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.

 

Speakerphones for Mobile Devices

July 24, 2014

By Danny Hayasaka

When it comes to Speakerphones for mobile devices, there are a variety of options available. I personally have used Jabra, Plantronics, Logitech and recently Sennheiser’s speakerphone solutions for mobile devices.

Why would you need speakerphone for mobile? Better audio quality. Like most folks, all contacts are stored on my mobile phone. It’s easier and more convenient to just call from mobile device for ad-hoc conf call. The issue is the audio quality of the speakers and mic from most mobile devices is poor. If you have two or more folks who need to participate in call, it’s a good idea to have speakerphone that can enhance the audio quality.

To keep this blog short, I’ll concentrate on just the smaller speakerphones by Plantronics, Jabra, Logitech and Sennheiser that are great for two to four people. Polycom, Konftel and ClearOne also provide solutions for mobile devices.

Plantronics, Jabra and Logitech provide Bluetooth connectivity to mobile device where Sennheiser offers 3.5mm plug audio cable connection. Logitech also supports NFC (Near Field Communications).

 

 

Plantronics Calisto 620

This unit offers dual connectivity to PC (via USB dongle) and Mobile device (via Bluetooth). It is a rechargeable wireless device with up to 7hrs of Talk Time with up to 5 days of standby time and includes neoprene carry case. I do have a concern with this unit. You have USB cable and AC Wall Charger option however those items don’t fit in carry case. They do offer a little slot on the underside of unit to slide USB dongle into for storage.

 

 

Jabra Speak 510

The Jabra Speak 510 and 510+ models both offer dual connectivity PC (via USB dongle) and Mobile device (via Bluetooth). They are also rechargeable and wireless with up to 15hrs of Talk Time. Both the 510 and 510+ include a hardwired USB cable that conveniently wraps around base for storage and portability. The 510+ includes a USB dongle for wireless connectivity to PC and neoprene storage case.

 

Logitech P710e

This unit has some cool features that some may appreciate. In addition to Bluetooth, the Logitech P710e also supports NFC (Near Field Communication). You must be connected via USB cable to use with PC but that’s ok as it also has nice USB cable management system on the underside. It does include rechargeable battery and provides up to 15hrs of Talk Time.  The P710e has unique feature none of the other speakerphones offer which is a device stand for your mobile phone or tablet. At first, most will wonder, “Why?” I have a couple reasons: 1. Stability when doing video call with smart phone or tablet. 2. Great stand when watching movies via mobile device. Also includes neoprene carry case.

 

Sennheiser SP 20

The Sennheiser SP Series are the latest additions to the personal/small group speakerphone space. Please note currently neither SP 10 or SP 20 models support Bluetooth or NFC.  Only the the SP 20/20 ML variants offer mobile device connectivity via 3.5mm plug. Both SP 10 and SP 20 models connect to PC via USB. The SP 20 offers USB and 3.5mm audio cable management around the base of unit for easy storage. Also includes a neoprene carry case. It also has rechargeable battery for wireless use with mobile device and provides up to 20hrs of Talk Time.

But which sounds the better?

Based on my own personal testing, I’m going to rank them in order of best to okay as none were horrible when it came to audio quality, it’s just some stood out. Additionally, I’m ranking in terms of both speakerphone audio quality during call as well as streaming media audio quality.

Ranking for Audio Quality via Call

  1. Jabra Speak 510/510+
  2. Sennheiser SP 10/SP 20
  3. Plantronics Calisto 620
  4. Logitech P710e

Ranking for Audio Quality for Streaming Media

  1. Sennheiser SP 20 (Hands down, no contest. Sennheiser SP 20 has sound-enhancement profile that makes streaming music sound awesome)
  2. Plantronics 620
  3. Jabra Speak 510/510+
  4. Logitech P710e

Again, these are just my rankings based on personal use with Microsoft Lync, iPhone and iPad.

