!!! So battery power is crazy long with these! I’ve been using daily with my iPad at home for listening to music and watching videos and movies. The audio quality is pretty awesome! I’m actually wearing them now as I type this. I’m testing out in middle of sales floor listening to some tunes. I feel as if I’m all alone in my own little world. I had to get up and look to see if anyone was in here.

Should you happen to exhaust battery, you can use the included 3.5mm Apple cable. The cable allows you to adjust the volume, play/pause music, track forward, track backward and activate Siri.

The Plantronics BackBeat PRO is a really cool feature packed set of headphones that can be used by pretty much by anyone. Not necessarily restricted for business. I use them more for personal entertainment and I think they’re great!

 

New EncorePro HW530 and HW540 Review

By Danny Hayasaka

October 22, 2014

Plantronics has introduced a new series of headsets called the EncorePro Series that includes the following models/variants:

Right now only the HW530 and HW540 variants are available.

HW530 – What’s in the box: EncorePro 530 headset that terminates in Plantronics QD, Lapel Clip, Small and Large Earhook, Headset Bag, Quick Start Guide

HW540 What’s in the box: EncorePro 540 Headset that terminates in Plantronics QD, Lapel Clip, Small EarHook, Neckband, Headband, Headset Bag, Quick Start Guide

EncorePro Set Up: Decide which wearing style. HW530 offers a small and large ear hook to choose from. The HW540 offers small ear hook, neckband and headband. Plantronics really did some work in making it super easy to change wearing styles. The ear hooks, neckband and headband easily snap on and off. Next step connect Plantronics QD to Plantronics interface ie. M22, 26716-01 Cable, HIC Cable, AP15, etc. In my case, I connected to DA45 USB Adapter and then into my PC with Microsoft Lync client.

Actual Use: The first thing you’ll notice is how very lightweight and sleek looking the EncorePro 530/540 variants are. I tried all wearing styles and all were comfortable. Another cool little feature is the little gauge on the ear piece to show mic position to ensure proper positioning every time.

 

Audio Quality: The speaker audio quality is good. I can hear clearly. The transmit quality is also very good. I can be heard clearly. Here’s my only ding. The noise canceling mic isn’t that noise canceling. Feedback I received from folks I called was they could hear background noise. Other than that, the EncorePro 530/540 are pretty solid in terms of performance.

The Plantronics EncorePro 530/540 are the lightest corded headsets I’ve worn to date. Even though small and light as they are, Plantronics was able to get very good audio quality in them. I especially liked how super easy it was to change wearing styles. The EncorePro 530/540 are nice additions to the Plantronics portfolio.

 

VXi B350-XT Bluetooth Headset Review

By Danny Hayasaka

October 20, 2014

Whenever I’m asked for a Bluetooth headset with the “best” noise canceling mic. Only one brand comes to mind: VXi. Hands down, based on the multiple Bluetooth headsets I’ve evaluated, VXi’s BlueParrott Bluetooth headsets have the best noise canceling mics. Typically the “truckers” headset of choice, however, more and more folks need really good noise canceling mics.

The NEW B350-XT does not disappoint!

What’s in the box? B350-XT™ Headset with Leatherette Ear Cushion, Spare Foam Ear Cushion, Spare Microphone Windscreen, USB Charging Cable, AC/DC Wall Charger, Auto (DC) Adapter, Quick-Start Guide, Warranty and Compliance Document (not pictured)

Set Up and use:

Jabra Evolve 80 Microsoft Lync Stereo Review

By Danny Hayasaka

October 16, 2014

Jabra Evolve is new series of USB headsets that includes multiple models however this particular variant is one of the cooler headsets I’ve had the pleasure of evaluating.

Two Evolve 80 variants:

Jabra Evolve 80 Microsoft Lync Stereo (Jabra SKU# 7899-823-109)

Jabra Evolve 80 UC Stereo (Jabra SKU# 7899-829-209)

What’s in the box: Jabra Evolve 80 Microsoft Lync Stereo Headset, Carry Pouch, Cable Management clip, USB Controller (Jabra Evolve Link), User Guide & Warranty Info

Set Up for Softphone Use: The Evolve includes hardwired 3.5mm cable that connects into the USB Controller. Connect USB cable into USB port on PC. Like the majority of business use headsets, it’s important to download the appropriate software for optimal quality and feature functionality. Jabra offers Jabra PC Suite for individual download or Jabra Xpress for mass deployment. Once downloaded, check to see firmware is up to date. Since we use Microsoft Lync I have also configured for Microsoft.

Right and Left ear speakers are clearly marked. The boom microphone is on the right side.

The USB Controller includes answer/end call button, volume down, volume up, mute switch and Busylight indicator (little ring around Jabra logo).

Another cool feature that at first may go unnoticed is the little grippy pad on the underside of the USB controller. It prevents controller from sliding on your desk. Most other USB headsets with inline control typically hang down by your knees and aren’t very practical. So this is nice feature.  Additionally you can accept and handle multiple calls at same time via USB controller. Read user manual for “how to” do this.

The Evolve 80 has Active Noise Canceling (ANC) which is awesome feature if you really need to concentrate and block out background noise. The ANC on/off button is located on the underside of Right speaker. There is also a “Listen In” feature that allows you to listen to your surroundings if you need to. Listen in button also Right speaker under Jabra logo.

You must charge headset for at least 3hrs for ANC to work. Once charged you get up to 24 hrs. of ANC time. Battery indicator light on underside of Left speaker. Evolve 80 must be connected via USB for headset to charge. 3.5mm cable alone will not charge headset.

Set Up for Mobile Device: Disconnect 3.5mm cable from USB Controller and connect 3.5mm plug to mobile device that supports. Reminder that headset does not charge when connected via 3.5mm plug.

If your softphone supports transferring call to mobile device, you can switch from PC to mobile.

Actual Wear and Use: I’m all for the “open office” concept.  It does foster more collaboration amongst co-workers however at times it can get “noisy” and hard to concentrate. The Evolve 80 is a great solution. When you really need to concentrate simply put your Evolve 80 headset on, turn on the ANC and focus. The speakers completely surround your ears in what feels like a cushiony pillow.

Yet another great feature is the Busylight indicator on both speakers and USB controller. It lets others know you are in a call. Additionally you can manually turn on/off Busylight. Again, if you need to focus and not be bothered, turn on the Busylight indicator so folks leave you alone.

I LOVE listening to music while working. These Evolve 80 stereo headsets produce great audio quality while listening to music. One of the features of Lync I use sometimes is forwarding calls to my mobile device. I can connect the Evolve 80 to my mobile device and stream music. Paired with Active Noise Canceling turned on it’s like the whole world just disappears and I can just enjoy the music!

In closing, I believe Jabra has knocked it out of the park with the Evolve 80 stereo headset. These can be used at work, home or when traveling in trains and planes. The Active Noise Canceling is comparable if not better than my Bose headphones. I will be replacing my Bose with the new Jabra Evolve 80!