Voyager Legend, Voyager Legend UC or Voyager Legend CS?

July 8, 2014

By Danny Hayasaka

Plantronics produces some great communications and collaboration devices to include the Voyager Legend series, however, customers are often confused as to which model to order. For today’s blog, I’m going to do a quick break down of the differences.

It all starts with connectivity. What are you looking to connect/pair to?

If you are simply looking for a Bluetooth headset to pair with your mobile device (smartphone/tablet) the standard Voyager Legend (Plantronics Part# 87300-01 or 89880-01 includes case) will suffice.

In today’s world, folks have a need to connect to a mobile device and their PC/Laptop for web-based collaboration applications or VoIP softphone/UC platforms. The appropriate model would be the Voyager Legend UC (Standard UC version B235, 87670-01 or Microsoft Lync Optimized version B235-M, 87680-01) which includes Voyager Legend headset plus a USB Bluetooth dongle for PC/Laptop.

Then there are those who have office desk phones however, also have a mobile device. For this scenario, the appropriate device is the Voyager Legend CS (Plantronics Part# 88863-01 or 88863-11 with HL10 Handset Lifter) which includes a base that allows for connectivity to a desk phone. Both models support EHS Cables and HL10’s.

 

Connectivity:

 

 

 

UC or Microsoft Variant when choosing headsets?

By Danny Hayasaka

June 12, 2014

More and more organizations have hybrid communications and collaboration platforms that involve many of the major voice and UC platform providers. It’s very rare to find a company that is 100% Microsoft Lync, 100% Cisco, 100% Avaya, etc. The majority have a mix of platforms.

Some organizations have two, three, four or more various communications and collaboration platforms which increases the challenge of selecting the right, compatible device. Some companies have Cisco and Microsoft Environments or Avaya and Microsoft. Some have other lesser known VoIP platforms plus they use Google Hangouts or Skype for video. The point is, it’s not so simple selecting a compatible headset with all the “web-based” applications and collaboration platforms in use.

In my earlier blog about “Which Wireless Headset is the Best” I discussed there are multiple variables to consider when selecting a wireless headset. Voice and Collaboration platform is one of those variables. Understanding exactly which platform/s the headset will be used with helps in identifying the compatible device.

For now, I’ll focus on Microsoft Lync & “Other” platform and Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser headsets as they have UC and Microsoft Optimized variants of their USB model corded and wireless headsets. VXi offers Microsoft “compatible” headsets however currently do not have “optimized” variants. Additionally, Logitech Business USB headsets are Lync optimized however do not have different UC and Microsoft Lync variants.

Important note for Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser: They offer software that enables and is sometimes necessary to support some feature/functionality depending on softphone like answer/hang up from headset or inline control. The software is either for individual download or for IT to use as a tool to remotely access and control the various devices.

Plantronics Software link: Spokes & Plantronics Enterprise Management (PEM)

Jabra PC Suite (Individual)

Jabra Xpress (IT)

Sennheiser Software: Cisco Jabber Plugin, Sennheiser Updater, IBM Sametime, HeadSetup

For Plantronics in mixed platform environment where Microsoft Lync is not the main voice platform, it’s recommended to select UC variant of their models with Plantronics Spokes or PEM. In an environment where Microsoft Lync is being used as the main voice platform, then Microsoft Lync Optimized variant is recommended.

When it comes to Jabra and Sennheiser in a mixed environment, they recommend Microsoft Lync Optimized variant over UC models. Again, it’s always best to download Jabra PC Suite, Jabra Xpress or Sennheiser appropriate software.

The best thing you can do is engage a device-centric partner that takes the time to understand your environment discusses the various options available.

 

CS540, CS540 XD, Savi W740 Batteries – Is there a difference?

Danny Hayasaka Blog

12/19/13

YES! Quick blog to help customers see the differences between the CS540, CS540 XD and Savi W740 headset batteries. At first glance, the three models look similar if not identical. However there are some subtle differences.

The CS540 and CS540 XD models both have a black boom mic, chrome/silver answer/hang up button and black volume/mute switch. The Savi W740 has a chrome/silver boom mic and volume/mute switch. Upon closer inspection, the CS540 XD has “CS500XD” stamped right below volume/mute switch:

Now for the batteries. The CS540 XD and Savi W740 use the same hot swappable battery (Plantronics Part Number: 84598-01).

The CS540 had field replaceable battery (Plantronics Part Number: 86180-01). You must remove the battery cover pull battery out to replace.

Plantronics Blackwire C325-M USB Dual Ear Headset Optimized for Microsoft Lync Review

By Danny Hayasaka

Unboxing: The new Plantronics Blackwire 300 Series. Plantronics will sell these in bulk via the case. Call One, however, will break cases and sell as 1ea. Blackwire 300 Series come packaged in bubble wrap, well at least headset portion. USB cable/inline control are wrapped in a plastic baggie. Included is Quick Start Guide and pretty nice, mesh-like storage bag with zipper.

 

Headset: I am evaluating the dual ear C325-M model optimized for Microsoft Lync. Looks just like the other 300 series except for two differences: leatherette ear cushions and foldable speakers that allow the headset to lay flat. The microphone boom is flexible however it does NOT have a 360-degree rotation.

USB Inline Control: It’s standard inline control. Call Answer/Hang Up button, Volume Up/Down and Mute. Placement of inline is actually higher up/closer to the headset so it’s not down by my foot. It’s in a more accessible location/position. The answer/hang up button didn’t work. I can’t seem to answer or hang up using inline control. The Mute button works well.

 

 

Comfort: It’s “ok”. Not the most comfortable, however, not uncomfortable either. I headband does seem to feel like it’s digging into the top of my head.

Set Up: USB headset, plugged it in and allowed drivers to be installed. It is Lync optimized so once the device was ready for use, it became an Audio Device option via Lync client.

It’s also detected via Plantronics software:

AudioQuality: It’s “ok”. Not spectacular but it works. I can hear and be heard. The person on the other side stated I sounded “muffled”. I’ll make a few more calls to identify if isolated or not. Other calls state I sound good and clear.

Summary: Not certain how this product is priced compared to existing Blackwire 300 Series however, I’m assuming it will be lower price point than Blackwire 500 and 700 Series. After just an hour of wear, I find myself wanting to take it off. The headband feels like its digging into my head. May I just have a pointy head. Also, it feels like it’s squeezing my head. I’m certain after a few days it will loosen up.

Plantronics Calisto P240 Review/Evaluation

By Danny Hayasaka

Received Calisto P240 a few days ago. Finally getting around to testing.

Unboxing: Standard Plantronics package/box. Contents included: Calisto P240 USB Handset, Calisto P240 Quick Start Guide, Handset drawstring bag.

First Impression: Looks like a little handset. Good size, not too small, not too big. Fits nice into my hand. Lightweight. Just one connection, USB.

Connecting: Very easy to connect. Simply plug USB cord into free USB port on PC. We use Lync for Voice. The model I have is NOT Lync Optimized version, I had to “select” P240 via Lync Client.

Use: I was able to dial “extension” on P240 and it dialed and connected call. Additionally it changed my presence status to “In a call”. The sound was actually very good and clear. I am so used to using wireless. This is not a device that I would recommend for the office user. This is a good device for someone who does NOT want to use a headset. Maybe a “Road Warrior” that can connect to his laptop to make/take softphone calls. It has a cord management Velcro strap that assists in keeping cord nice and neat. Also, the included handset bag is a great way to store handset.

I didn’t use for too long. It’s just not practical for me because I receive calls via Lync softphone, Inter-Tel desk phone and iPhone. A multi-connectivity wireless headset (like the Savi 740) better suits my needs in how I operate on a daily basis